Saturday, June 30, 2012

Line Drawing

Someone on Deviant Art asked me for advice on line drawing. They said their lines kept coming out shaky, and asked how I keep my pen lines smooth. As I answered their question, I thought I would share my advice here too.
To practice line drawing, I'd say: Play around a LOT! Take a few blank pages, and scribble stuff out just have fun, don't worry about results at first.

This guy started out as a line study, that I ended up keeping in pencil back in 2005.
(Yes, Wigglesworth is based on this guy, whom I've been drawing for years).

A lot of my ink lines are more like scribbles when they're in pencil (I'm left handed, so I started inking when I was young because I smeared a lot of my pencil work by accident). Inking is a great step because you can decide which pencil lines you want to keep! It can be tough at first to replicate them over the pencil though, because really it's not so much tracing, as it is doing the same motion again. Tracing is slower, and so the line comes out thick and a little wobbly, but executing the motion a second time works best when you make the mark quickly.

A fox queen from 2004
Had I traced any of the lines in her tail, they would have lost their
"fuzzy/hairy" quality. They had to be 'drawn' again over the first lines to work.

Like shooting an arrow to hit the target--an archer wouldn't try following the path of a first arrow with a second arrow. They'd just try and hit the target again. In the same way, you're not trying to trace the first line exactly, you're making the line again where the pencil proved it would work. You don't want to follow that pencil line rigidly, you want to "hit the mark" again with a natural, second, more permanent line over the pencil layer.

So play around with making steady, slow lines, fast dashes, great big swirls, tight concise circles, dots, sweeps--the works!
Don't worry if the sketches don't make sense, look bad,
 or if the proportions are a little off. This girl's arms are a hot mess, but "Fluffapurraus Rex",
(the cat she's holding), made me save this sketch as a monster study.

See the feet and tail? A lot of sketches are reborn
into very different paintings later on.
(Although, Fluffapurraus Rex will get his own painting someday).

The more you practice, the more certain lines will start to catch your own eye and you'll find yourself committing them to memory. And your hand will develop the muscle control it needs to follow what your brain is telling it to do. A lot of people get really frustrated with drawing, because they're not only learning the hand eye coordination needed, but they're also training and conditioning their hands to move a pencil/pen with more and more precise control. So sometimes they'll sketch something out and it won't resemble what they wanted on the page, and they get vexed. However, months or even weeks later, the practice begins paying off and they find a second attempt at the same drawing yields better results! Because they've gained more control in their hand over time with exercise--that's why it's important to keep some of the linedrawing practice very loose and fun so you keep going until you reach the point where you are loving your lines!

When I am just drawing for myself, there's no gravity on the page. Everything I sketch looks like it is moving underwater. Everyone has horns, antennae, weird bone spurs, strange floating stones and jewels orbiting them. Hair curls up, lines framing features tend to stay, and motion paths are very cartoony. It's a blast, it's probably when I am happiest drawing. Don't force any rules on yourself for line drawing practice, because then exercising stays fun.

Some of my favorite drawings I've done are just
unfinished line practice, like this pregnant fairy from 2005 

Or this wizard dude from 2007

Remember what I said about sketches getting used years later?
Here's a hag from 2003 who looks an awful lot like Grandma Hawker....


  1. Hello there Georgia! Not seen you around recently, but then I've not been blogging as regularly either. Husband, Peter, died very suddenly May 26 when I was staying with younger daughter, and having returned home, 10 days later said daughter - when walking her dog - fell and broke a bone in her leg! Am now back, being a Mum, for at least the next 2 weeks, so blogging is again on the back burner.

    Still can follow folks, and will be doing so, so it was a pleasure to read your tutorial on line drawing today.

    Hope all goes well with you! Isobel

  2. Hello Isobel! I am very happy to 'see' you again. I am so, so very sorry for the loss of your husband Peter. You've often spoke beautifully of your life together, and he was a lucky man to have you throughout life good times and bad and to care for him when he was ill. And I'm sorry to hear about your daughter's leg, hopefully it shall be on the mend quickly--and the time you're a Mum again will be enjoyed :)

    I'm glad you liked my line tutorial, I'm hoping to do some more posts like this. I'm doing well--I had a brief sickness with a pesky benign tumor, but it's out now and I've returned to painting these past two weeks. It's been great to get back into painting, I'm sure you understand with stitching and creating your fantastic toys!

    Wonderful to hear from you, and hope you're having a lovely day when reading this,



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