Q&A: I’ve always dreamed of painting portraits but hate drawing. Can I learn to paint a portrait?

An insight into a frequently asked question. Does one need drawing skills to do figurative and portrait painting?

The ability to draw well provides a strong foundation for figurative painting.  The confidence that we can draw any lines smudged while painting will help one to overlap shapes and strokes and not paint between the lines.  That creates nice soft color transitions between shapes and prevents a 'cut and pasted' look.  However, it is also true that it takes time and practice to train your eyes and hands to draw.  Does that mean you should wait to draw well before you paint?  But, that could take years! 

Painting is a visual language.  Learning to draw is like learning the phonetics of alphabets.  It can get boring and tiring if you have to wait to memorize all the sounds of the alphabet to start speaking a language.  One way to keep it exciting is to start speaking and correct as you go.  Similarly, if you are painting for recreation and already pressed for time then it’s far more important to start painting than to wait to learn to draw and then paint. 

When you find yourself in a situation like this, doing this one thing will help.  Before you paint, trace the pencil over the image you are drawing a couple of times till you get comfortable with it.  This will give you a feel for your subject, which will in turn help to overcome the fear and stress of messing up and help you to enjoy the process of painting. 

After this you can just trace the image, you want to paint onto canvas and start painting.  You can start your portrait painting journey with these free instructions. 

Eventually, as you paint more portraits and have satisfied your desire to paint you can add drawing to your practice or better still start sketching in small chunks of time more frequently now.  This will improve your painting immensely.  

P.S: Check this out to get started with sketching now.

Categories: how to paint without drawing, oil painting, painting lessons, portrait