Drawing towards Painting

`Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, `and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’ 

I still have the feeling that drawing is subordinate to painting, a precursor, a preparation. A tutor  at college, when confronted with dozens of my preparatory drawings, said something like “are they like training exercises for the 100 metre dash of  painting?”.

A few years later I had a conversation/ argument with a (sort of) eminent painter (me and eminence don’t rub up together that often, it raising feelings somewhere between that of fear and boredom). He insisted that  the activities of drawing and  painting were essentially the same whereas I thought that there is a difference of intention and execution between the two. I still think that. A painting is a  container of a rich mix of emotion and context; in some mysterious way  connected to all other paintings. Whereas a drawing is connected only to the perceived world for a finite period, an investigation of how we are placed in relation to its objects.

I can’t talk for anyone else so here’s a  recent (incomplete) series of drawings and one painting. It is part of an ongoing group of studies and paintings that never gets to an end but has frequent pauses. All I can say is that the painting, however slight or quickly executed, relies on the density of information gained through the drawings.

Is this a stupid way to work? It’s the only one that gives me satisfying results and I have a suspicion many other painters go through an equally tortuous, if not similar process.


1.Drawing, pencil on paper, 21x16cm


2.Drawing, ink on paper, 24x22cm


3.Snail Shells & Lenses, watercolour on paper, 21×18.5cm


4.Snail Shells & Lenses, watercolour, 23×20


5.Snail Shells & Lenses, watercolour on paper, 23x20cm


6.Snail Shells & Lenses, oil paint on card, 22x20cm


7.Snail Shells & Lenses, oil paint on panel, 35x31cm



Filed under Art, Drawing

5 responses to “Drawing towards Painting

  1. Chris Murray

    I guess after Cezanne everything technically did change and became like drawing (again?) after getting so bogged down with layers. Your ’eminent’ friend is referring to Cezanne’s comment;”…in so far as you paint , you draw. The more the colour harmonises the more accurate the drawing.” Still your paragraph ” A painting is a container of….” etc. contains two interesting thoughts regarding the connectedness off all painting. I was wondering though, if in fact ‘painting’ and ‘drawing’ were interchangeable in both of your propositions?

    I think drawing provides the ‘density’ you mention and also is the filter for painting. It seems to me there is no good painting without good drawing but there are plenty of good drawings that are sufficient without being made into paintings. In this way drawing is the main thing. Painting can add to drawing but is nothing – to me- without good drawing informing it. Behind every good painting, stands (a) good drawing. We tend to put painting on a pedestal but we do’nt think any the less of someone, who can really draw, because they never get round to painting.

    • Hi, chris
      I find I am less and less able to speak for anyone apart from myself and as far as my own work goes drawing, however interesting it becomes, is a necessary ordering of sensation and as such is a personal activity but painting always reaches out beyond that and attempts to make wider contacts. In adequate, I know, but I’m just feeling my way round that one. As far as I’m concerned there is a definite difference between the two.

  2. Chris Murray

    Perhaps its a technical thing; you might say so much painting is like drawing because the context for communicating into wider contexts seems limited at the present time; that drawing (and painting) have become personal private explorations.

  3. Thanks for your comment, Chris, they’ve made me think a great deal.
    In the context of the above examples I think there is a distinct difference in intention between the “drawings” and the “paintings”; the former being intended as explorations and the latter, the final (visible) painting, as more performative, as the visible conclusion to that period of exploration. However difficult it is to attain an audience for this, the intention & desire to connect remains.

  4. Chris Murray

    I was going to say, I think what we all are wary of, is painting being this self assured, glib kind of performance which it can be….. but then I would love to have sat in on any one of those demonstrations performed in the academies; everyone sat round the life model and in walks William Etty or the like and just knocks out a study in front of you. Or like those Orpen drawings; demonstrations of anatomy. Its part of that need to see painting grounded in craft again so that its more work a day. Or may be I’m just desparate to be a clone sometimes. Or may be just want everything; the classical canon and modernisms individualism…… all in one triumphant painting please.

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