When to use line drawing techniques

It may not always be convenient to do a full-bodied tonal drawing. You may not even want to try. A simple line drawing is a quick and handy way to express an idea or to put down something you have seen and remembered. It is also useful for doing sketches of people who won’t keep still and of capturing the fleeting ebb and flow of life outdoors.

However, we don’t see things in line as there are no lines in nature. In nature, forms merge and are lost and found again. Lines are invented, you might say, to put round things as they are seen. In spite of this, a simple line drawing does give us a sense of reality.

A line drawing is nearer a symbol than any other form of drawing. Consequently, to make that symbol interesting, the more the line varies, the more it parallels reality. Thin and thick lines, textures, patterns, all help to give a line drawing vitality. You can make textures with a flexible pen quite easily (Fig. 10) and you can vary the contours of forms, scribble and smudge with your finger to give an interesting variation of line.

Fig. 10. Pen line textures

And you can darken parts of your drawing, not so much to represent tone, but to simulate color. A rich dark in a line drawing can give a sense of co lor, without the use of shading or actual color (Fig. 11). The secret, then, in line drawing is in what you leave out and not what you put in. It is the important shapes that must be stressed, and the significant detail last. As you will get little help from nature in this, you can experiment with all sorts of ways of trying to eliminate what you don’t need.

The object of a good line drawing is to be as simple as possible, and it will take a little practice to be able to select the lines and darks you want. But as you can see it is an interesting experiment because you will never be really sure how the thing will turn out, and that’s where the fun comes in.

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