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Updated: Nov 18, 2020

Begin by sketching

Drawing. That simple art exercise that eludes some artists and yet elates others. I can’t tell you how often I am asked if one needs drawing skills to be able to paint. The fact of the matter is, artists able to paint correctly, with no drawing skills what so ever are few and far between. It takes a vast amount of skill and dexterity to be able to paint what you see and juxtapose colour upon colour, stroke next to stroke, without having any drawing ability whatsoever.

In comparison, the music world has many musicians who cannot read a stitch of sheet music and learn by ear. The incomparable Johnny Cash very deftly did this, writing and performing his songs without the ability to read musical notes. Tablature, a form of reading music without notes, was created out of the fact that many musicians couldn’t read music. Similarly, one doesn’t have to be able to draw to be able to paint, or for that matter, one doesn’t need to be able to draw well in order to paint a painting. But here’s the snag…

Swinton’s instructor Lori Lukasawich says, "You can engage in colour and composition, essentially abstraction, without drawing. You are still learning your medium and techniques. BUT! If you want to make anything the least bit recognizable - then drawing is completely necessary." It all depends on what you are wanting to achieve. Swinton’s student Jacquie Broadfoot put it this way. “I think you can learn to paint without being competent at drawing but it limits your growth. Without a doubt I think that learning to draw expanded my potential as a painter”.

As I mentioned previously, you don’t have to be able to draw well to be able to paint but a little drawing skill goes a long way in aiding your results. Over the many years of teaching I have found that those who do a little sketching in their sketchbook before touching the paint, seem to create more interesting artwork than those who don’t.

Begin by sketching! Don’t be afraid what it looks like in your sketchbook! For some odd reason, most who draw in a sketchbook seem to believe that every one of their sketches should be a perfectly proportioned, rendered drawing that needs to hang on the walls of the Louvre. Reality is, no one ever needs to see your sketch. When you draw in your sketchbook you’re creating another language, one that you alone understand.

Think of drawing for painting as a foundation, or a blueprint for the bigger picture. The skeleton of the painting. A little bit of a drawing with composition in mind and a dash of perspective goes a long way to help you formulate what it is you want to say before you begin painting. This doesn’t require a vast amount of drawing skill because it requires only a little bit of rudimentary mark making.

The fastest and best way to improve your drawing is to try life drawing with a living, breathing model posing before you. A peer lead drawing group will go a long way to improving your skills. I guarantee your results will translate into your painting. One doesn’t need to be an Ingres or Watteau, but learning to get your thoughts down on paper before plastering paint on is a great way to strengthen your work.

Pick up a sketchbook and step up your art making.

Your friend in art


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