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 2018

    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 2018
    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.  :)
    PaulBRichard_P[Deleted User]
  • 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
    PaulBanwesha[Deleted User]
  • edited August 2018
    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....
    tassieguy[Deleted User]Summer[Deleted User]
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  • Drawing is everything - you draw with your brush.  You don't need a pencil.  Have fun!!!   My drawing skills are lacking because I do not have the patience at the initial stage of a painting - I get what you are saying - I have sketch pads full of charcoal drawings from college - my passion is oil paint - pencils and charcoal bore me also.  Draw with your brush - it changes the mindset - be incredibly mindful (I am working on this) - drawing is the foundation for everything - if it is poorly drawn, your painting will not be as strong and impactful.  Be mindful of your initial block-in (drawing) with your brushes and beautiful colors.  Welcome!!!!  We are lucky to have you!  
    PaulB[Deleted User]
  • I know an artist who says that you will never  paint (well) if you don't learn to draw.  Another says many are willing to die for their art, but few will take time to learn to draw.  No matter how you start your painting, one of the first things you do with paint is cover your drawing lines, be they paint, pencil, charcoal, ink, or whatever.  Or, you could become the kind of painter who throws buckets of paint into the wind, letting it splash on to a few canvases and call it art.
  • How well do you have to read to write poetry? But DMP shows you how to draw realism very well even if you can't draw a stick figure.
  • edited September 2018

    This might help explain the difference between the schools of art who favour line, and those who favour tone:

    Disegno or Colorito: Florence Versus Venice

    The question as to which was more important in art, drawing (disegno) or colour (colorito), was answered differently according to whether you lived in Florence or Venice. The fact was, painters from different areas of Italy approached the depiction of nature quite differently and, as a result, created works of art that differ not only in technique and appearance but in their very conception. During the Renaissance in Florence, a city sandwiched between Siena and the Papal States, artists looked for inspiration to the humanism and order of Classical Antiquity. For these Florentine painters "drawing" or "design," was seen as the key starting point of artistic endeavour, the primary means for portraying nature as realistically as possible.

    However, artists of the Renaissance in Venice had a completely different view. Their powerful northern Italian Republic, with its worldwide maritime trading links and overland trade routes, had close associations with Byzantine art, famous for its shimmering gold icons and mosaic art, and its inattention to figurative realism. Not surprisingly therefore, Venetian art favoured a more colouristic approach, bolstered no doubt by its trade in colour pigments, such as Ultramarine (Lapis Lazuli), Chinese Red, Indian "Lac", Verdigris and Indigo. (See also: Renaissance Colour Palette.) This Venetian colourism was further stimulated by the city's damp climate, which was less suited to fresco and tempera paints, and more suited to oil painting - a medium which thrived on sophisticated colour and tone. See also: Legacy of Venetian Painting on European art.

    For optimum naturalism, Venetian painters placed a particularly high value on the correct application of colour, without which they believed no artist could properly capture the real effects of light and thus the true appearance of the object. The Venetian School of painting therefore paid great attention to the process of layering and blending colours to achieve a glowing richness. For an artform and period which illustrates the difference between disegno and colorito, see: Venetian altarpieces (c.1500-1600). See also or short review: Titian and Venetian Colour Painting (c.1500-76).

    FLORENCE versus VENICE: In a Nutshell

    To the artists of the Florentine Renaissance a picture was composed of shape plus colour; to a Venetian it was shape fused with colour. To the Florentine, colour, however harmonious, was a quality to be added to design. To the Venetian it was inseparable from design. See Venetian painting.

  • And I would like to add @Richard_P later there was a huge "fight" between the French academic way of painting and the early impressionists. Blob of colour versus lines and infinite glazings.I think a huge breakpoint in art history as well. 
  • I like that @Richard_P I for one can draw a little but I have never really enjoyed it, as for slapping paint around with an abstract idea I fully enjoy - and the last year being more precise with DMP is also very rewarding 
  • I drew a lot as a kid - mostly cartoon and comic book characters. I could copy pretty well but not really sketch. Last summer I took a sketching course that changed everything. I left after four days confident that I could draw anything I wanted. The course taught me two critical skills:  values and measuring. That’s all you need, but it’s essential for painting.

    Leonardo was pretty clear about the importance of drawing if you wanted to be a great painter.

    I’ve always loved Delacroix’s quote: “If you are not skillful enough to sketch a man jumping out of a window in the time it takes him to fall from the fourth storey (sic) to the ground, you will never be able to produce great works.” Delacroix took his drawing very seriously. I think his painting speaks for itself.

    You can paint without drawing well, but drawing skills separates the wheat from the chaff.

    dencalMichaelD[Deleted User]
  • edited June 2019
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  • Folks

    I found this style / technique to be inspirational.

    Minimal kit, maximum freedom, draw from shoulder, cheap newsprint and a crayon.
    Draw hundreds at figure drawing class, laminate the keepers, mulch the rest.


    [Deleted User]
  •  A saying I like goes like this:  All are willing to die for their art, but few are willing to learn to draw. 

    Drawing is the foundation of all are, even that splashy stuff that looks like someone dropped a bucket of paint.
    [Deleted User]
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