Studio Update – Drawing to paint better

Following on from my last post where I wrote about how important ‘drawing for the sake of it is’ in my practice, I was also thinking last week about how important drawing is as a tool for improving my painting skills.

Portrait in progress

I often think that drawing as seen as ‘secondary’ somehow and folks only need to look at my studio walls to see what I think of that idea! I spend an awful lot more time drawing than I do painting.

2

As well as the pure enjoyment of simple materials and the very direct nature of making marks on raw paper, drawing somehow helps me understand things better when I am getting into a bit of a pickle with paint. Yep, it happens all the time. Even more so now that I am currently working in oil paints. Whilst they are gorgeous and rich and tactile, it is all too easy to create mud where colours and tones get confused as I move the paint around with my brushes and get into a fine old mess. (Thank goodness for painting knives which I use regularly to scrape back to raw canvas when I cross that thin line between expressive brush strokes and losing the image completely).

DSC_0048

I am working on a few pieces simultaneously at the moment (some acrylics and some oil paintings and as always, drawings) and last week, working on this portrait I got to the point where I had just lost the middle portion of the face. The harder I tried the more of a mess I was creating. So back to the drawing board – quite literally. I realised I was just not understanding the structure of the nose accurately enough to be able to render it in paint – the downside of working from images as opposed to life where the structure is much more clear. But a quick tonal, expressive sketch and the penny dropped. I was able to see the areas of shadow and light much more clearly so that I could use the brushstrokes to carve that shape out from the canvas.

DSC_0050

This portrait again is inspired by a posespace image – I use them as a starting point only, in order to figure out the lighting and the structure of the head rather than trying to copy the photo exactly. Even my drawing is very different from the image but I feel the elements help me to create a good foundation so that I can then bring my own expression and aesthetic to the canvas.

Blue-grey Reflection - oil on board 2016

This painting is also a study for a much larger painting that I am now working on which I will post about next week.

Shop Update: I have not had any artwork available online since before we moved in February so it was about time I took an inventory of what I have available. I have been gradually listing pieces in my online store and also decided to finally get to grips with my portfolio on Saatchi Online selling my first piece on there last week.

The above portrait will be added once it is dry enough to varnish.

Workshop Update: I am currently writing (and about to start filming) my brand new ecourse which will be focused entirely on portraiture (drawings and paintings!) I will have more information soon! But I am very excited about it. Taking some of the elements I covered in Unearth Gather Create and Drawn to Expression and expanding on them, it goes even further into the subject of creating portraits with entirely new content and in-depth study. If you would like to learn more about the upcoming course as information becomes available then you can sign up to my workshop mailing list on my Art School site (in the sidebar). Registration will open in a couple of weeks and class will begin in October.

Till next time ….

Comments 5

  1. Cindy

    Thank you for sharing, alot of times we look at artist and they were just born gifted and it comes super easy. May I ask what the name is of your color wheel book? in the above photo…
    Thank you so much

  2. Jennifer Vigil

    Gillian, I really enjoyed the post. It was inspiring. I am going to share it with my son who is studying art at university. You work is so lovely. Looking forward to checking out your shop and your online course. I have been recommitting to drawing and painting as a complement to my 3D work. So this piece really spoke to me.

  3. Emily Lynn Downey

    Gillian, I can’t wait to hear more information about your new course. I have not registered for any of your current courses as my hands are full with Life, but I would love to learn from you someday. Your work is beautiful!

  4. Claudia True

    Great article Gillian – thanks for sharing how your struggle because your art is so beautiful we think it must come so easily. It’s encouraging and informative to know you face these challenges. Just beautiful art!!

    1. Post
      Author
      Gillian Lee Smith

      Claudia thank you so much for visiting and commenting! Yes I think folks are often surprised when I share the struggles – but believe me it is 80% of the time! I actually think a lot of creating is about practice and problem solving – not the ‘magic’ that many folks believe! That is what keeps me coming back – the challenge of getting it wrong more times than not but then being able to work through it until the penny drops – I love that about art!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *