Sunday, July 6, 2014

Drawing a Line in the Sand

Most well though out drawings begins with line. In geometry a line is formed by a connection of two points. In drawing when we make a one-dimensional mark, we're making a line.

Shirt Study. charcoal on paper. 11x17.

Lines have been produced by humans since prehistoric times, as demonstrated by cave and rock paintings created using charcoal and other pigments. Line drawings have evolved over the centuries as the tools for drawing have evolved.

For example, the Egyptians carved their line drawings into the stone walls of the palace. The Romans & Greeks used a brush to create frescoes onto the walls of their homes. By the 12th to 13th centuries A.D. throughout Europe, monks were preparing manuscripts on vellum and parchment in monasteries using a lead styli to draw lines in book illustrations mostly since the vast majority of the population could not read during the Middle Ages.

During the 14th century, as paper became more readily available to the general public, artists' drawings, both studies and finished works, became increasingly common in chalk, charcoal and graphite. Today there are a vast amount of art supplies, tools and different paper types are available for us to use to draw and create line however, my favorite is still good old fashioned charcoal.

Strength, Clarity & Simplicity


Lines have always been fascinating to me. As a child, I remember witnessing the raw power of line without the distraction of color for the first time when I saw the Loony Tunes cartoon episode starring Daffy in “Duck Amuck”. The animator erases everything on the cartoon set and then draws in a simple contour drawing that then turns into a complex stage set for Daffy after the color is brushed on.

After lots of frustration Daffy argues with the animator and gets himself erased by the animator's pencil. He is then redrawn with a purple flower as his head and a bizarre mismatched animal on all fours with a green body and tail that has a flag on it. A funny cartoon but I do remember my impression of that single line. It was amazing to watch it evolve, it created shape, form and eventually entire drawings from which endless possibilities emerged for Daffy.

If you can manipulate a single line, you can use it to communicate anything. 


Lines are the most basic form of communication in drawing, they have strength, clarity and simplicity. Lines give the viewer the most information in drawing, especially the outside or contour lines. These lines create boundaries just like the old saying, “Are you drawing a line in the sand?” We know that means a solid firm boundary.


The Characteristics of Line


Line vary because they have multiple characters. Understanding these characteristics will enable you to mastering the art of drawing, especially if you use a variety of these line characteristics in your drawings.
  • Length - Long, short, continuous or broken
  • Width - Thick vs. thin, strong vs. weak, dark vs. light, even vs. uneven or tapered
  • Curvature - Straight, angular or curved
  • Quality - This comes from how we draw the line, i.e. drawn quickly, confidently or carefully and it includes lost and found edges

Are you combining any of these characteristics? What kind of lines do you like? 

No comments:

Post a Comment