Learn how to draw
Learning how to draw teaches us about light and shadow which in itself is one of the foundations that painting is built upon. Drawing also teaches about proportion, perspective and composition. Drawing is the foundation upon which all the other visual art forms are built. Whether you are a sculptor, a ceramist, a printmaker or a painter you absolutely need to know how to draw.
In a nutshell, drawing teaches us how to see. If you haven’t learned to see then how do you expect to paint well?
How much drawing should you do?
People always ask me how much drawing they should be doing. If we look at the drawing-painting ratios of some of the greatest painters in history you will be surprised how small their actual painting output was in relationship to their drawing. The great Gustav Klimt’s ratio was about 500 to 1 or 500 drawings for every completed painting in his life.
Why not just correct your painting as you go?
Many painters erroneously believe that they can make innumerable corrections on the canvas. Very few amateurs and even a few professionals haven’t heard about the “Pentimento” effect in oil painting where images and corrections beneath the visible surface begin to appear through the paint. For those of you who have been misled or told otherwise, this is why drawing is important. If you use drawing to “plan” your painting before you actually start smearing paint on the surface you may actually avoid making a million corrections, which eventually will appear over time.
What is pentimento?
What is pentimento? Pentimento (pentimenti in plural) is when an artist makes small corrections during the course of a painting which becomes more and more noticeable as the painting ages. Most artists do not make huge changes because they did a lot of drawing beforehand and know what they are doing and where their painting is going. Sometimes an artist will slightly adjust the position of a finger or the length of a tablecloth. Sometimes a younger artist has some lean years and is forced to paint over another work as did yours truly on several occasions. It wasn’t because i didn’t like the painting underneath, it was simply that I wanted to keep painting and couldn’t afford more materials. With the low cost of canvas these days most pentimento we see today is caused by artists not really having a plan or a direction for their painting. These artists will tell you that they work “intuitively” or without a plan.
An example of pentimento
The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso is a good example of pentimento. Picasso was a young artist short on money at the time he painted it. One hundred years later we can clearly see the painting he painted over when he created this work. Look closely at the detail of the painting and then look at the painting above again. See the female figure clearer now? It will only become more noticeable with time.