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BronxLens's avatar

What course is best to take to learn painting?

Asked by BronxLens (1539points) March 13th, 2009

I hear that taking a drawing class first is better. I have also heard that you can learn to paint directly, without taking a drawing class. I see the beginner’s courses offered at the NYAA and wonder which one to take. Looking for the unbiassed opinion of the Flutherites before I go to this school’s open house at the end of March ‘09.

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14 Answers

Allie's avatar

I took a watercolor class in college and was actually pretty good. I even had some pieces shown at a local gallery. Having said that, I can’t draw anything to save my life.
Second answer: Paint by number.

Darwin's avatar

Personally I took drawing first because that is how the art school I attended said it needed to be. However, art is a very personal thing and, while I find it helps me to be able to draw well before I paint, not everyone progresses the same way. It also depends on what your goal is. Do you wish to simply enjoy the experience of painting? Or do you hope to hone your abilities in order to become an artist?

A drawing class may spend more time on things such as perspective, creating texture and how the human body is put together, but if you are talented you may have already picked a lot of that up. A painting class will generally assume you can draw at least well enough for your purposes and will spend more time on what paints work with what other paints, how to gesso and stretch a canvas, how to finish off a painting with varnish and frames, and what the impact of color is on the viewer.

Then you can also take classes such as in Chinese painting, where the brush is used to draw as well as paint. In essence, these classes are a combination of the two disciplines.

So it is really up to you.

Dog's avatar

It greatly depends on what you desire to paint. For instance
painting realism is greatly enhanced by taking formal classes in drawing.

Drawing teaches you to use your eyes to see and accurately depict three dimensions onto a flat surface. Once you have learned to draw the next step- adding color through painting- builds on this knowledge and makes it easier to get the result you want on the canvas.

Is it necessary to take drawing first? In my opinion no. I did not take a drawing class until years after I became a successful painter. But when I did take a formal drawing class my skills as a painter improved exponentially.

So here are my thoughts:
If your goal is to become a painter of realism and you are the type of person who is a high-achiever it may frustrate you to take painting before taking a drawing class. But if you are looking to try out painting and are willing to consider each painting a learning experience you should do well without taking the drawing first.

bigbanana's avatar

Best course? DO NOT go to school for it, they will sap the art right out of you. Get a box of cheap paints (acrylic) and canvas paper and have at it. NO, have the fck at it. Just paint, I swear.
You can learn technique later.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

I would take drawing first, because what you will learn about perspective, depth and lighting will save you frustration in painting. It’s a foundation. Painting technique you can learn by spending time looking at paintings, asking questions in an art supply store, and trial and error. Or you can make up your own techniques, take private lessons, etc.

SeventhSense's avatar

Certainly a valid point bit usually not realized until after you’ve poured your cash into an education. And what education does for you is maybe help you see what you did prior to an education that sucked. Only problem for me was that after I got an education, I didn’t give a shit about what used to motivate me to actually do my own thing. Education actually made me cynical and apathetic in a way.
Painting is certainly different than drawing and I think most artist would say that to effectively use the medium of paint, be it oils, acrylics or watercolors it certainly helps to be able to draw. But painting is a progression from drawing. It’s like a leaping off point in a way. The drawing implements are no longer effective in expressing an idea. Thereafter, when you draw, you draw like a painter and capture major ideas before putting them on canvas or whatever other surface. It can be a rough dark mass of shadow to delineate a form or a very light outline to indicate a shape but not so much as a finished piece as for a study of value, form, color etc. The idea of drawing with paint is often used poorly and unless you’re Van Gogh should not be your aim in my opinion. So drawing may be chapters whereas painting is the book.

bristolbaby's avatar

PBS runs a series – the Magic of oil painting/William Alexander and the Joy of oil painting/Bob Ross – this is a fun an easy technique to learn how to paint with oils and can be carried over to acrylics.

Free too!

kapuerajam's avatar

Get a pack of “Derwent” watercolour pencils dab with water and enjoy!

SeventhSense's avatar

Ahhh Bob Ross….“Happy Little tree…and maybe over here is a little rock family…’s your world”...couldn’t paint for shit but he was a happy camper. I think he used to sniff turpentine.:)

SeventhSense's avatar

Sweet! I need one in every color..and rockin’ that 70’s ‘fro.. R.I.P. Bob.

augustlan's avatar

I miss Bob.

I don’t have an answer for you, but just wanted to tell you I think it’s great that you are expanding your horizons. Have fun!

I miss taking classes, too.

SeventhSense's avatar


Bob Ross (October 29, 1942 – July 4, 1995) was a grandmaster American oil painter who primarily practiced the finer, more respectable arts of relaxation and kindness. His quiet, nurturing disposition was a form of therapy to the weary, and the reassuring intonations of his gentle voice hypnotized entire generations of would-be illustrators into creating a million-dollar art supply store enterprise”

BronxLens's avatar

Thanks everyone!

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