Do You Know All Your Lines?

22 Jan 2012

Two Women with Still Life by Willem de Kooning, pastel and charcoal on paper, 22 1/4 x 18 3/4 in., 1952.
Two Women with Still Life by Willem de Kooning,
pastel and charcoal on paper, 22 1/4 x 18 3/4 in., 1952.
The artifice of line is one of the aspects of drawing that I am most in love with. The fact that we can take line—which doesn't exist in the natural world—and create works of art that look incredibly real or full of fakery, depending on what we want to do with it, is enthralling.

And artists do so much with it. I mean, just think of all the various types of line that you might use in any given pencil sketch.

You could start with a something elementary like an outline drawing with rectilinear lines that are straight with pointed angles. A cube or an architectural blueprint comes to mind, as does Michelangelo's design of the Medici Chapel in Florence.

But that's only the start. Sketching with curvilinear or organic lines that are curving, oftentimes gestural, and free-flowing can produce drawings as various as those of Willem de Kooning or Raphael or Bouguereau. 


If you were to look at the plan for ceiling of Michelangelo's design of the Medici Chapel in Florence, you'd see rectilinear straight lines and clean pointed angles.

Michelangelo's design of the Medici Chapel
in Florence is based on rectilinear straight
lines and clean pointed angles.
Egon Schiele's contour line drawing,
Mother with Child
(1910).

Look inside any artist's sketchbook and the drawing sketches you find will usually find yet another kind of line—broken line. Quick figure sketches often have short slash marks or hatches that are almost essential in a contour drawing, and when multiplied and layered these broken lines can become crosshatching that gives a sense of volume to a drawn object or figure.

In contrast, a continuous line can be used to great effect in a drawing because the line takes center stage. Schiele was a master with continuous line, making the whole thing look animate and alive—as much as the subject he was depicting!

Self-portrait by Raphael, c. 1495.
Self-portrait by Raphael, c. 1495.
And then there is implied line, which is tricky to point out because the line is not actually there and the lack is what often animates a drawing. Picasso's drawing of a bull shows how exceptionally the artist uses line and the implication of line.

After talking through these concepts I feel as if I'm seeing lines everywhere, and one place where I know I can further my knowledge and passion for line while seeing great art as a final product is in the pages of our best drawing resources: Drawing: The Complete Course and The Best of Drawing. With these, I've started to better understand how I can use many kinds of line in my drawings and how other artists have used them as well. Enjoy!  

 


Featured Products

Drawing The Complete Course 2011

Availability: Out Of Stock
Price: $14.99

Magazine

Drawing The Complete Course 2011

More

Best of Drawing 2009 Digital Download

Availability: In Stock
Price: $14.99

Download

Best of Drawing 2009 Digital Download

More

Related Posts
+ Add a comment

Comments

on 28 Jan 2012 9:43 AM

Dear Courtney, while our media are very different, (mine is art quilts) I had to link this very eloquent essay to my own blog posting..

www.fiberfantasies.com/wordpress

"It's all in the Lines" that I wrote a few months ago. I often find that I am more inspired by what artists in other media have to say, and this is certainly the case with this posting of yours. You ialso ncluded excellent examples of diverse use of lines by various artists...well done!

on 30 Jan 2012 11:05 AM

Thanks Nancy! So glad this resonated with you!