19 July 2011

A different way to start a drawing or painting...

I usually start drawings and paintings with a linear sketch to establish the big shapes.  Once the lay-in is accurate, the modeling of form begins.  I's a common method.  I was recently introduced to a more intuitive approach, in a class with Jeff Watts, which starts by massing in the big shapes...no guide lines.

In the 20-minute sketch below, I started by smudging in a rough background, which also established the outline of the figure.  I worked this outer shape, back and forth with charcoal and a kneaded eraser, until it felt right, then added contour lines and interior details.  I like the result.  It has a fresh, painterly feeling absent from my academic drawings.

Wendy Seated, 24 x 18", charcoal on newsprint

Here's one more...

Wendy Standing 24 x 18", charcoal on newsprint (some edits by Jeff)

Here's the same approach in paint, from a one-day workshop I took in April with Vadim Zanginian.  Vadim teaches a similar approach.  I laid in the background and figure as 2 shapes (using an average hue for the fleshtone), working the boundaries back and forth until an accurate figure shape emerged.  Details were worked up once the big shapes were set.  An advantage of the approach is that the figure (or head or still life) and background form a more integrated whole.

LA model sketch,  12 x 9", oil on linen

If you want to loosen up a little, or you want to do something fun, try this method.  The results may surprise you.  Keep it quick, so there's no opportunity to refine and ruin the result.


  1. direct and beautiful, I like that.

  2. It's all looking good Candace...

  3. Really like that painting - may give this a whirl later . . .

  4. I love knowing about different methods for starting a painting. The LA sketch is marvelous. How fortunate you were to have this instruction.

  5. Caio and Daniel, Thanks for your comments. After a fair amount of study and effort, I'm just beginning to understand the possibilities. Exciting time.

  6. Jane and Deborah. The method is really fun...semi-chaotic. Check out Vadim's Demo page. There's a YouTube video where he uses the approach in charcoal. That man can draw.

    Enjoy, Candace.

  7. I like trying something new, You did an excellent job here.