Friday, June 25, 2010


This is a painting I did in Sacramento a few months ago.  I thought I would stick it in this post to give my friends in the up coming workshops a look.  I love painting from life--it's so easy compared to painting from reference materials like Photoshop or straight projection.  It takes real brains and talent to paint from photos--painting from life feels like cheating--its all right there in front of you--you don't have to use your imagination very much---boring!  If you really want to improve your drawing skills--then project and trace very carefully right onto your canvas or learn to manupulate Photoshop and a digital projector--why sweat drawing!  If you do this a few thousand times--I promise you will learn to draw as accurately as needed for representational oil painting.  Or you may want to just draw out of your head and forget this step--but that takes REAL talent.  I always have to look at something before I can paint it--I have limited visual imagination--I am stuck!

The real determinate in drawing skill is taste--not drawing from life.  If you know how something SHOULD look in its painted form--then you will draw or paint it WITH THE POSSIBILITIES THAT PAINT OFFERS--according to your personal artistic vision.  How do you learn how something should look in its painted form?--stare at great paintings for two thousand hours, then love the creation, then cover three football fields worth of canvas--bingo--YOU HAVE IT!  Staring at others solutions may even be a hinderance--I just love doing it since I am so limited--I just try to knock off others who have gone before.

All of this academic stuff about drawing is a bunch of horse dung--except for those who own these academies that discourage creativity.  Over emphasis on drawing is designed to distance humans from artistic expression--drawing or rendering is the enemy.  Lines, or marks as I prefer to call them, are only temporary designations that indicate where masses should be initially laid in. The bringing together of colorful masses in the correct value and temperature is the ticket--lines separate masses artificially and prevent the merging of shape, value, and color--avoid over rendering and develop your personal sense of how something can be expressed in paint using your imaginaton--maybe paint from your dreams and memories like the Nabis.  They are perceived by some critics as the greatest colorists--their approach was unrestricted by the academics of their time.

You may choose to render the hell out of everything, but don't tell me that you have to draw well before you can paint well--if you have a sense of how something looks to you--then you will put the shapes, values, color and mass in the right place--but this takes conviction and a fearlessness that is rare indeed--Dan McCaw is the only one out there I know of who practices this approach.

If the value, color and shape of the mass are on target--then a general placement of them will suffice--it is value and color that give the painting the snap and the authority not accurate rendering--always leave room for the viewer's imagination to wander--don't insult the viewer by giving too much information--by rendering every detail to death.

The logic of value and color in a painting equals the EFFECT OF LIGHT.  Painting value and light with distinction and taste will make you rich and famous--I promise.  Only two or three every half century achieve this-- so have fun! All of nature provides a point of departure for painting light--LIGHT EXPRESSED BY COLOR AND VALUE --this is what I am chasing in my own work and what I try to teach when given the opportunity.  See ya down the road--Don


  1. Don, I will concider this information very keenly
    I think I grasp what you're telling me. Thanks!

  2. The de-emphasis on drawing is such a departure for me and, I think, a great part of why I am such a moth to your flame. Although you must feel like a broken record at times, it helps to hear it again and again in slightly different language.

  3. Don every time I read your advice, I feel like your directing your words straight at me. Is it the way you write or my guilt emerging?

    I agree drawing isn't necessary. For several years now, I've been teaching beginner students to paint who don't know how to draw. Its how I promote my class. "No drawing skills necessary." I focus on teaching how to capture form. Lights, darks and mid-tones. It works.

    That said, I could use help and advice simplifying. I see so many values and since they all excite me, its difficult not to paint them...

    Good thing you're coming soon!

  4. You start with an amorphous gray and white until inspiration forms a cloudburst of colors, a rainbow formed by light and distillation of values with a pot of gold at the other end. Well done my friend.

  5. Very interesting piece Don, and refreshingly honest but I've come to expect that from you! I may not paint well, but I can paint far better than I can draw. In my mind they are completely different species'. I feel that drawing is far more mechanical, but maybe that's just a personal thing. My friend, an artist of 25 years, also told me that you only have to see in terms of value and colour. It is heartening to hear that being a good painter doesn't necessarily mean you have to be a brilliant drawer. Drawer? Is that even the correct word?

  6. Hello Don,
    Came across your blog through Susan Roux and so glad I checked you out......I have a difficult time drawing before painting and so shy away from it. I outline a bit with paint then work away at the composition bit by bit. I tried tracing once or twice and the picture came out well but I felt like I was cheating....I am self-taught and have only been painting a hand-full of years and continue to grow. Look forward to checking out your older posts to glean more wonderful tips. Hope you'll stop by my blog, Limited Space Art Studio and let me know what you think. Respectfully,