June 22, 2024


Art Is Experience

Do Not Paint In Oils Before You Can Sketch

Painting is a very attractive pastime — even employment. It is quite satisfying and gives enormous pleasure. Even the initial attraction can be very great, so great that we give in to the temptation to “jump straight in” and get started right away.

Why not? Well, we can, but that would be a mistake. There are two really important precursors that we should see to first. And, in fact, both can be very enjoyable themselves: sketching and understanding colour.

SketchingPainting a picture means painting shapes of one kind or another. So we need to consider where these shapes are going to come from. Unless we are happy buying a colouring book, they can only come from one’s self. Hence, before we can paint we need to be able to draw.

Some people throw the possibility of the whole process into the rubbish bin by saying “I can’t even draw a straight line”. Freehand, it is extremely difficult even for a professional artist to draw a straight line — but there is always a rule that can be used!

Most people can draw to some degree, but certainly some learning will always be necessary to progress to a better level. This probably means either attending art classes or buying a book. If the first is an option and we have both the time and money, no more need be said. If we don’t have one or both, buying an instruction book is potentially very attractive.

Selecting BooksThe market is full of “how to draw” books, although some are better than others. Buying from somewhere like Amazon is often useful because there are frequently assessments from previous readers. But wherever you buy from, don’t be tempted to start with specialised books like “How To Draw Water” or “…Trees”, or”…People”, etc. Buy a general one, for two reasons. First, you will get a reasonably comprehensive introduction across a wide range of topics and images. Secondly, you will find out you are better at drawing some things than others. The “other” must not be ignored, but the information about your self is important.

So which general introductory book? You can pay from next to nothing to a considerable price. But what you want is something appropriate. You would not begin studying, say, economics by enrolling on a degree course. So you need something at an introductory level. Even so, you tend to “get what you pay for”, so it pays to shop around a little first.

Buying off the Internet can bring some real bargains, but do look at readers ratings first. Alternatively, buying from an actual shop may cost more, but it does give you the chance to look inside the book to make your own assessment.

One book I would be prepared to recommend can be purchased in either way. This is “Drawing With The Right Side On The Brain” by Betty Edwards. You could go a long way before getting a better starter.

EquipmentApart from the book or tuition, it costs little to get going in drawing. You will need a drawing pad, or a couple of different sizes, one being small enough to take out with you for drawing on the spot whenever you see something of interest. Then you will need some pencils. These are usually graded according to hardness or softness. An “HB” is a middle value, a “B” softer, a “2B” softer still. etc, while an “H” is harder than “HB” and “2H” even harder, etc.

The stuff that makes marks on the paper can be lead, or graphite or charcoal. They all have their own advantages and disadvantages depending what and how you are drawing. Try one of each. In many cases you will need to sketch out the subject matter first, though in some case this may not be necessary. Or, alternatively, it may be enough just to outline the shapes with a weak wash of paint. When using pencil of one sort or another, you will also need a rubber. Get a soft one to start with. Drawing may turn out to be much more interesting and exciting than you imagine. It can be an end in itself.

ColourOnce you have gained some expertise in drawing, you may consider yourself ready to begin painting – but hold on for a little while longer and a little more tuition, because it will be of great advantage to find out something about colour (however you spell that!) first.

How to use colour>/B may seem an obvious thing: some colours go well together and some don’t. What else is there to know? Well, quite a lot and it’s a really good idea to get some basic information before you start painting. Again, there are many good books around and, again, Betty Edwards has an excellent introduction with “Color. A course in mastering the art of mixing color”. This will give you a good grounding if you are prepared to work through all the exercises.

After that, you should be ready to go!