Exercise Line and other marks

I did this exercise over a couple of days. On the 17/05/12 I started with various grades of graphite pencil. Pencils appear to be very versatile tools enabling a wide range of lines, patterns and tone to be made with them. (Pages 8-9 A4 sketch book). In boxes 1, 2 and 4 I tried different strokes many of which would be good to use to represent a variety of thing such as grass, fur, hair, waves etc. Between different hand holds and marks that I can make it seems an endless variety of line, tone, shape and pattern can be created. I need to remember this when I am drawing and aim to become more adventurous in my line and the way that I interpret and record what I see. (Please see figure 1.)

Figure 1
Exercise Line and other marks

I moved onto using a biro and in boxes 3, 5 and 6 it was interesting to see how much converging lines really lead the eye in, although the longer lines in boxes 5 and 6 seem to do more so than the shorter ones in box 3. I find it fascinating that just by line I can suggest form as in box 6 where  putting a repeated curve in the lines resulted in my eye seeing a raised rim to the hole in the centre and equally fascinating  that my eye also filled in the shape of the circle as well. Once again I had huge fun using the biro to make scribbly lines in box 7. They appear to have a real energy and life to them and are beautifully unpredictable. I never quite know where I am going next with them. I find that they help me to relax and just have fun and see what comes. In box 8 I tried holding the biro in my closed fist and it completely changed the type of marks that I then made. I found myself making angrier, jerky marks, pressing harder and stabbing the pen down to make the stipples. Good for letting off steam I guess but I had very little control of the pen with that hold. It was really surprising how much effect a different hand hold can have.

I decided to give a Rotring art pen a try out next. I enjoyed the smoothness of the pen, found it comfortable to use and had fun making the patterns in box 9. The pen gives good strong lines and lovely strong stipples. The patch of cross hatching I tried got a bit messy. I found my eye kept being drawn to the black circle with the highlight and I am not sure if that is because it is the area of highest contrast or whether it is because it looks a little like an eye. I tried just directional lines in box 10 and initially tried to hatch the apple but it got so messy and I was losing the form of it so much that I had to use scribbly lines to try and make it look rounder. I really struggle with hatching at the moment and it is something I have been trying to work on in my sketch book (please see below).

Moving to the dip pen gave the ability to alter the line by pressing more or less on the pen nib. Combining scribbly, directional and variable width lines in box 11 seemed to strongly suggest movement and life much more than the straight lines in the top left hand corner of the box. I tried using the back of the nib on the dip pen in box 12 and got ink blots that I could spread and feather. The marks that I got were very unpredictable and I am not sure that using the back of the nib is that useful.

In boxes 13 and 14 varying the type of line produced also seemed to vary the interpretation of mood from them. The curves and swirls seemed to be more of a peaceful, restful image than the jagged angular lines that seemed to suggest tension or anger. The Edding 55 gave a very consistent line strength and width in these two boxes where it was held towards the tip but by holding it at a lower angle and more on its side as in box 15 I could get variable strength lines with a much wider tonal range. I tried to suggest distance with a path but I think that this would have been more successful if I had put more bends in it. It’s a nice verstile tool and suited to many possible uses. (Please see figure 2)

Figure 2
Exercise Line and other marks

Moving onto charcoal next I tried a mix of curves and lines in box 14. The softly graded curves seemed to appear to be more static than the smudged lines. The curves lead my eye up and then the directional thrust of the lines appeared to have an energy to them. The twisted lines in box 17 appear to excite and arrest my eye while in box 18 adding in a shadow line to the blocks of tone appeared to increase the illusion of bricks. The pattern in box 19 was given a feeling of movement just by adding in a few small directional lines. In box 20 I smoothed all the elements with my finger but it then appeared very bland so I tried adding in some contrast and this appeared to give it more life and make it more interesting to look at. In boxes 21-24 I tried various patterns. The overlaid lines in box 21 gave quite a 3D effect, each layer of lines being thicker than the previous line as the stick of charcoal wore down. Box 23 started as just a series of curved lines which looked decidedly boring. Surprisingly just adding a dot  above each curve made it more interesting and appeared more 3D. I initially did a layer of tone in box 24 but with the addition of the lines and semi circles I found myself coming back to it and looking at it and seeing various things it could be.

