Thursday, 19 May 2011

Drawing and Painting - just do it!

Cromer Fisherment, Norfolk

I recently happened upon an article with Ten Tips for Drawing Figures and, guess what! – I disagreed with every single one of those tips.  

That doesn’t mean that there was anything wrong with these tips and some people would probably find them helpful but to me they seriously over-complicated the process of drawing. It’s my belief that if you simply draw what you see, you can’t go far wrong!

And if your fine motor skills are sufficient for writing your name, and you are able to set aside any inhibitions about what you can or cannot draw, there’s no reason why you can’t draw anything you like, including the human figure! There really is no difference between drawing a person and drawing a landscape; both are simply made up of a juxtaposition of shapes, colours and textures!

Shire Horse at Rally,

I’ve heard people say that they ‘can’t do people’ - or animals or boats or that they are no good at landscapes. But as long as you are drawing from a reference, a photo, a sketch or a model, it really shouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference what you are drawing. Everything is made up of a collections of shapes which come together to produce a landscape, a life painting, a creature, a building or whatsoever takes your fancy! 

I was fortunate to discover this even before I came across this fabulous quote from Monet:

‘Try to forget what objects you have before you, a tree, a house, a field or whatever. 

Merely think here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact colour and shape.’ Monet

Monet goes further and includes colour and I’ve found that the same thing applies to painting.

Forget all about those ‘arty’ terms  - perspective, tone value, colour theory, negative space, composition etc. They really do become redundant when you take the simple approach and just draw and paint what you see!

Cows coming home
Of course if you deliberately try to forget something, the chances are that you won’t be able to stop thinking about it! That’s the way our minds seem to work. But when you just focus on simply faithfully ‘recording’ what you see before you, you’ll get into ‘flow’ and all that unnecessary mind work will soon melt away.

Why is it ‘safe’ to let go of all those technicalities that people make such a fuss about? Well, in fact, you won’t actually be ignoring them. They will probably have been part of the process of choosing your subject, maybe unconsciously.

People have commented on the ‘dappled light’ in my paintings, the ‘sunlight and shadows across paths’ and the way that my paintings often seem to ‘lead the eye off into the distance’.  All I can say is that this is news to me; I was totally unaware of these things, and others that have been commented on, until they were pointed out to me. But these features must have been what attracted me in the first place, what ‘asked me’ to paint this particularly picture! So that takes good care of perspective, composition and tone value without giving those things a moment’s conscious thought!

I’m sure this is the way that many artists work, but if it’s not your way, perhaps it would be worth giving it a try! It might be the solution to drawing or painting those things that you think are ‘difficult’- and you might have a lot of fun along the way too!

Path from Abergavenny Castle down to the Meadows

 Just draw or paint exactly what you see!

Of course, drawing and painting from the imagination is another matter and would need a blog post all to itself!


Ulla Hennig said...

Interesting blogpost, Judy. I however would like to add one point: "seeing" does not equal "seeing"! When I for example walk along the streets of Berlin I always wonder about how green Berlin is. But when looking closer at the trees and bushes I notice the many shades of green - dark green, light green, green with some brown in it, or the almost yellowish-brown green of dry grass in hot summer. Taking my camera with me kind of forces me to look closer and notice things I would not do if I were without it. So I'd like to say you've got to learn to see in order to paint and draw!

Judy Adamson said...

That's an interesting point, Ulla, and I've often wondered what people mean by 'learning to see'. I think this is precisely what Monet means, although it's expressed differently. If you can follow his advice and stop thinking about the fact that you are looking at trees,which will probably bring thoughts about 'green' into your mind, and just paint exactly what you see, you will automatically notice and record those other colours.

Di said...

Good points! Stop talking about it. Get out of your head and do it.

Di said...

Yes there are differences in "seeing". I always thought sketching from life trained you to really "see" something. I'm guilty of thinking I can't draw people but if you forget you're drawing something "you can't draw" it no longer becomes a problem. It's only a problem when you're too conscience that you're drawing something you're "bad" at. Put away your self-inflicted labels and just do it.

Judy Adamson said...

Thanks for your comments, Di. I'm 'guilty' of thinking I can't draw horses and that boats are very difficult but if I just look at the shapes and lines in relation to one another, I don't do too badly, I think!

SFCount said...

Yes, I think you do very well indeed, Judy! Your work is just lovely.
It's my feeling that what is much more difficult is NOT drawing what you see (e.g. Picasso.) Most of my life, when I've done a drawing I tried to make it look exactly like my subject, but I personally find that a bit boring. Those drawings of mine seemed somehow "soulless". It always frustrated me that I couldn't get beyond that. Strangely enough, it's when I started using my tablet that I began to be able to create images that were somewhat less "photographic" and I've been much happier with them (most of the time.) ;)

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you for your comments, Sarah - it's lovely to see you over here!

I am fascinated by what you say about using a tablet - it makes a nonsense of my theories about digital art! Do you have any idea why your digital work seems to have more 'soul' than your non-digital? Could it be that you feel more free to experiment because mistakes are easily erased and there's no wasting of expensive paper - or something like that?

Whatever it is, I would recommend anyone reading this to visit Sarah's blog to see here artwork and read her interesting posts!

SFCount said...

Thank you, Judy!
I definitely believe I'm much freer and uninhibited when I use the tablet and I'm sure it's because of the ability to remove mistakes. Given the combination of my compulsive nature and lack of formal training, traditional painting was a problem for me. I was constantly worrying that I was going to mess something up and wouldn't be able to, or even know how to fix it. So I'm sure not having that worry makes it possible for me to experiment much more resulting in images that are less rigid than my usual work. It's been quite a boon to me.

Judy Adamson said...

That's great, Sarah and maybe any nervous artists reading this will be encouraged to give a graphics tablet a try!

I certainly find that, since I learned how to clean up my handpainted designs or correct little mistakes with my tablet, I've found an extra degree of freedom in my designing for greeting cards.

Betsy Grant said...

Painting from the imagination sounds most interesting and intriguing. This work is lovely!

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you, Betsy!