Drawing The Subject For Painting

Drawing the subject for painting helps us to arrange the composition, and planning where to put the various elements. Whether it is a landscape, a cityscape, a still life, or a seascape. You will most likely proceed as follows.

Start by drawing very lightly, using the harder, ( HB or B) pencil, sketching in the main lines. Establish the horizon line and indicate the main parts of the composition. Gradually add the principal elements. Here you may want to switch to softer lead pencils. Pay attention to the size of each element and how they relate to each other; also their shape and position.

Take it all in

When drawing the subject for painting, we need to see the whole picture. Try to refrain from concentrating on only one little aspect of the image at a time. We can do this latter as we add detail. Now, once you have the basic shapes indicated, you can start adding the details. It is not always totally necessary to draw the whole image exactly as you see it. Sometimes leaving out a feature or two can add strength to a composition. Also, the re positioning of an element can improve the composition. You are composing and creating here so, if something does not look right, leave it out or rearrange it. You might even add an element to the composition if you are sure it will improve it.

Not only do we need to consider the shapes of the various elements, but we also need to search out and define the shapes of the shadows and highlights. Where is the light source? Take note of any cast shadows and cast highlights.

In drawing the subject for painting, you do not always have to do a tonal drawing. Drawing the subject in line can be just as effective as a tonal drawing. Just try not to be too sketchy and loose about this. You do need to put in detail where it is needed. It is better to record more and then have the option of leaving something in or taking it out when doing the painting. Not recording enough can become very trying when later attempting to create a larger painting in the studio.


You may want to indicate the colors  in the painting. You can do this by making color notes around the perimeter of the drawing with a line going to the area that the color pertains to. Make sure that all the lines and notations are distinct. It is a good idea to spray the whole with fixative. This will assure that the pencil lines will not become smeared. rubbed out or obliterated.

Some artists will add color by using watercolor, pencil or pastel. Your choice or, whatever works for you. This is an example of a basic sketch with color notes.

Pre Drawing For Your Painting

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