Art Tips: The Importance of Preparation Work

Posted by: phelim

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When you paint or draw it is important to separate the difference between what you think you see and what you actually see.  Understanding this allows you to define what you want to achieve in your paintings and drawings.  Because you have more information, you can decide style and what to leave in or leave out.  The best way to achieve this is to do some preliminary drawing and painting sketches.  This allows you to test structure, colour, texture aswell as style.  As a consequence of this your paintings will also have a lot more spontanaeity.  Below, you can see two examples which I did for my students to show them this approach.

The first was a night time painting of Paris & Sacre Couer and we wanted to investigate the approach to take with the Sacre Couer.  In Oils, I started by drawing a loose sketch with Ultramarine thinned with spirits on paper.  For Sacre Couer I applied a simple dry brush of Burnt Umber.  This allowed for a certain amount of texture from the paper to show through.  From there, I added 'suggested' details and structured lines with Burnt Umber, Ultramarine and spirits.  Finally, I brought in lights with a mixture of Titanium White and Yellow Ochre.  I didn't use any spirits or mediums as a dry brush allowed for more texture, allowing the lights to come forward and the darks to recede.  This effect helps create more depth in your paintings.

The second example is a subdued sunset beach scene.

Again, painting on paper in oils I painted quickly, testing out the yellows, oranges and lights and darks for the sky.  These colours then transferred into the water and foreground.  I didn't apply any washes in this case, but instead went straight onto white paper.  Neither of these sketches took long.  I spent about 15mins on the first and 5 mins on the second.  Regardless of how long you do or don't spend doing these sorts of sketches it is important to remember that they are a necessary and invaluable path to achieving a successful finished painting and one from which you will have learned and improved your knowledge and skill.