Cattano Street, Morristown, acrylic and white pastel on paper
close up of details, brushwork
I frequently use acrylic paint to draw with a brush. All of my underpaintings begin this way, I never draw with pencil on canvas. I like to do sketches on hot pressed watercolor paper with black acrylic and white pastel. I use a flat or angled brush similar to those I use when painting in oils or acrylic on canvas (but I have certain brushes that I reserve for this purpose rather than use the same ones I use when working in oils).
Drawing with a brush in this manner enables me to capture the gesture of the landscape and a wide range of values simply by using the acrylic transparently. Getting to know the subject in this manner helps a great deal when I move to canvas, I have all the values worked out and understand how the forms are working together to create the illusion of 3 dimenions on a 2 dimensional surface.
I believe that drawing is an important skill to have, particularly if you plan to paint representationally. But I also believe even abstract painters can benefit from drawing in this manner, which is about understanding form and value and using it to capture the essence of the subject expressively.
But getting back to representational painting and it’s relationship to drawing. If you can draw well, you are freer to focus on color and composition when you are painting because you have the skills to draw intuitively. The only way to develop those skills is to practice regularly. Draw from life whenever possible, but if you do work from photos, try to get away from copying and focus more on seeing. Look for the values, try to get a range of 4-5 greys, think in terms of shapes rather than lines. Block in large areas, be bold and confident with your brushstrokes. You can always add as much or as little detail as you like, but you have to get the big shapes placed accurately first, caputring perspective and proportion correctly. This is easy to do if you simpy focus on the darks and lights and their relationship to one another. Ask yourself is the area you are working on darker or lighter than the one next to it and keep working all over your composition in this manner. Don’t be tempted to finish one object completely before you have the whole composition blocked in. In fact, don’t even think in terms of “objects”, forget what you are drawing and just think in terms of darks and lights.
I teach this method of drawing in my Expressive Drawing workshops and courses. I am offering both a workshop and a 10-week class on the subject. To register for the workshop, which will be held on Jan. 11 at the Martinsville Studio, call 732-667-5328 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration fee is $100 for the full-day workshop from 10am to 4pm.
If you are interested in the 10-week course, it will be held at the NJ Visual Arts Center beginning in mid-January. The class is held on Tuesdays from 12:30 to 3pm. To register, visit the art center’s web site at http://artcenternj.org/instructorclasses.php?id=191 or call 908-273-9121. Registration fee is $225 for members or $255 for non members.