The practice of drawing begins with a line. The first drawings that we do as children are line drawings, and most drawing courses begin with the teaching of line drawings, before addressing more complex notions such as tonal drawings and composition.
The following pages attempts to classify the different types of line. The simplest, and most important, is the silhouette line which encompasses a drawn object. This is commonly known as the ‘outline’. As a hill rolls away from view, it presents at its crest a contour line. Mild undulations in the surface of the hill can be drawn with suggested contour lines which, as their name implies, suggest rather than describe. All of these lines are dependent upon the vantage point of the artist and will change should the artist move. The four edges of a sheet of paper are drawn with an edge line. Unlike the preceding lines, which are dependent on the artist’s vantage point, edge lines correspond exactly to particular features of a form.
In response to the variety of nature, an effective line drawing will include a wide variety of lines. Variations will appear as differences in weight, value and texture.
Sometimes the best line to draw is no line at all. Such a line is the open line, which is a break in the continuity of a line.
The following artists are recommended as reference when teaching line drawing:
- The 18th century French artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Ingres had a beautifully exact control over his lines.
- The 20th century Italian artist Vincent Van Gogh Van Gogh’s drawings were heavily influenced by Japanese brush drawings. His mark invention was extraordinary, particularly in those drawings that he did in Montmajour.
- The 20th century Italian Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti. Giacometti had a very dense and scratchy line that effectively described the human figure.