Planning a Drawing

Over the next few weeks I’m going to work through my process for planning, drawing, watercoloring and finishing a piece.      Sometimes I see a scene that I  know will make a great drawing in its entirety.  More often than not, I find a view with possibilities but there are things about it I’d like to change.  Artist license is a great thing.  With it the artist can move trees, buildings, even mountains.  No official test or card is required to use artistic license.   Simply pick up a pencil or paintbrush and you’re empowered to wield it as your creative inspiration directs.

When I find a view I like,   I start by identifying what draws me to the scene. What’s important and what’s really not necessary?  I look at all the elements  and  consider how to arrange, or rearrange, them on my paper to make a strong composition.

I came upon this scene.  The old barn  perched on the bluff captured  my attention.


I love the simplicity of the barn squarely in front of me. I like the design of the shadows going down the bluff and the interesting shape of the tree.  I’m not fond of the popcorn like bush in the foreground.  (How do you draw that?)  Also, the house behind the tree isn’t really contributing to the scene.

I do some quick thumbnail sketches to try out different options.  What would happen if I moved the tree closer to the barn and put the house on the other side?


Or  perhaps I should keep it simple, take the tree and house out and focus on the barn.


The more I look, the more I really like that tree.  How would it look if I use the tree with the barn.  Much better!   I think I’ll go with this.


I should mention that the sole purpose of these sketches is to figure out placement of subject matter. They are not intended to be finish value sketches.  Next week the drawing begins!




  1. Thank-you for showing the sketch as you explain your thinking process. It is very helpful. Are you using a pencil or ink pen? Are the sketches smaller in size than the final size of the paper you will use later? I am guessing that this preliminary work was done in less than 30 minutes maybe even 15 minutes.

    1. Really good questions, Margee. I use a pigma micron pen – 005 or 01 – for nearly all of my drawings, thumbnail to large scale. These sketches are very small, 2 x 3 inches. They take about two minutes each. Drawing my ideas, even that quickly, enables me to see what will work best.

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