On my courses I teach drawing and painting in distinct blocks of time, so there is five weeks on drawing before moving onto painting. The problem with this is that it can subconsciously teach learners that drawing and painting are different activities when they are very closely linked to one another. Brush ‘drawing’ is one way of communicating to learners that you can ‘draw’ when you paint. A brush painting is ‘drawing’ with paint or ink and a brush. A true brush drawing is done in line (that means the paint is not watered down or blended so the line is kept just like a line ‘drawing’. There is no tonal information in a brush drawing.
Why is brush drawing a good idea?
If you are new to painting but have already done some drawing then brush drawing gets you used to the paintbrush. By concentrating on just using line and not blending the paint with other colours or watering it down you are learning just about the brush and line. You will be able to see the different type of strokes you can achieve with the brush.
Painting confidence comes partly from understanding the paint media and the paintbrush. I notice that learners who have done some brush drawing have more confidence with the paintbrush because they have experimented with different types of line and stroke. There is much that can be done with just the line from a paintbrush by varying the pressure and angle of the brush. A brush drawing keeps things simple and allows you to concentrate on just the brush and the type of line that can be achieved. This is much easier than taking on colour, blending and painting techniques all at once.
I set my learners the simple task of ‘drawing’ with a paintbrush with a simple observational study. Something with detail works best like a shell because it allows for different types of line to be used to achieve the texture of a shell. It also teachers learners that they can paint in different ways including using a line. We all come to the art class it seems that painting means blending paint with colours and forget that we can use different strokes and just line with the paintbrush.
Not only is it a useful exercise for getting to know the paintbrush, brush painting is great fun! Of course the paintbrush can be replaced for other mark-making tools if you want to go further with experimenting such as a stick or a toothbrush. You could also use different types and sizes of brush to achieve varying lines. In fact there is no end to the type of line that can be achieved by using different brushes or other mark-making tools.
You might also find my post Which Paintbrush? useful if you want to know more about learning to paint. Have you tried brush painting? Share your experiences below…