tl;dr – Stop writing blog posts and start drawing… a lot.
Drawing is one of four essential elements of a good representational painting (if you’re doing abstract work, the drawing is not quite so important).
(The other elements are value, edges and colour)
In his book Alla Prima – Everything I Know About Painting, Richard Schmid describes drawing, in the context of a painting, as “the size, shape, and arrangement of all the patches of colour that collectively constitute a painting.”
Essentially, it’s making sure every patch of paint is in the right place and is the right size.
I often start a painting by sketching in the shapes of the main elements, as you can see in these examples:
It’s not essential to get this kind of sketch 100% accurate, as you can adjust things as you paint, but it certainly helps to get as close as possible to begin with, and if you’re too far off it will be impossible to achieve a realistic looking painting.
If you struggle with drawing, I can strongly recommend the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. It teaches you to learn how to see like an artist, which is a first essential step to learning to draw. It’s also full of practical exercises to hone your skills.
One thing I’ve always found useful for keeping my drawing skills sharp is going to life drawing sessions. Accurately depicting the human form can be tricky, and it’s great practice for drawing, even if you only ever paint landscapes. I’d encourage you to try going to a life drawing class if you’ve never been.
Here’s a few of my favourite sketches from previous life drawing sessions:
Here’s a video of part of a sketch painting I did last year, but I only got around to editing the video this week.
You can see the finished sketch below.
A grisaille is a monochrome painting, traditionally painted in shades of grey (the word grisaille is from the French gris, meaning grey), but it can really be done in any colour, and shades of brown are quite common, as it can mimic the colour of skin.
This grisaille was done in acrylic paint in about 30 minutes. With acrylics, you don’t get much time to work with the paint once it’s down on the canvas as they dry so quickly. I’m going to do a grisaille in oils next, and I’ll record part of the painting process.
Here’s the finished acrylic sketch. Let me know what you think.