A line is the most powerful tool in art.
Think about it. A line can show where an object starts and stops. It can express a curve in the simplest form. It can show weight, depth or dimension. A good line can be full of feeling. A great line can make others feel it.
Here is a typical line. Made with a round pastel stick on paper.
He is a rather plain little guy. Pretty much the same from top to bottom. This guy gets artists in trouble when they go to draw hair. Or trees. So boring! If this guy was a person he would be an accountant.
Now he has a friend. This time I varied the pressure on the stick as I was dragging it downward. It started off very lightly and then I added more pressure. He looks a bit more interesting. You know- like that friend you have that is just a little bit more fun than you are…
Next as I dragged the stick downward I twisted the pastel stick… just rotated it as I was pulling it down. Oh yeah, she looks like she can party. More variation and a slight sense of being out of control. Sometimes that is the best line work.
This time I varied the pressure differently. More pressure at the top. Such a sexy line!
This time I did both- varied the pressure and twisted the stick as I dragged it down. Can you see this line telling a bit of a story for a branch or a tree… this line is not a bean counter. Maybe a jazz musician. Lines can have personality!
And lastly I twisted and adjusted the pressure and tried to “feel” the contour edge of a tree with great, gnarly bark. Lines like this are so useful. They can jazz up an image by just being beautiful to look at as well as telling the story of what they represent. So important! Whether in a portrait (yes, do this in the hair) or in a landscape, great lines add grace, beauty and a bit of spice to an image.
If you really want some inspiration and to see some brilliant linework, be sure to check out the amazing illustrator, Mark Brewer. He was the last guest speaker for the Artist Guild in February before the quarantine hit and his handling of a pen is truly beautiful. Here is an example of his work and a link to his website- check out those lines!!