Avoiding straight lines is a good idea

Scribbles from Grumber #32

While Kandinsky used straight lines to good effect in some of his earlier abstractions and Mondrian did so in some of his later work and while early Renaissance artists loved them once two and three point perspective was invented, I think that straight lines should be avoided, especially when drawn with a ruler. The exception of course is mechanicals. When I was in school, I first learned to draw nice straight even toned lines with a drafting pencil or with an old-time, pincer style ink pen. Then, I was taught how to draw “interesting” straight lines. These varied in tone, dark at the beginning of a pencil stroke, lighter in the middle and darker at the end. And, then, I learned to abandon uniformity altogether and to let the pencil, pen or brush in my hand to roam freely. Things have been better ever since. I still may deal with straight lines but that’s what computerized drafting is for.
So what does “roam freely” mean? It means purposeful variety of line achieved by having a general idea of what you want (heavy or light, swirls or not) and then watching your hand do its thing. Whether the line is a series of curves and twists or sort of straight or whether it is light or dark depends what you are telling your hand to show. Dark lines are for the shadow side of an object in a line drawing to imply mass. Curves and swirls are for conveying action or emotion. Combining all this adds complexity and avoids boredom for both the artist and the viewer. When people first come to a drawing class, they typically draw lines that are always the same and that look too carefully done. They know what they want their hand to do but are too anxious about letting it go. The result can be a very boring drawing. You can’t convey much by being boring. The 17 x 12 inch drawing above is done with a 2B and a 4B pencil on 14 x 17 inch Aquabee “super deluxe drawing paper. It’s a paper with a lot of tooth. There isn’t a straight line in this drawing. Nothing is uniform. And I purposely scribbled a bit, a la Cy Twombly. And, full disclosure: the figure is based on a heavy set, imposing male model who posed nude.


About mmgilbert

I have been drawing and painting all my life. Now part of the “New Symbolist” movement which encompasses both Goth, fantasy and tattoo art as well as the century-old work of Odilon Redon, I focus on archetypal and mythic imagery to evoke emotional themes and to reference darker fantasies. I have an abiding interest in figurative drawing, working on paper and exploring new ways to handle traditional materials. I studied with Edward Millman, a WPA muralist; at Purchase College; and at the Art Students League in New York.
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