On the 18/05/12 I carried on with the second part of the exercise (pages 10 and 11 A4 sketch book) which was trying new media. (Please see figure 3.) I started with a stick, one end of which was quite sharp while the other end was fairly blunt. I really enjoyed using it and it proved to a fun tool to use. It was surprisingly good at drawing lines and as the ink on it ran out it produced a nice broken effect and pale tone. It did tend to run out of ink quite quickly and need re-dipping frequently. I found it a very expressive tool to draw with, it gave an unpredictable line with good variation in tone as I never quite knew how much ink was going to transfer. The blunter end produced a thicker line and was more prone to blotting. In box 28 I used both ends to make up a scene. As I couldn’t be exactly sure what mark, or how thick the line or mark would be I needed to adjust the drawing as I went depending on the marks I got. It seemed to lend itself to landscape drawing and calligraphic marks quite well. Apart from the biro it was the tool I most enjoyed  experimenting with. It was amazing the range of marks it could make.

Figure 3
Exercise Line and other marks

Moving onto a bamboo pen gave a much higher level of control. It gave lovely flexible lines and with the Quink ink gave nice variety in tone as the amount of ink on the nib became less. With Indian ink the tone didn’t lessen as much, the line became more broken instead. I found it a good tool for aiding imagination when used with the Quink ink because the varied tone helped to suggest things. Box 30 was great fun to do and I very much went with the flow. I made my path more bendy which I think makes it more interesting and increases the feeling of distance.

A torn piece of card dipped in ink gave some interesting effects in boxes 32 and 33 and also gave some good variation in tone. The straight lines achieved with the edge of the card would be useful for masts etc and the corner marks could be pebbles.  I am not sure at the moment that I would use this very much as the card started to disintegrate quit quickly.

I moved onto trying some paper tightly rolled up. Dipped in ink it acted a little like a brush, the lines becoming wider as the paper became more saturated with ink. In box 35 I got a block of variable tone as it ran out of ink. After being dipped in ink a few times it started to break up.

It was the turn of a feather quill next. I tried dipping it in ink and it made the marks in the top of box 36 but wasn’t very effective. I then trimmed the quill to make a nib and it gave nice flexible lines and good control. It needed to be dipped in ink fairly frequently. It behaved in very similar ways to the dip pen and was rather fun to use. I also tried dipping the feather tip in ink but this gave a rather messy effect and was very uncontrollable.

A brush dipped in ink gave good control of lines and nice flowing calligraphic marks. In box 39 by varying the amount of pressure on the tip I could suggest trees, draw circles or if I held the brush at a low angle cause the brush to skip across the paper giving broken areas of tone. (Please see figure 4.)

Figure 4
Exercise Line and other marks – new media

Moving onto conte crayons I found that they softly blended. I got a lot of dust off them which like charcoal could smudge really easily. Like charcoal a certain amount could be lifted with a putty rubber. Using then on edge or their side, again, they behaved in a similar way to charcoal. Soft pastels created even more dust than the conte crayons. They blended well and appeared to lift very slightly more than the conte crayons with a putty rubber. I found that the lines I lifted appeared to look more dynamic in box 40 than they did in box 42 and this appeared to be down to where I had positioned them.

Oil pastels were next and in box 43 I tried blending them with my finger which worked to a certain extent but not very smoothly as my finger dragged and scuffed the laid down colour. In box 45 I tried blending with some kitchen roll. This worked better but also lifted some of the colour as well. A putty rubber could lift some of the colours in box 43 while in box 45 I tried scratching into the pastel with a key. The paper appeared to be stained underneath and the lines showed as a paler tone. I tried in drawing lines with the sharp edge of the oil pastel in box 44. The edge blunts very quickly. It gave an interesting effect where the lines crossed as the colour picked up the colour below and combined with it to give a new colour. The effect didn’t seem as 3D as the charcoal grid in box 21 and I think that this is because of the way the lines and colours have combined. The oil pastel colours are bright and bold but not suited, I would think, to detailed work.

