Doing many of these charcoal studies that may or may not develop into a painting! Drawing skills are so important! Watercolor is a drawing medium, so most watercolor painters know how to draw.
Drawing also has another purpose: it lets you get to know the subject and pick up what goes deeper than the surface appearance. Usually it is an emotion, that something that gives it life. Not just in portraits but landscapes or anything else!
If we don’t pick up on this ‘undercurrent’, we end up just painting shapes and pushing pigment around. That, in my opinion, is the real crux of painting or of art in general.
There are so so many artists out there who miss this completely. They are great draftsmen and even have amazing technique but their art lacks life and emotion. Painting is a lifelong pursuit but to have that force of life in your work is a goal that few ever attain. I hope I’ll get there eventually…
Technique, therefore, must be seen as a tool. It must be mastered in order to have the ability to muster this sort of expression in painting. Time spent drawing is time well spent. Understanding form, design, balance, rhythm is essential. Every time I draw I am surprised how much I don’t know and can’t do instantly. Out comes the eraser: start over, change, alter…it’s ok, that’s all part of growing.
Robert Henri put it this way in his book The Art Spirit: ‘The student must learn to read the state, temperament, action and condition of their subject through the outwards signs, and use the same as a means of expressing and making special what is important to them in the subject.’