Drawing – over and over and over – with paint
People often ask me, “Do I have to know how to draw in order to paint?” And my answer is usually the oft-overused “it depends.”
It depends on what kind of painting you want to do. It depends on whether or not you want your paintings to represent something real, with accuracy. It depends on your subject (I think most people who can’t draw could eventually paint an apple, but not quite so quickly, a human face).
Some people get around their lack of drawing skills by using techniques such as “gridding up,” or projectors. David Hockney would argue that most of the painters we consider “Old Masters” used some sort of non-drawing technique (camera obscura, or a grid sheet placed in front of their subject are two that come immediately to mind) and i happen to agree with him.
In portrait work, though, a good solid understanding of how to discern shapes and transfer them from eye to painting surface is mandatory. But that doesn’t mean you, #1 – can’t use any mechanical assist that works for you or #2 – once you are done drawing you are done – with drawing that is.
A case in point – this portrait I’m working on. I pulled out my usual bag of tricks to get the initial shapes on the canvas, but I swear I have redrawn both of these cherubic faces at least twenty times since I started. And every time I redrew (not always all at once, mind you, but sometimes the inner corner of an eye gets ten do-overs) those little faces grew. And I drew. And they grew. And I…
You get the idea. So a few times in every painting, particularly when it’s a portrait commission (in which, I presume, the commissioner wants a fairly good likeness of the commission subject) I have to stop, stand back, evaluate, and adjust.
In this case it happened fairly early in the process, which is always a good thing (it’s truly a miserable day when you are convinced you are nearing the end of a portrait and suddenly you realize that the right eye is about 1/8 of an inch higher than the other).
Below you can see the results of some very focused observation on my part, and a little help from a ruler and proportion wheel.