Beginner Art · Painting

What is a Brush Drawing?

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.

A brush ‘drawing’ is drawing with a paintbrush.

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.

It is important to know about the different brush strokes with the brush.

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.

Have you tried ‘brush drawing?’ why not give it a try!

3 thoughts on “What is a Brush Drawing?

  1. I’ve just (re)started learning watercolour painting in the past few weeks which is going quite well so far, better than previous failed starts anyway.

    Partly I think it’s going better because of my extra experience generally with making art now compared to a couple of years back.

    But I also think that one major difference is that last year I bought an ink brush pen to “draw” with to do my first Inktober. It took a lot of getting used to at first as it needs the lightest of touches to do a thin line. However I’m certain that I’ve developed brush skills which I wouldn’t otherwise have had if I’d done just pencils and pens and straight to the watercolour painting.

    I can definitely recommend trying that out, though I’m not sure how to classify the images I’ve created with the brushpen. Are they drawings? Are they paintings? I don’t know, but they’re good fun to do whatever they are.

    1. Thanks for sharing! Yes your brush skills will have improved and your confidence with the brush. Inks are a great way to make the link with drawing and painting, I use them with my students a lot as it gives them confidence with the line. You can get both ‘washes’ and line with them so it opens us up to realising that the brush can be ‘drawn’ with and used in more painterly ways.

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