Drawing: The Key to Good Painting (and Why There Are No Shortcuts!)

September 22, 2013
Pear & Apples, pastel drawing on construction paper

Pear & Apples, pastel drawing on construction paper

I draw far more often than I paint, focusing on studies and sketches on paper rather than formal paintings on stretched canvas. Working on paper rather than canvas really appeals to me for the simplicity, cost savings and ease of storage.

However, it goes beyond that for several reasons. I am fortunate in that I have a steady, although modest, income from teaching. This allows me to stay focused on developing as an artist, rather than on selling paintings. Of course I need to produce work for the galleries that represent me to sell, but I have always preferred to produce less and ensure that I am only offering the best I can to collectors. The only way I can do that is to continuously practice and experiment freely, learning new media, exploring new subject matter and taking risks rather than becoming formulaic. Drawing for me is the best way to do this, it is my favorite part of the painting process. Most  galleries do not have an interest in showing or selling drawings, but they are integral to the development of a successful painting.

Second, I want to ensure that i don’t contribute to the current trend of producing paintings for the sake of producing paintings. I have become very tired of the competitive environment that has prevailed lately via social media outlets. We now have competitions and conferences that are no more than popularity contests and networking events. There has become so much emphasis on marketing, and so little on building skill. While venues such as Facebook and Twitter are certainly useful in promoting student and collector awareness, there has to be something worth creating awareness about first. So many artists seem to be in such a hurry these days to get their work out there long before they are truly ready. This has created a flood of amateur-level artwork and formulaic teaching practices . I prefer to spend my time honing my skills and teaching the basics rather than producing a glut of cheap paintings and mentoring a horde of students who paint exactly the way I do. I teach my students the foundations of drawing and allow them to build confidence and skill over time and at their own pace–not everyone was meant to be a professional artist, accept that and enjoy it as a hobby if it doesn’t come easily.

Becoming a better artist takes a lot of effort, patience and dedication. Drawing from direct observation is is the best way to develop your ability to see form and value, the building blocks that enable you to master any media. Don’t neglect the basics in search of the short cuts, there are no short cuts. Practice and and understanding of the basic concepts of drawing–form, value, proportion and perspective–will allow you to become the best artist you are capable of being.