Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Do You "Really" Need to Know How to Draw to Paint?

Well, yes, duh!! Sorry, but I hear this quite a bit; that thing that you don't "really" need to know how to draw to be a landscape painter. My first thought about that is, why in the world would you want to limit yourself? If you have a good foundation of drawing skills, you don't have an Achilles heal so to speak, about what you can and cannot paint. If you want to put a structure/building or people in your landscape, you can, only if you have good enough drawing skill. If you want to set up a still life on a rainy day when you can't go out plein air painting , you can handle all the ellipses and the vanishing points of a simple cup and saucer only with drawing skill. You can point in any direction you choose if you have drawing skills. If you lack them, you will be continually holding yourself back and making choices according to that lack of skill.

With a strong foundation of drawing also comes a good understand of light and shadow and how light falls on form; how do we translate that into our paintings. A nice resource for this is Rendering in Pencil by Arthur Guptill, yes that Guptill It's an oldie but goodie. That being said, there is nothing like a good basic drawing course that focuses on light and shadow. You know the one; where you draw hour after hour from a plaster cast? Yuck, but good.

A little understanding of perspective; at least one and two point perspective is necessary. Maybe you don't need to get into aerial perspectives and such, but if you want those fence posts to recede in a believable fashion, you have to have some study on it. I have a handy-dandy, simple little book I refer to when I'm stuck, Perspective by J.M. Parramon. Also I had Mr. Youngkin at Art Center. Nothing like that in a book, sorry to say. He was a wonderful academic style professor who didn't suffer any excuses. We learned our perspective!

The landscape has topography which can be best explained in a painting with a good understanding of perspective. Drawing skill also lends gesture and rhythm to our work. You know when you see it! It's that lovely lyrical line. A truly confident mark comes from knowledge and mileage. Gotta love it. I don't know about you, but I want my work to have it!

The human figure; if you can get this, you can get most anything! There is perspective in the foreshortening of forms, light and shadow falling on small and large forms, proportions and then of course likenesses to uncover. Gesture and movement, emotion; it's endless and you can spend a whole lifetime mastering it. I'm doing paintings where I'm abstracting and distorting the forms in the figure, but having the knowledge that this is an intentional choice, makes all the difference in being able to take something and do it "your way" with confidence. Some good volumes on drawing the figure are Burne Hogarth's books, Dynamic figure Drawing and Drawing the Human Head, the classic series by Bridgeman, Anatomy for the Artist by Jeno Barcsay. But really, nothing can substitute hour after hour of life drawing sessions. Find a good local one near you and become a 'regular'. If there isn't one, start one. Finding models can be as easy as asking willing friends, looking on Craig's List for professional models or asking a a local college who they use. Your models don't have to be nude. Although, that's good too!

"I'm Not Sorry" Acrylic & Collage on Wallis paper
This piece will be part of an exhibition in Portland entitled "Red"

So, if you don't feel like your drawing chops are up to snuff, put a little time and effort in. It will immediately reflect positively in your work. I'm always working on mine and never satisfied but always grateful I made the time!


Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Good post, Marla! I teach many plein air workshops during the year, and I would have to say that the drawing skills of many students just aren't up to snuff. And it shows.

Marla Baggetta said...

Yeah Michael,

I think folks are so anxious to get to the "meat" of painting that they let the drawing go by the wayside.

Jana said...

Can we get an "Amen?"! Great post Marla!

David King said...

I did nothing but sketch from life for a year before I attempted to paint, and thank goodness. I see other students struggle so much because they can't draw, but for me, while I'm far from perfect it's not near the struggle it seems to be for so many others.

Anamaria do Val said...

I totally agree with you, Marla! Very good post

Maryann Didriksen said...

Well said!

Sarah S said...

spot on, great post!