To DRAW or PAINT... that is the question
Many visitors to the studio ask, "is it better to start with drawing and then move on to painting"? Based on my experience, I would have to say that regardless whether the artist is drawing or painting, a realist or abstractionist, drawing will always be an important fundamental part the process.
Drawing skills can be built slowly, on a project-by-project basis, or more quickly through intensive drawing study. Whether an artist may be more interested in taking the intensive drawing study approach depends on the personal goals of the artist. Specifically, it depends how much form you intend to use form in your work.
FORM in Art
In the art world the word 'form' pertains to the actual shape of something. An experienced artist can render the forms of figures, faces, boats, buildings, bikes etc. accurately (true to form) while referring to a reference. Once an artist has considerable experience working from references, forms can be conjured up in the imagination. An experienced figure artist, for example, can forego using a reference and make generalized illustrations of figures in various postures using their memory and acquired knowledge of human form and proportion.
The relative importance of FORM in various art GENRES
Form is only one of many art fundamentals that come into play in the creation of art. Art fundamentals also include colour, value, tone, texture, value, line, composition, perspective, proportion, etc. That being said, there are many genres of art where form is not the art fundamental of primary interest. The truth of the matter is that, like everything else in life, the importance of the various art fundamentals can be thought of as on a spectrum.
For non-representation the primary concerns are with other art fundamentals, namely: composition, colour and texture. A photorealist, on the other hand, will prioritize correct form as a primary goal, while a landscape impressionist may take more creative license with form and generalize shapes of trees and mountains.
The best way to improve skills is to create.