Aims of the exercise: To select an object with interesting detail and using a black fibre-tipped pen or something similar create a line drawing on a sheet of A4 paper, trying not to lift the pen from the paper. To take the time to really look at the patterning, thickness of line, texture and shape as well as the overall composition.
What I experienced and what I learnt from that:
Completed 17/08/12. I was initially going to try a red cabbage cut in half but found that I really could not manage to draw it without repeatedly lifting the pen so in the end after a whole bunch of aborted attempts on scrap paper I abandoned the drawing. While trying it I found it extremely difficult to keep my eyes on the line I was following, as each one tended to have an inside and outside line and I kept losing which one I was looking at. Clearly my observational skills need to get a lot better. This will be something to come back to.
I drew the first page of mushrooms using a dip pen as I hoped that this would encourage me to get a variable line depending on the pressure I used. A4 sketch book p.65 (please see figure 1). I completely forgot at this stage that I was supposed to be using a fibre-tip. It is amazing how blinkered I can become. I found that I was concentrating so hard on trying to draw with a continuous line that actually everything else went out the window. With each mushroom I actively began thinking about line strength etc, until the moment that I tried to draw it. At that point just drawing it in a continuous line turned into a totally tunnel visioned task. Every time! (I tried where possible to only take the pen off to re-dip it in the ink. The ink did tend to last for about half a mushroom).
Though I enjoy them I actually find continuous line drawing very difficult. I find it hard to maintain accuracy, find placement a challenge, find it difficult to manipulate the pen in all directions without lifting it resulting in quite a jerky line as I pause and pivot my hand with the pen on the paper, and as already mentioned I seem incapable of thinking of anything else while attempting it. I also find it difficult to draw in all directions and it is only when I try these that I realise how often normally I change the position of the paper as I draw. Continuous line drawing is something that I have tried, on various occasions throughout the course in my sketch book to do, and these aspects remain a challenge at present. Strangely enough though, I think that one of the reasons that I do tend to enjoy continuous line is the fact that I have to concentrate so hard while doing it, it leaves no room for self critical thoughts. I literally cannot think of anything else than that line when I do these drawings.
Next I wondered if drawing with a stick would give an interesting varied line (still having forgotten the fibre tip pen bit). I really enjoyed giving these a go. A4 sketch book p.66 (please see figure 2). I tried to draw boldly and though I still struggled with accuracy of line, with one mushroom in particular ending up with some rather strange angles it was great fun, but, I still forgot everything else, apart from following that line, as soon as I tried to draw each mushroom.
Having finally remembered about the fibre tip pen, I used this for the sliced pepper. Initially I had planned to draw the pepper to fill the A4 sheet of paper but after trying out on some scrape paper I found that the only way that I could manage to increase the size was by drawing totally inaccurately. I could not manage to follow the continuous line accurately and enlarge the image. So I decided to draw two halves on the paper. A4 sketch book p.67 (please see figure 3). I enjoyed drawing these, the fibre tip was nice and smooth. The drawings are still not very accurate but they were definitely more so than my attempt at enlarging them. I still found myself concentrating completely on drawing that line, it literally took all of my concentration, leaving no room for any other thought.
The exercise said that “the drawing is about the flow of line against space. You will learn much from just looking at line and not getting distracted by shadow and tone.” I do not think that I managed to think about the drawing as the flow of line against space, I only managed to try and reproduce the line as accurately as I could. Not having to worry about tone or shadow certainly helped me to concentrate on the line but throughout the exercise I only managed to concentrate on the very basics of the line, i.e. its position rather than its properties once I started drawing it. Everything I had thought about the line, and my study of it prior to starting, e.g. line thickness, texture, shape, feel, weight, flow etc all went out of the window as soon as I started that continuous line, drawing that took every ounce of my concentration. I will need to work on this and hopefully I can improve on this as my skills and confidence improve.
I was surprised to find that I could manage to produce a more accurate result if I started with internal lines rather than an overall outside line, in other words building out towards the outer edges. If I started with an overall outside line, invariably I would then have to adjust the inner sections to fit, either stretching them or making them smaller, depending on where the inaccuracies were with the outside line. It makes sense when I think about it but it only really became obvious with this exercise. Normally when I draw I would roughly mark the outer boundaries of the object to check positioning etc but that approach was not possible for this kind of drawing. I was surprised how difficult I found it to try and work out the position of the object on the paper without having that rough outline to work from.
I still struggle with hand eye co-ordination and doing continuous line or blind contour drawings really highlights this. If I keep working at this though I think that it will really help my drawing in the long run and it is something that I will continue to return to in my sketch books. It is still requiring so much concentration that I am unable, at present, to keep in mind anything else apart from following that line but in time and with more practise that should change (hopefully). My eyes and hand are still not travelling at the same speed. I try and imagine my pen resting on the object and following it with my eye as I draw but I find that my eye tends to run ahead and I will need to continue working on my hand and eye becoming more in synch. Over the last couple of days I have tried some different subjects using continuous line in my sketch book, A4 sketch book, pages 62, 63 and 64 (please see figures 4, 5 and 6).
With subjects such as flowers or the mushrooms and pepper, inaccuracies are apparent but less obvious than the drawing of the water filter jug that I also tried in continuous line. This drawing really shows how inaccurate I am when trying to draw with a continuous line but was a very good exercise in assessing how far I have come with this. Overall there are some signs of improvement. I think that gradually the continuous line drawings in the sketch books are gradually reflecting improving hand to eye co-ordination but I still have a long way to go.
This had been an enjoyable and very useful exercise. Hopefully one day, in the not too distant future, I will feel able to tackle that cabbage!