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How good does one need to be at drawing in order to paint well?

Hello! First, I would like cheers Mark to being a decent human and sharing your knowledge with the world. Knowing your intention to allow everyone to learn for free, I think you have done really well and it's hard to think of ways in which you could do better since you.have already shared that much. Thank you.

I am turning 21 tomorrow and have some strange experience with painting as I was not originally an artist but in my junior year I took an art class in which my teacher was a painter but not a good teacher and he just left us to do what we want. At fist, I was stuck and spent about a year just contemplating what it means to be an artist and what is good art. In my senior year I took full advantage of the fact that my school had free supplies and it was all winsor&nNewton like as much as you want, for free. So I had the unique opportunity to really dive into it, explore, throw away large canvases when they just didn't work out, paint on ungessoed, use oil sticks. I took a bunch of paint and canvas at home and in that last year of school all I did was paint. 

Here comes my question. Since then I travelled for a year, I taught preschool kids for a year, and this year I finally got to learning how to draw/paint. But I am totally drawn to painting and find none or very little joy in drawing. Perhaps it's due to my lack of formal training and practice in shading with a pencil and drawing the human form in pencil but daaaamm that is hard, way harder than painting. For example in my country Bulgaria there is an academy where I applied to study a bachelor in mural painting, where the entrance exam is to draw a human in pencil you need a very high level. But part of me feels that this level of proficiency in shading and hitchhatching in the way of the form, and so on and so forth is really a skill for graphics artist or whatever they are called. Please let me know what you think the extent or level one needs to reach in order to be a good painter. Obviously things like being able to see and measure are important for under paintings.i guess my specific question is if you think I need to sit on my but and really get through it and learn this pencil thing or I can just do my best and focus more on painting, as my end goals have nothing to do with being a pencil artist, I just use it for sketching out ideas.


  • dencaldencal -
    edited August 8

    Welcome to the DMP Forum.

    Here is part of my answer to a similar question I answered a few hours ago:

    Get some newsprint and a small set of sketching pastel crayons or willow charcoal.

    This is is an enjoyable way to learn line, shape, edge, tone, value, perspective, proportion, foreshortening, anatomy, posing, composition, action, gesture, measurement, shading, negative shapes, subtractive drawing, tonal drawing, sight sizing, lighting, photography .... etc.

    All of these skills and techniques are foundational for painting. Sketch in a book daily if you can.
    I am sure with the right materials and setting you could draw a passable human figure within a week or two, assuming an hour or three a day. There are lots of good instructional videos on YouTube.

    During this learning you can be painting too. Using the proportional divider and color checker will help you to see and produce a great painting. However, if you want to achieve a high artistic skill level drawing is important.

    Drawing remains a central and pivotal activity to the work of many artists and designers – a touchstone and tool of creative exploration that informs visual discovery. It fundamentally enables the visualisation and development of perceptions and ideas. With a history as long and intensive as the history of our culture, the act of drawing remains a fundamental means to translate, document, record and analyse the worlds we inhabit. The role of drawing in education remains critical, and not just to the creative disciplines in art and design for which it is foundational.

    As a primary visual language, essential for communication and expression, drawing is as important as the development of written and verbal skills. The need to understand the world through visual means would seem more acute than ever; images transcend the barriers of language, and enhance communications in an increasingly globalised world.

  • Loomis. Like @dencal said but you can also paint while you are learning to draw. For painting you just need to draw the outlines, not the shading. Proportions and perspectives can be achieved with proportional dividers.
  • edited August 9
    Painting is just drawing with brush and paint. Fine pencil and charcole drawings and etchings are a specialist field which you do not need to master to paint well. They are works of art in their own right.  For painting, you just need to practice putting blobs of paint of the right shape, colour and value in the right place. Once you understand and can make colour and value in paint, then lots of practice placing it (with the help of a couple of magic lines and a proportional divider) will get you there in terms of drawing with the brush. That's painting. But all too often we see  beginners (me especially) 'colouring in' their line drawings. Lines are to drawing what value/colour masses are to painting. The minimal under-drawing you do for a painting is just scaffolding which should  be  deconstructed and disappear. In painting, the fewer lines the better. They are there to be lost.  It's the opposite for fine drawings and etchings where line is front and centre.  Of course, I may be wrong, but to me, line is to painting as math is to science - foundational, indispensible and the source of all truth,  but not so interesting to the story loving, u-tube-picture-hungry public.   Let's make more lines just to spite'em - a new art movement - linealism.  :)
  • If you're going to be painting from photos then you don't need to draw at all. Print the photos in black and white and trace/transfer them to the canvas. You can do this with big canvases too just print the image big on multiple sheets.

    If painting from life you can take a pic of the setup then trace it or draw using a proportional divider.
  • @galina ;  I wish I had an easy answer for you.  It sounds like you need to know how to draw to satisfy yourself that you can and therefore not be intimidated by it.  It sounds like you need to do this for you.  The ironic thing is that once you satisfy yourself that you can draw you will find yourself in situations of creating art where you no longer need to.  Using a grid, for example.  It's a journey.  :)  Summer
  • edited August 9
    I will say that you should not avoid learning to draw or think of it as an option if you are serious about art... drawing lets you know when your proportions are off... allows you a come back if you create a blunder in your painting....  you can keep working at it along with painting... but shortcuts can come to bite at you later....
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