Drawing as part of the painting process

This week, we have been able to go out and walk with fewer restrictions.  This means that I have been able to get out into the landscape to draw, bringing back to my mind the question of drawing as part of the painting process. Just a couple of hours walking on Marsden Moor enabled me to create some quick simple sketches. You can see my previous blogs about drawing during lockdown here. I love to draw on location and those of you that follow my work will know that drawing is the basis of a lot of what I do.  

Over the last few years, I have started to develop my painting and mixed media approaches.  Most recently,  I have become interested in more abstract, semi-abstract approaches to painting-preferring to focus instead upon my feelings towards place rather than just literal views.  The thing that keeps coming back to me is: Drawing as part of the painting process?  Why would I want to do that?  why should drawing be a part of something that isn’t necessarily dependent on putting pencil to paper?   If I want to paint abstract, why do drawings matter? Isn’t it easier and quicker to just take photos?   These are questions I have asked myself regularly!  I am sure that there are lots of reasons why we, as artists choose to draw or not, in our process.  

reasons why drawing is an important part of the painting process

A direct line to my experience  

 For me, in a nutshell, the process of drawing is fundamental to my experience of the subject matter.  It is my way of processing and recording my experience.  Looking at the subject matter and putting pencil to paper, I am, in effect registering my response.  The shapes, the lines, the textures.  And the act of making the marks is a reflection of my feelings of the subject matter.  The act of drawing is allowing me to slow down, to see and to think about the subject matter.  If I wasn’t drawing, I am pretty sure that I would have a lesser understanding of the subject,  I would notice less.  The point isn’t whether I have produced a beautiful representational drawing.  It’s that I have spent time recording through drawing, my interests and thoughts about the subject matter.  The drawing enables me to reflect on my experience.

A meditation of what is important to me

Drawing has always had a calming and grounding effect on my mood and it makes me feel alive.  It’s why I find it so addictive and why I am so keen to ensure that I find ways of meaningfully integrating it into my practice of developing paintings.  But it is also because I believe that the process of drawing itself, somehow enables me to tap into my feelings and thoughts about the subject matter that would otherwise remain hidden.  The process of drawing can be quite meditative, reflective and invigorating. 

A distillation of my key interests

Because I couldn’t possibly record everything, the process forces me to identify and record what is most important to me-its a distillation.   Perhaps it is field patterns or the way the grasses move in the wind, perhaps it’s a collection of things that reflect a mood, a time, a place. 

Techniques and translation

There are a plethora of drawing techniques that I can choose.  The main thing is just to start.  To be intuitive and make a first mark.  Blind contour, looking this way then that at the subject matter, but without looking at the paper.  Creating one drawing from many views is a good start.  Jotting down words and thoughts as well as drawing is important to me.  Another technique is using small thumbnails to capture the key elements I want to record-it maybe shapes, lines or some other element.   I could choose to draw completely gesturally to get the feel and energy of something.  In this case I would be drawing action rather than subject matter.  

Drawing and exploring cotton grass moorland

I use paper, sketchbooks, whatever feels right.  I use pencils, charcoal, graphite, inks, gouache.   Long sticks to give me less control.  Small notebooks.   I try to act intuitively rather than getting too ‘thinky’ .  I am working to translate my experiences into my drawings (and then into my paintings).   Its never a linear process!

drawing as part of the painting process drawing in the Yorkshire landscape

At the end of all of this I head back to the studio with my drawings. Sometimes I continue developing drawings in the studio.

My drawings won’t be directly translated into paintings but they will be an essential part of the process.   Maybe I will make many more drawings from the drawings.  Probably I will draw again when I am already engaged in painting development.  To work things out, to reassess, to explore more.   Whilst I am still trying to figure out my painting process and what works best for me, I know that drawing will form a key part of it.  I hope that you will continue to follow me on this exciting drawing-painting journey!!

Do you paint?  If so, does drawing form an important part of your process?  

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3 thoughts on “Drawing as part of the painting process

  1. Yes drawing mmmm…. your article resonated with me to put the brakes on. The last 3 years I’ve painted directly onto paper at the expense of my years of drawing. Mark making course has slowed me down and given time what is important to me. I found out. What’s next? Instead of staying and pondering upon my response to why I wanted to paint that subject in the first place. Or why I wanted to invest time with a particular course. It says more about my lifestyle since a child contant moving around. And it’s not over yet due to circumstances. So I think I’ll stick around a little longer with my Spring woodland. Thank you.

    1. Thanks for your comments Leila. I think that is so true. To stop or slow and spend time and explore what you enjoy is so important. There is a tendency I think, with everything that is thrown at us, for us to be on a sort of art treadmill. I think its wonderful to go back, or stick around with the spring woodland. As you know, I do that, and re-explore all the time. It leads to a richness and an understanding.

  2. You are right of course. I can always explore other things gs as the year goes by, I know deep down I havent explore what the lockdown did adding voluptuous shapes in this wood when plants reached their potential within a whole year of lack if pollution from traffic around this special place that we will never see again.

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