I tried a white gel pen on black paper in box 46 but I didn’t like the effect that it gave. It was very scratchy to use and rather frustrating as the ink kept stopping coming out. I moved onto a dip pen with white ink in box 47 and I liked the effect of the white on black. In the last box I tried drawing with a broken stick. I was surprised at just how thin a line I could get with a little broken off piece. I think that overall I prefer the effect of using a stick with black ink on white paper.

It has been a very useful exercise to see what a wide variety of marks can be made by a wide variety of media. Seeing the effect that the different types of lines have on perception of things like movement and mood has also been very interesting.

On the 16/05/12 I tried using some different media to use hatching on an apple (page 5, square sketchbook). I seem to have a real block with hatching a form to show that it curves. None of the 4 that I tried were successful (please see figure 5). The Rotring art pen  version seemed slightly round but very messy and the rest were decidedly unsuccessful.  The only good thing was that I’ve found 4 ways of not doing it!

Figure 5
Attempts at using hatching on drawings of an apple

On the 17/05/12 I looked at Drawing, A Complete Guide by Giovanni Civardi and on p.342 he talks about creating effective shading and there is an example of a hatched apple. He suggests that when looking at the initial tones “avoid areas of tone that are too uniform or have vague boundaries, identify the darkest and lightest areas only”. I studied the hatched apple on this page and on page 363 to see how he had used his lines and marks to suggest the form of the apple and captured the effect of light and shade.

I then attempted the sketches in figure 6. (page 6, square sketch book). I think that the pencil sketch is better than my previous attempt and suggests form a little better but still appears messy. Again, I think the zig millennium version is a little more successful this time than last time. I didn’t observe the shape of the apple carefully enough and had to correct it.

Figure 6
Second attempt at using hatching to draw apples

In both cases I think that I need to control my hatching lines much better. I still tend to “panic” a bit with hatching and then draw more lines than I need and I do not think that I am accurate enough with their direction. But I do think that there has been a little bit of progress and I will be able to build on that.

On the 18/05/12 I thought that I would try and put some of what I had discovered into practise from the mark making exercises and decided to have an attempt at drawing “Leo” as he has a variety of different textures that I could attempt to show by different marks. (Please see figure 6.) I chose to do it in pencil as I struggle to show tone effectively in pencil. I worked with several grades of graphite pencil, which was new for me, normally I only work with a 3B. I used H, B, 3B, 4B and 6B. Once I had established the basic proportions of Leo I looked carefully at his fur and decided on the marks that I thought would represent the different types of fur. I also tried to establish where light and shade fell on him, using what I had learnt from reading Drawing, A Complete Guide by Giovanni Civardi and my experience of trying to use that to draw the second couple of apples. I ended up taking over two and a half hours on this drawing which considering that it only fills just over half a page of my A5 sketchbook shows just how slow I am. It is an aspect that I am finding difficult with the course. Everything takes me so long, the exercises, writing the learning log, sketching, I really am unbelievably slow. I’m just hoping that as I progress through the course that gradually I will get a bit quicker. I have already had to adjust my time table as I am getting behind. Still, I am learning a lot and it is great to try and put it into action.

Figure 7
Leo in graphite pencils

It was a very worthwhile exercise. I am not happy with the area between his eyes, it doesn’t read right at all and another time I would need to observe that better. I think that I have been fairly successful in portraying his textures and it was fun deciding what kind of marks to use. I found that I needed to adjust the level of my tone several times as initially I was not making it dark enough. I tend to be quite nervous of making things too dark. Half closing my eyes did help to see where the main blocks of tone were and I then worked on strengthening those and gradually got braver and built them up more. I think overall the drawing has achieved what I wanted. Instead of just trying to draw it I found myself really looking and thinking about mark and tone and then trying to translate that onto paper.

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