Drawing with a Painting in Mind
Drawing plays many roles in the creation of a painting.
Sometimes we draw factual sketches in a sketchbook to gather information that can be used later. Sometimes we draw to focus our attention, to see something more clearly, to understand characteristic forms. The more we draw, the more we see. We surround the drawing with notes about colors, mood, and textures. We write what attracted us to this particular scene or object.
Other times we draw to interpret reality, to see beyond what is there, to interpret the scene through the filters of our own emotions. Sometimes we draw to see more than is in front of our eyes.
Sometimes we draw thumbnail sketches to explore the compositional design options that are available for a specific painting. We sketch different formats and then select the one that seems to be the most approriate for the subject matter. We sketch different compositional schemes that will divide the format and then select one. We sketch elements that we might include in the composition and select a few. We sketch how those elements might be simplified. We sketch how those elements might be arranged and select the one that expresses our personal interpretation of the subject matter. Using the preferred arrangement, we sketch a variety of value patterns and select our favorite. Each of these sketches is like a private conversation with ourselves, exploring options and making decisions that support our purpose.
After exploring the options and selecting the format, the compositional scheme, the elements, the arrangement and point of view, and the value pattern, we choose from a variety of ways to draw onto the watercolor paper.
Sometimes we draw to simplify complex subjects.
Sometimes we draw as little as possible on the watercolor paper, merely indicating the location and relative sizes of key elements. At other times we create a detailed drawing that will guide the painting every step of the way. Sometimes the drawing on the watercolor paper will be erased after the first washes are applied. Sometimes the lines will be clearly visible, while at other time they will remain mostly obscured by the paint.
Sometimes the lines will become an integral part of the final creative work of art. A pencil drawing may be traced by ink lines that follow yet remain independent of the original drawing. Watercolor washes may then be added that sometimes follow the drawing and sometimes remain independent from the lines. These two layers may be covered with collaged rice paper that partially obscure the lines. Additional drawing and washes may be added to this layer. To this layer of gesso could be added. The gesso could be blotted and wiped out in areas to reveal the layers below. Next, details could be drawn and painted on the gessoed surface.
Finally, there are times times when we make sketchbook drawings to practice the basic, innate perceptual skills of drawing. We draw the ten thousand things around us to develop our ability to perceive and to record our perceptions of shapes, lines, angles, proportions, positions in space, and tonal values.
Set your personal purpose meter. Decide what you want to accomplish, then select the appropriate tools and methods.
Regardless of your current purpose, regardless of the tools and methods you choose, the most important thing is to draw. Draw everything, everywhere, all the time.
Select Your Exploratory Purpose
Select Your Purpose for Drawing Directly on the Watercolor Paper
Gather information about your subject. Sketch the details of a window or a tree. Jot down notes about colors, textures and the play of light on the subject. Make a note of what attracted you to this subject. Record your emotional response to the scene.
Go beyond the facts, beyond what you see. Distort reality. Move elements around. Interpret the scene through the filters of your own emotions.
Explore a variety of formats. Try a square, a horizontal rectangle, a vertical rectangle, and extremely long rectangle, a rectangle with "golden" proportions. Select the one that best supports your purpose.
Division of the Format Sketches
Experiment with several different ways of dividing the format. Which compositional scheme would best accomplish my purpose? diagonal wedges? layers or strata? staggered? the combination of a rectangle and a square? a "Z"? radial?
Think about the emotion you want to elicit from the viewer. Think about the message you want to communicate. Then choose the format and the format divisions that best accomplish your purpose.
Choose the underlying, controlling structure that will provide the best skeleton for your composition.
Possible Elements Sketches
Sketch each of the elements that you might include in your composition. Remember that some of those elements might be behind you or beside you. There is no need to limit yourself to those elements in front of you. Select only those few elements that are essential to convey your message.
Explore different ways to arrange the elements you have selected. Overlap them or spread them apart. Move them up or down. Bring them closer or push them back into the distance. Flip them horizontally, creating a mirror image. Choose your favorite arrangement.
Develop your favorite arrangement of elements into a more finished drawing.
Simplify the major shapes in your favorite arrangement of elements. Using 3 values or 5 values, explore numerous value patterns. Try a light shape against a dark shape surrounded by mid-tones. Try a dark shape against a light shape surrounded my midtones.
Guidelines, Reference Points & Placement of Major Shapes
Sometimes all you need is a dot or two to guide your painting. Other times, you might want to block in the position of the major shapes. This can be done with pencil or with a light value, non-staining paint.
Detailed Graphite Drawing to Guide Painting
There may be times when you want to create a final drawing of your composition on high quality drawing paper that allows repeated erasures. There are a variety of ways to transfer this final drawing to watercolor paper: grid, transfer paper, projector, or light box. Some artists scan the final drawing, reduce the opacity of the line in Photoshop, then print the drawing on watercolor paper.
Draw Over Previously Painted Area
There are many occasions when you may want to draw over previously painted areas: when the drawing has been obscured by a wash and the drawing needs to be restated, or when an area has been scrubbed out and a new drawing is needed. When the painted area is dark, you can draw over it with a white pencil.
Pen & Ink Drawing to be Seen in Final Painting
Create a pen and ink drawing then paint over it with transparent watercolors.
Pen & Ink Drawing Invisible in Final Painting
Ink drawings can be made that guide the painting but disappear under the paint. Use a dip pen or a refillable rapidograph pen with diluted India ink. If using a Rapidograph, be sure the ink is designed for technical pens. Sumi inks have a lot of particulate matter and may clog the pen. Some Higgins inks will work with technical pens and others will not. Check the label.
Some artists dilute the ink with ammonia, creating a faint yellow line.
One of the reasons for making the drawing in ink. If masking fluid, masking film, or masking tape will be used over the area, they will lift graphite but not the ink.
Calligraphic Marks to Embellish Final Painting
Colored pencils, ball point pens, felt tip pens, or sharpened sticks dipped in ink can be used to add calligraphic lines to enhance a painting.