The importance of drawing – Nov 2011

Keith McMean, watercolour artist tells us about the importance of sketching.

This is the first blog post I have written for Derwent Pencils and hopefully it won’t be the last.

Most of you might know that I am by definition a watercolour artist but as we all know the foundation of any good painting is the drawing that everything hangs on. Imagine what it would be like if the angles on a building were not quite right, this causes the viewer a slight discomfort and sometime they have no idea why but one thing they do know is they won’t be purchasing that painting or sketch!

Drawing and sketching are the fundamentals that any artist should master before even thinking about adding paint to paper or canvas. I remember holding a painting workshop many years ago and one of the students said to me “but I can’t draw a straight line” and my response was “there are no straight lines in nature, only man made” admittedly it was a landscape workshop we were on. But this doesn’t get away from the fact that drawing is key and care and attention should be paid to.

I have completed a small sketch of one of my favourite places, Whitehaven harbour and this is something I have painted and sketched a lot over the past 30 years and I never tire of looking at and painting it.

Camera 360
Camera 360


But what I have tried to capture is the essence of the place with this tonal sketch, sometimes I might even write the colours on the sketch to remind me, such as sky Ultramarine and yellow ochre and so on, this is a great way to bring the scene back when you are in the studio ready to paint.

I don’t underestimate the power of the pencil and I am sure that there are lots of pencil artists out there thinking ‘that’s rubbish’ and maybe it is, what I am getting at here is that using pencils for really detailed work or tonal sketches doesn’t matter, it’s the fact that YOU CAN use them to an end.


So next time you are in the art shop and you stumble on a box or rack full of pencils don’t dismiss them by thinking “what could I use them for?” there are a million and one things you can use them for…so go on use them!


Until next time.


Thanks so much to Keith for his interesting opinions on sketching. For more information on Keith’s work, why not visit: