Painting loose does not mean that you can get away with sloppy drawing. Competent drawing will make your loose painting better. The drawing comes first. This thought scares many people away from painting seriously. The idea comes up in your mind – you are not that good at drawing! This thought is not true at all. It is a harmful self-defeating belief and I want you to ditch it right now!
Why do so many artists fear the idea of drawing? For one thing we were never really taught drawing at school. We learned how to draw symbols instead. Objects that represented something rather than actually seeing each unique thing. Secondly you assume that to draw well you need to draw like a classical master. Da Vinci or Ingres, for example. This is also not true.
Drawing for painting means getting the gesture, shape, value and perspective correct. These elements make the subject read correctly for your painting. It does not mean getting a photo realistic likeness. I want to prove to you that your natural drawing ability will be sufficient for loose painting. A bit of practice makes all the difference of course.
So in this lesson I want to look at four methods you can use to make your drawing for painting purposes less stressful. You can then confidently say that you can draw and remove this doubt from your mind for good.
But First - Adjust Your Drawing Position:
The angle that you work with can increase distortion problems. Try to tilt the drawing surface to you so that you view it at approximately 90 degrees. If the surface lies flat and you view it in, let’s say, a sitting position there are distortions at work like foreshortening.
Holding the Pencil: Usually a pencil will be used. If so use a softer pencil like a 4b or 6b. You want to hold the pencil lightly so a soft pencil means not having to press hard. Plus softer means getting darks and mass shapes correct. Hold the pencil lightly between thumb and two fingers. Let the pencil rest along the palm of your hand. Use the arm to move the pencil in larger gestures. Try not to use small gestures like writing for instance. This inhibits the loose drawing you are aiming for.
Drawing Tip 1: Measuring Angles the Easy Way
Getting the Angle Correct. This simple method uses a straight object like your pencil. Hold it with your outstretched arm and align the pencil with the angle you want to measure. Then compare that angle to your drawing. Remember to keep your arm outstretched here too so that you do not lose the angle.
You can also measure the length of the line by using your thumb position on the pencil.
Another method to check the angles is to compare shapes to other shapes. For example one building to the adjacent building. Compare size and angles to each other. Even shapes within shapes. For example the shape of a shadow falling across a wall. Compare the lines of the shadow to the outline of the wall to check angles.
This need not be a technical nightmare. You are not an architect so trust your observation. The first thing to place correctly is the horizon line. In most paintings you will be dealing with single point perspective. All lines angle to a point on the horizon, relative to where you are standing. By placing the horizon line when you start the painting you will be able to relate all perspective lines accordingly.
Then by comparing placement of lines to the horizon line's vanishing point you will avoid placing lines heading off into other directions.
3. Drawing Irregular Shapes
Often you will encounter irregular shapes in your scene. Maybe a car, a boat or a person. These shapes can be a real headache to get the essence of the shapes down quickly. The solution is to make regular reference lines by drawing a box or "envelope" around the shapes. Then draw lines along the shape itself intersecting with the box. This way you kind of chisel the shape out.
4. Value Masses
So important for painting! Place shapes of light and dark value together in the correct order and the painting reveals itself. This method does not depend so much on lines as in shapes of light and dark. Like a jigsaw. Look for a shape and repeat it in broad strokes of pencil or brush trying to get the degree of light or dark correct.
Scribble in the shapes using pencil, felt tip marker or your brush. You are not looking for an outline but rather the interior mass. One shape relates to the next and by close observation you will set out the painting structure in light and dark masses. Now match these in color and you have a painting!
There are many other ways of drawing to prepare for painting, but the main idea is that you need to observe the essential character of the object you want to paint. Our eye and mind looks for correct shape and value not the details within. So if you get those two things correct your painting will look correct too. In this way you can approach your drawing with confidence and for the painting stage that follows.
Watch a full video demo of all these drawing methods plus a painting demo on my course How to Loosen Up Your Painting. Learn more about this course:
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Malcolm Dewey: Artist. Country: South Africa