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Learn to Draw: Continuous Line Drawings

Elvis Elvis

Learn to draw by making continuous line drawings. These are essentially a way of improving observational drawing skills, so you may do many many drawings before you produce anything you actually like. This is exactly as it should be. We learn nothing by only making things we think look ‘good’.

As with all other learn to draw drawing exercises, start by letting go of the desire to ‘make pictures’. This frees you to engage with the process, rather than be fixated on the idea that you are ‘making art’ and must produce something worth displaying every time you put pen to paper.

Secondly, expand your ideas about what drawing is. For many of us drawing is limited to representation: the drawing must ‘look like’ whatever it is that is being drawn – in fact, no drawing looks like the thing it depicts – we have just learned to read and interpret certain signs and symbols in certain ways and continuous line drawings are no different.

The one thing every drawing does look like is…another drawing, because all drawings are made of marks on some kind of surface. So drawings as physical objects are simply marks made on a surface – whether you enjoy looking at a particular drawing depends on whether you particularly like a certain arrangement of marks made in a certain way or combination of ways.

Essentially drawing is a language, a means of communication. And the marks we make, and the styles we make them in, are like the words in a sentence.

But drawing is also process: an act of doing and making – an engagement with the world, either of our imaginations or the external world of objects. In the latter case it is also a form of research – a way of finding out about whatever it is we are observing. And continuous line drawings are very much about research – as you learn to draw they will increase your observational skills, but they will also increase your knowledge and expand your perception.

Learn to Draw: Continuous Line Drawings

You will need:

A pen of some kind – biro, or technical pen or a fountain pen

Sketchbook

Learn to draw: Continuous line drawings

‘There are no lines in nature’ Ruskin wrote, and of course he’s right, there aren’t, so making a line drawing of any kind means looking for likely places to impose a line. External contours are the place to start to learn to draw continuous line drawings – and choose scenes rather than single objects:

So, to start to learn to draw continuous line drawings, I suggest take yourself to a cafe – chains are good, because you can linger over a single coffee – find an unobtrusive spot and begin by looking for the line which links one person to another: it will be there, though at first it won’t necessarily be obvious.

You may need, for example, to draw the outline of a head, then part of an arm, a chair back, and leg down to the floor, across the floor, then up the next chair leg and across an empty table…use anything and everything, but whatever you do keep your pen on the paper – double back a little (this is well within the ‘rules’, if you need to, but keep the line going, until you just cannot go any further.