Saturday, August 28, 2021

Glastonbury Studios
August/September 2021

What's my line?

When we start a drawing or painting project, most of us begin with the line. Even Michelangelo, who sculpted the famous La Pietà in Vatican City, began with a pencil and paper. In fact, it's been said that he would create 100-150 drawings before he ever struck stone. He wanted to know his subject. I have done the same with commission work, drawing over 60 poppies to get them right. To this day, I can draw a poppy flower from my mind.

Why go through all the trouble? Simply because, drawings are the skeleton of all art and the line is the foundation. We either use contour lines (French for outline), or sketch lines or gesture lines. A simple drawing with no modeling (creating the illusion of three-dimensionality using value) looks like your typical coloring book drawing, like these: 

They are called line drawings. In the olden days in advertising (I’m showing my age), it was too expensive to include photos in ads, so line drawings were used a lot. If you notice, these above drawings have no values (light and dark). They are clearly two-dimensional

Another famous 2-D drawing is the one that author, Betty Edwards included in her book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. It's Picasso's drawing of Igor Stravinsky, the Russian composer. She tells her readers to draw the picture upside down, encouraging everyone to "see" shapes instead of the object itself (a great exercise, by the way).

Notice the drawing is all lines. There are no values. Just a 2-D object on a 2-D surface. Even so, you can still feel the tension of the subject through his facial expression, seated position and hands. In other words, simple line drawings can tell your story as much as those with more detail and depth.

Creating 3-D effect with line
Fortunately, you are not stuck with line drawings. You can create volume and the illusion of a three dimensional object by also using line (of course you can use the side of your pencil and a blender to shade in values, but we’re sticking with line for now). So how do we create this illusion? By using several marks, two of which I will discuss today: the hatch and cross-hatch lines.

By manipulating these lines or marks you can add depth, value and volume. As you can see in the example below, the hatch marks are simply lines drawn together. The closer they get the darker they become. The same is true with cross-hatch. The more lines you add, the deeper the value.

Here are two line drawings where I added hatch and cross-hatch marks. Can you see the illusion of a 3-D object?

Hatch marks

Notice I have drawn lines farther apart to indicate light and closer together to create shadow.

Again, I have used hatch and cross-hatch lines that are farther apart to indicate lighter areas and closer together to indicate dark or shadow.

Cross-hatch marks 

The psychology of line
Along with creating lines for volume and depth, you can also draw lines that indicate how you feel or how the artist wants you to feel. Look at these examples:

These are random feelings and my interpretation of these lines. Perhaps I may not feel the same way tomorrow. It's all subjective. These type of lines are often used in an abstract way. Take for instance Edvard Munch's Scream.

Notice the variety of lines and how abrupt and scary they are. I really don't know if the figure is even necessary as the marks give me the creeps alone,

 Drawing with one line

Now that we have briefly touched upon the subject of line, I'd like to offer a fun exercise, called the continuous line or one-line drawing.

Picasso is famous for this method. If you ever get a chance to read up on Picasso, you may find out that this guy, who created very confusing portraits (to me), was truly a master. He began his career as a realist probably because his father, who was an art professor, pushed him in that direction. But as we see he went from there, on to creating a whole new form of art, namely cubism.

These fun drawings are done by placing your pen on paper and not letting up until you are done. It’s similar to blind contour drawing, but in this case you look at the subject. What's more, Picasso had a method of reducing an object to one line. Here's how he did it with a bull:

Now let me show you what I mean by showing some of Picasso's many one-line drawings.

So what do you think? Can you do it? I chose very simple subjects, a lamp and a mug. It took me quite a few times to draw it, but I did. Quite primitive, wouldn't you say -- but fun.

And just one more picture. Here is a great example of continuous line by DFT.  I love it!

In conclusion, the line is a fascinating element of art--it's versatile, expressive, a guiding light and so much more. I hope you enjoyed our journey to today. While speaking of composition, keep on going and see the classes that are being offered by me this fall.

 What's coming up for Fall of 2021

5-Week Online Classes

Composition for the Artist

An easy approach

Tuesdays September 7- October 2 or
Wednesdays September 8 - October 3
$90 per five-week session

One of the most mysterious things I faced when I returned to fine art was all these rules I kept on hearing about when composing a picture. No one really explained it fully, just a comment here and there—“always use odd numbers, find your sweet spot, never have subjects in the center” and so on. It took a while, but I found out that yes, there are rules, but rules are made to broken. Let me share my knowledge with you for five weeks.

 Some of the topics:

  • What is composition?
  • The rules
  • Elements and principals of composition
  • Learn how to create a good design
  • What to do and not to do
  • Going with your instinct, expressional self
  • Imitation vs. Imagination

Is this a good composition or not? Come to class to find out!

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