Why do drawings help the painting process? I have always loved drawing and doodling. But there is more to drawing than meets the eye. Why do preparatory drawings help? My painting process is twofold. I studied Fine art, but before I got to the painting process, I spent two years drawing and printmaking. The drawing consisted of outdoor studies, sometimes in the Northumberland countryside, and then life drawing the human body. At the time, I had not understood what the drawing was achieving, and it wasn’t until later I realized that the drawings are powerful stepping stones providing the roots for the paintings. Printmaking has many aspects but I concentrated on etchings. This is a time-consuming practice of drawing into a prepared metal plate with a fine sharp-edged tool known as drypoint. I could spend days on one plate etching fine details that the ink sinks into and then gets pressed onto damp paper creating the image. The effects are beautiful and the plate will last a lifetime for repeat prints.
Drawing the countryside is a much easier and cheaper way of drawing. I enjoyed drawing outdoors as this gave my paintings an element of space, vastness, and I connected with nature. The landscape is a raw and silent study not unlike meditating especially if you are out alone. Observing how the sky changes with the light and the simple beauty of nature, the thousands of colors, and aspects of humbleness. It is a very creative process and teaches the artist to focus on what is essential in the drawing and, like a detective, find the detail. The eye learns to distinguish and draw the viewer into the landscape with subtle focal points.
“Learning to draw rewires us to see the world differently, to love it more intimately by attending to and coming to cherish its previously invisible details.” -Maria Popova
Life drawing allowed me to study the human form. It is not easy to directly translate the human body into a pencil drawing. It does take practice, and like a muscle, it takes time to use. I drew about three hours a week and learned perspective, shading, and the rhythm a drawing takes. Life drawing was a valuable lesson in form and space, understanding how to measure curves and realise there are no straight lines. I looked at some of the masters for inspiration and love the work of Degas; the ballerina series he undertook are such authentic and straightforward works yet so challenging to draw. The still life of the body is hard, but once this is mastered through practice, one understands how to remove the body, which can progress into drawing the moving form. However, Degas still makes it look easy, but it’s rare to find beautiful moving images of the human condition. I also looked at George Stubbs’s drawings of the horse which are fascinating in-depth anatomy studies. These studies lead to the famous and beautiful painting of Whistlejacket.
Drawing what I see
My drawings help the painting process. They have taught me to draw what I see, and then I can translate this into my abstract paintings. I rarely incorporate the human form in my pictures, but when I have done it, it was effortless, and they filtered in from my drawings of Monaco and surrounding towns and villages. I once drew in the food hall in Harrods, capturing people shopping, queuing for meat, and eating. All this mingled into the painting ‘Foreign Places’ (image below) in a private collection in Monaco.
I have started to draw again as I am at the cusp of a new body of work and feel the need to go back to basics to draw from nature and hang large sheets of white paper on the walls where I draw with acyclic paints. Drawing is a fun technique to master, and like everything in life, it takes time and practice to master. I have to keep coming back to drawing to polish my skills and lay the foundations for my future work. Writings ideas down always help when you start a new project or, as a business, it requires a business plan. I see my drawings as plans for the next paintings.
“Drawing is the artist’s most direct and spontaneous expression. A species of writing: it reveals, better than does painting, his true personality.” -Edgar Degas
Still, life drawing from a bowl of fruit is incredibly powerful and demonstrates awareness in the artist and a very keen sense of the moment. Eckhart Tolle is a leading world speaker, thinker, and for me, a thought-provoking and essential leader. He promotes and helps people understand that the only way we will survive as a species is if we all become more aware of the present moment. I think that a still life drawing or painting is the ultimate expression of the present moment. Still, life represents a humble simplicity of the artist’s nature, for example, René Smoorenburg paintings. Painting two apples or a bunch of grapes takes incredible concentration and time to execute. Few artists can reach for the oil paint and start painting fruit bowls without drawing for hours. The artist has to be fully awake, aware, and patient. A bowl of fruit has limited longevity in its ripeness and is abundant in color, fragrance, and flavor. The fruit does not worry about the future. It is here; now, although often overlooked or taken for granted, it is a powerful metaphor for living in the present moment and being aware of what we have right now, right in front of us.
Kay Hare is an artist living and working in England, Kent