Why Drawing is Important in Painting

As painters, we’re fixated on a lot of things—the mixing, the colors, the details and many more. We’re drawn to the idea that our subjects are the most important thing. However, we, as students to the craft, must remember why drawing is important in painting.

Obsessing on your subject means you have vision—undoubtedly the most important skill painters should have. To have vision means you’re competent enough to see what most people can’t and drawing heightens our visual prowess to a whole new level. I’m not just talking about how you see, but rather how capable you are in changing perspective.

The “starry sky” is a great example on how perspective can affect painters. The sky is undoubtedly the subject of the painting. If you take a look at it, in all of its glory, you will find little peculiarities that make the painting more lovable.

The Starry Night – Vincent van Gogh

Those peculiarities aren’t necessarily in the lines of realism per se, but it essentially made viewers change their perspective of how night skies look. In other words, Van Gogh’s painting idiosyncrasies and obsessiveness compelled the viewers to see what he was seeing.

So how do we use our eyes to our advantage? How do we obsess with our subject in a way that benefits us? The answer to that is simple. Composition. More accurately, in this case, drawing before painting.

Drawing is necessary in the beginning of every piece whether it be with a pencil or a brush . It’s not necessarily a prerequisite to painting, but rather we should consider it as an element of the same.

To know how to draw correlates to your ability to compose your painting. In other words, you’ll be more competent in the composition process; and since drawing is synonymous to seeing and thinking, we should consider drawing in the context of the painting process itself.

When we start making our pieces, we’d want to think of what the finished product would look like. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of painters serendipitously create masterpieces, but what we have to keep in mind is the purpose of drawing.

Drawing is essentially seeing and meticulously deciding on the pretext of your painting. It’s the middle ground between drafts and complete works of art. It’s the basic stage of observation and execution.

The thing you have to know about drawing is that it simplifies your idea and gives you the freedom to extend your imagination. It takes away all the distractions of colors and forces you to look at your approach at a new angle—the vagueness of your work that will serve as the foundation to your whole process.

Since painting is ideally slower than drawing, the latter will give you the opportunity to think ahead—albeit the paint covers the pencil or brush marks, it is still very essential.

So let’s focus more on drawing and how it can potentially make or break our paintings.

Here’s how you can improve on your drawings:

1. Sighting / Measuring

Sighting is the process of measuring a “unit” that you can use to compare and use as a basis to establish the size of an object on your drawing surface. In other words, it’s scaling your object down to size so that it can fit in your paper.

You can either use this measurement to record the object on the drawing surface or simply make comparisons to what you have already drawn. Unless you’re drawing an exact 1:1 ratio model of something, you’re more likely to use this method.

To start sighting, we can use various “tools” to measure proportions of our subject in order to improve the accuracy of what we record in our drawings—however, a pencil works surprisingly well and is recommended

Here’s how you do it:

A. First, extend your arm out toward your subject with your pencil in hand. Be sure that your arm is extended completely without any bending at the elbow. Bring your line of sight down to your shoulder and close one eye.

B. Use the end of your pencil (or the tip) and line it up with the top of the highest or widest point on the object, then your thumb to mark the bottom.