Learning to Draw – With Paint

It will probably seem as though I’m having a bit of an artistic identity crisis. First, I’m sharing my new thoughts about impressionism and even doing a bit of abstract expressionism with colors. And then I’m doing an about-face and posting pieces of representational art.

What gives?

It’s not so much that I have a personality disorder as it is that I’m still a beginner when it comes to oil painting. I think it’s important for me to develop skills in many different areas.

The winter scene I’m working on now — inspired by an acrylic painting from Annette Dozier’s book Painting Peaceful Country Landscapes — is giving me an opportunity to improve my drawing skills with both pencil and paint.


Winter Scene – Unfinished

Although I did sketch in foreground elements and the fence using a drawing pencil, the trees were drawn directly on the canvas with a small brush and well-thinned paint. I had previously done the background area, so I waited several days for that to dry enough for me to easily paint over it.

I’m getting better at placing my lines where I want them, and even my lights and shadows are looking a little better than usual. I still struggle with getting the paint exactly the right consistency, but overall I feel I’m making progress.

I’ve heard many people say that learning to draw isn’t necessary in order to become a painter. In fact, ThoughtCo lists this as one of 6 prevalent myths about painting, explaining that:

“…a painting is not a drawing that is colored in, and a drawing isn’t a painting that hasn’t been colored in yet. Painting involves its own set of skills. Even if you were an expert at drawing, you’d need to learn how to paint.”

I can definitely attest to this. After having spent several years learning the basics of drawing, I’ve still had to learn oil painting techniques — which are entirely different.

“…some artists like to do detailed drawings to use as reference before they paint, but many don’t. Some artists do drawings directly onto their canvas before they start to paint, but many don’t.”

Here is an area where I haven’t yet found exactly the best method. I’ve done paintings — such as the stone bridge — where I first drew a detailed scene in my sketchbook and then re-drew the scene directly on the canvas. I’ve done landscapes where I’ve made vague-looking sketches on the canvas. My scene of a nearby fishing lake was one of those. I’ve also done many paintings without drawing anything — in a sketchbook or on the canvas. My Winter Dream painting was one of these, as was Fire in the Forest

I’ve also experimented with using thinned acrylics to “sketch” a scene on the canvas. While that method seemed promising at first, I was disappointed with the results I got. The same thing happened when I tried to do a complete sketch with thinned oils.

What I’m learning now is different, not sketching an underpainting, but actually drawing completed elements — such as the trees — with my paints.

“…there is no rule that says you must draw before you paint if you don’t want to. Drawing is not just an initial step in making a painting. Drawing is a different way of creating art. Having drawing skills will definitely help with your painting, but if you hate pencils and charcoal, this doesn’t mean you can’t learn to paint.”

Yes, without a doubt, I believe that drawing is an important skill for a painter, and I’m glad I took the time to develop basic drawing skills. As I move toward a more impressionist style of painting, I may use my drawing skills less while painting, yet I do want to always maintain a sense of representation in my landscapes.

I want to paint trees that resemble trees, rocks that look like rocks. I want, too, to eventually develop the ability to add more structures to my landscapes — like the fence I painted in this unfinished Winter Scene. I want to add those old barns, those covered bridges, those farmhouses and country cottages that are a part of the natural landscape, despite being man-made.

To do this, I need drawing skills — both with pencil and paper and with paint. Drawing with paint is different. Very different. I like what I’m learning, and I’m pleased with the results I’m starting to see.

ThoughtCo. also shared a bit of wisdom attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. I like this. It gives me a lot to think about in my art:

“Painting embraces all the 10 functions of the eye; that is to say, darkness, light, body and color, shape and location, distance and closeness, motion and rest.” — Leonardo da Vinci.





  1. This is quite lovely , and I enjoy the unfinished aspect of the drawing. Sometimes , this is how my mind processes what I see, just taking in some details fully and leaving others sketched, so seeing this on canvas feels very comfortable to me, delivering a sense of recognition! Yes! That’s the world !

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Oh this is lovely! those quotes are so full of truth. Every artist has its own way of doing things and experimenting with different mediums and materials is important in order to find your own voice and style. I like to call my artistic identity crisis “self-discovery journey” 😛

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ve definitely still going through a process of discovery. I feel I’m getting closer to knowing who I want to be as an artist, but every time I think I know what I want to do, something else calls my attention and I have to go explore another area. That keeps it interesting. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to settle for only one thing. I know I mostly want to do landscapes in oil, but I don’t want to give up graphite drawings, or doing portraits and figure drawing. Exploring art will always be a life-long process, and there will always be so many more new things to try!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Judith, I really love this post. I have been painting my whole life but I am only now in my late thirties “learning” how to paint with oils and it’s been such a welcome transition. I have similar struggles and thought experiments ongoing so it was very interesting to read your take on it. I have often likened painting with heavy-bodied paints like acrylics and oils to “sculpting” in two dimensions – it really feels like I am creating the illusion of realism with a key stroke of the paintbrush here and there. Definitely not coloring in a drawing as you pointed out, something entirely unique. Your painting is very beautiful and you are obviously very talented.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words and for sharing your personal experiences with art. I can’t take any credit for “talent”, however. Any accomplishments I make in art are simply the result of determination and lots of practice. I really like your comparison to “sculpting”. It does feel that way at times for me, as well, especially if I’m working on lights and shadows in a landscape area.

      Liked by 2 people

I'd Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s