As a painter, it can be easy to write off line drawing as unimportant. As you might think – it doesn’t allow you to create dramatic light and dark shading (like a sketch) or work with color (like in a painting). However, it is precisely line that will help you to unlock key elements in your work – to keep it grounded.
In this post, we’ll delve into why line drawing is so important and provide some techniques that experienced painters can use to hone their craft and take their artwork to the next level. So get ready—it’s time to discover why line drawing holds such an essential role in painting!
What is line drawing?
Line drawing is just as its name suggests – a drawing made purely just with line. It requires precision, as each line must be accurate and purposeful. If you aren’t measuring accurately or are not sure how to properly use line – this will show through. There isn’t any room to hide when it comes to line. Which is at the same time what makes it so beautiful and also important – it often reveals our weaknesses and what is necessary to work on.
Value and edges in line drawing
Line helps us to understand the values of what we are working on in a more intimate way. As a line drawing allows us to see the edges in our subject matter and how they interact more clearly.
For example, when you see two different colors or values next to one another in the subject you are observing. You will need to decide what type of line should go between them – a light narrow line or a dark thicker line.
These are important decisions and making ourselves go through the mental process of discerning the type of edge an area has makes us much more sensitive to value and edges.
Creating dimension with line
In this detail of a drawing by Ingres we see a varying degree of different types of edges – from dark and thick to very delicate and thin. A believable sense of dimension is created with the different values of line.
We see lighter lines where edges are more similar in value, and darker lines where edges have more different contrasting values.
Lines that change value
A single line might change value subtly into a darker or lighter form. You will see this happen in the Ingres drawing in different areas. This is why it is important to practice line drawing yourself – it helps to train your eye to notice and see such transitions happen in your subject matter, and then apply it to your painting.
It is very good to sensitize yourself to the subtleties that do exist at the edges of forms. At the same time, line also helps to to understand the importance of the non-edge.
Learning to see the non-edge
From the time that we are very young children we accustom ourselves to seeing objects as having defined edges. However, as artists and painters it is important to be able to see edges in accordance with how the light behaves, not the object. After all, the more focus that is placed on painting the light in your piece – the more convincing and true to life your painting will be.
In the drawing above (a detail of an Ingres drawing) we can see how the left side of the domed building is left entirely without any edge or line. This is because the edge of the building is very similar in value to the rest of the area and an edge is unnecessary.
Applying value in a line drawing
As briefly mentioned earlier – even in a line drawing, light and dark values can be represented through your use of lines. Thick, dark marks create darker values while thin, lighter marks create lighter values.
For example, if you’re trying to add depth by creating a cast shadow in your drawing, you would use thicker, darker lines to convey that sense of darkness and depth. On the other hand, if you’re trying to create a more subtle transition between two colors or values, you would use thinner lines to create gradual shifts in value. Learning how to effectively use line to create value can help take any drawing to the next level.
Geometry and line drawing
Geometry and line drawing go hand in hand. As line drawing allows for precise measurements when measuring distances between elements of a subject matter.
Line drawing is often used to represent the technical aspect of a subject. As well as aid in understanding it more effectively. With line drawing, you can accurately measure, allowing you to better visualize and consider shape, proportion, and scale.
Line drawing is an important tool that can be used to accurately measure areas and provide better understanding of the subject matter. It is also a great way to create accurate diagrams and technical illustrations.
Using line and markings to measure
Line drawings are best when they are studies and you use them as such. So, don’t be afraid to mark on them in order to measure distances between different areas. As this is a great way to get an accurate understanding of the geometry of your subject matter and help you to create perspective in your drawing.
How to practice line drawing
There are different tools you can use to start practicing line drawing. My favorite drawing materials are woodless pencils and a faber castell eraser. These are very versatile and can be used beyond just line drawing. What is most important is to use a drawing tool that has a sharp point.
Draw distinct lines in areas that have hard edges/ very distinctive value differences. For example a very light area against a very dark area is going to create a strong distinctive line. This will help identify the light and dark areas in your drawing.
Work from subject matter that has clear values so you can easily understand where to use thicker or thinner lines. Practice holding and pressing down with your pencil very delicately when drawing very light lines. Once you start practicing you will start to build an understanding of various different line values.