I may have mentioned before that I am the self-taught type. It's not that I'm against formal education, but rather, I find it more fun to discover something than to be told about it. Now, there's different kinds of discoveries when it comes to painting. Like, did you know that if you add blue to yellow you make green?
Yeah-- who knew?
The other kind of discovery is finding out how the great artists worked. When I first started to paint so many years ago, I would pore over a whole lotta books and magazines to find some little tip that would help me solve the puzzle of how to paint. The concept of how-to DVD's and instructional videos was a long way off. Being a huge fan of the 20th Century illustrators like Rockwell, NC Wyeth, and Tom Lovell (to name a few) I came to utilize their techniques on how to make a picture. Not their style-- Lord knows, no one will mistake my work for theirs-- but their working methods.
Learning their methods really taught me how paintings were done in the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Wyeth and Rockwell were both taught by instructors who themselves learned and practised their craft in the Nineteenth Century. So really, my technique is derived from rather ancient practises. Even though a Wyeth is quite different from a Rockwell, which is different from a Lovell, they all did one thing the same, and it's a step I use too.
The charcoal preparatory drawing.
Artists of the past would make a full-scale tonal drawing, usually the same size as the intended painting. They would then transfer the drawing onto canvas, then have at it with color. You know, it's a step that's highly under-utilized in today's fast-paced, do it now kinda world, but it has it's advantages.
The above is a charcoal drawing done by Norman Rockwell for a (never painted) Saturday Evening Post cover. He has it all figured out in this step; The design, composition, details and values. All that's needed is color.
And that's what painting is, isn't it? Contrary to popular opinion, to me, painting isn't drawing. Once you have everything else figured out, painting is merely applying color where it needs to be.
Here's an example by Tom Lovell:
Same thing; All Lovell had to do with this is utilize his extraordinary color skills and bravura brush strokes on top of this drawing.
I find that when I do this step-- even on paintings I will do plein air, I do a better job.
Now, I'm going to post a couple of my drawings, but I don't want in anyway to make you think I am the equal of Rockwell and Lovell.
Can I get a Hell to the No! on that.
Anyway, this is the under-drawing for the painting I showed at the top of the page:
The old school way is to do this drawing on a separate piece of paper, but since I paint on gessoed masonite, I do it right on the board.
Here's another example, and this one I did in preparation for a picture I planned to do from life:
And here's the result:
Would I have been taught these draw-it-out techniques if I had gone to art school back in the mid nineteen seventies? No way to know for sure-
But I highly doubt it.
Although, they might have taught me that whole green thing a lot sooner...