Saturday, December 20, 2008

How important is drawing?

QUESTION: Hi Susie! Love your work. My question is this: I want to be an artist, like you. I practise drawing and painting for approximately two hours a day. Is this enough? In Gordon MacKenzie's book he states that to be an artist you have to start building a data base. What does he mean? Any pointers you can give me would be much appreciated. Paul

SUSIE'S REPLY: Hello Paul, thanks for your question. I'm sure many other artists wonder about the importance of drawing and how it applies to painting....especially watercolor painting!

I believe that the more you draw the better you will be in every art medium. Drawing is a great hand and eye coordination exercise. Transferring what you see to the paper can also train your eye to really look at the object/subject. Draw every chance you get whether it for a painting or not.

When I'm teaching I use a simplified line drawing (for my students to see what I'm visualizing in my head) to illustrate placement and/or perspective. To me the lines are meant to be guidelines like a road map and are not intended to be the exact edge of my subject. I like to use my brush to create the shapes of the objects not following pre-made pencil lines exactly. When I try to force the paint to stay inside the lines my painting looks and feels tight and over controlled.

Most of my paintings are painted "free hand" without any pencil lines. It took me several years to get to this place. However I did draw on my paper when I started painting. The reason I can paint without pencil lines is because I do draw a lot and the information I save in my "data base" is accessed when my brush starts to draw on my watercolor paper.

In response to your specific question --- I thumbed through MacKenzie's book The Watercolorist's Essential Notebook to find what you were referring to so I wouldn't take it out of context and I'm sorry to say I didn't find it. (Perhaps you could send me the the page number.)

What he could have meant by "starting to build a data base" may have meant to become familiar with your subject and how it is shaped so that when you start to paint it you have an understanding about how it is put together or how it grows so as you paint the subject it looks natural. If we are painting something from memory or sometimes even from a photo, and we get to a place where we don't know exactly what's next we have to fake it to fill in a gap. It's much better to have a 'data base' from previous drawings to refer to. As I said I'm not sure that's what he meant but its a good guess.

I hope that helps some. Draw Draw Draw! Enjoy drawing and learning all you can about the subjects and objects that interest you. Then when you start to paint those things you will be so familiar with them painting their shapes will be second nature.

Most of all have fun!

ADDITIONAL COMMENT!! I found the MacKenzie reference! It's in his Landscapes book. What he means by "Start building your own data base." is to take notes and write down what it is you like about a specific painting or photo that inspires you. Take photos of your own when you see something you'd like to paint. Keep a sketchbook to remind you of the things you want to paint. He also says, "...there is no better way to improve your ability to see than to draw."
So we were on the same track. :) SS

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