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

Hello! I would like to thank you Mark for 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.


  • galinagalina -
    edited July 2018
    Sorry I know my question/experience sharing was clearly addressed to Mark but in fact each one of yours' opinion would be rather valuable to me.
  • galina

    Welcome to the DMP Forum.

    The paintings demonstrated by Mark and I suspect the majority appearing on the Forum are underpinned by a drawing of a basic outline and internal shapes. Not essential to do any finished drawing or shading to complete a great painting.

    Mark demonstrates in his free videos how to use a proportional divider to create an accurate, proportionate and perspectively correct drawing. While slow, it is a beautiful method to train your eye and brain to see angle, shapes and relationships within and between objects. After a year or so, some things can be drawn freehand as your skill develops. Eventually your hand and eye agree to work together.

    Take a life drawing class, use a conte crayon and some newsprint, throw away hundreds, keep a few dozen good ones and laminate them. These dated drawings will chart your progress. Huge fun and very rewarding.

    Drawing is an inexpensive way to greatly reinforce the skills you will need to paint well.


  • I’m way late to this party, as I just joined the forum. 
    I used to practice drawing figures with in watercolor. 1. It forces you to really see your subject before you make a mark.
    2. It forces you to work around your mistakes, no erasing. 
    3. If you’d rather paint than use a pencil, it solves that problem, too. 

    Just my two or three cents. 
  • Drawing is the basic foundation for all good realism. It is it is the tool for understanding how the world around us is put together. Yes you can draw with a brush. Water colors were considered drawing until the early nineteenth century. Find a good classical figure drawing group. I attend classical drawing sessions when I can. I've been drawing a long time. It forces seeing. Understanding. Form and light. Proportion. All the words that go into a great painting on top of a great drawing.
  • There are lots of ways to totally cheat the drawing, and there are lots of ways to paint where you can sculpt your way to the final result, given that oils can cover and recover the underlying paint.

    That said some will say that you can't paint better than you can draw, so there certainly is a school of painting that starts with drawing.

    It is also possible that you might want to explore some other kind of drawing.  One that unlike a schooling heavy in drawing is a little more spontaneous, or that involves studies.  There is a great deal of really good drawing instruction online from cartoons to very detailed work.  You may be able to find something.

    Drawing is also something you can do at times when you can't paint, so that you might not feel that they are in competition for your time.
  • Hi Galina. I am a novice painter, but have been seriously into drawing for about 5 years. I started doing gesture drawing, then portraits. All just using black ink and crosshatching. It has helped me tremendously, as I have improved quite a bit within those 5 years. Now, as I try to paint, I have those drawing skills behind me so I am thinking about value, shadow and form. Hope this helps. My motto is: practice. practice. practice!
  • edited May 2021
    @galina, drawing takes practice for most of us. Some folks are naturals and can draw well even as kids without any training.  For those of us who are less gifted it takes work. But there are aids - grids for example - which are quite acceptable. ( Except perhaps to the the most hidebound and doctrinaire purists.) You can even trace if you want to - there are no laws against it - but I don't think this is a good idea because if that's all you do you will never learn to draw and drawing with the brush is very important in painting. So, yeah, practice, practice, practice.  You can do this with a pencil or charcoal or you can do it with the brush whilst painting. It's all drawing. I'm too old and haven't enough time left to go to art school and I'm not interested in doing pencil drawings of nudes. I want to paint. I have learned to draw by painting. You can, too, @galina. Your paintings will get better as your drawing improves through practice with the brush.  :)
  • What would Sargent do? Hum.

    He'd draw of course.
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