Line drawing is two-dimensional art that employs two colors: the color of the drawing surface and the color of the drawing instrument. The most common surface for line drawing is paper of various types and grades, and the most common drawing media are pencil and pen-and-ink. Line drawing is evocative, leaving out color and often much texture, even in representational pictures, allowing the viewer to participate in the drawing with her evoked emotional response.
Lines as Containers
Line is called a principle, or element, of visual art. In nature there are not lines, but edges that move as objects move and as observers move. Contrasts along those edges define objects for people visually; and in some representative art, like paintings, edges can function the same way. Drawn lines replace edges, leaving spaces inside the lines into which the viewer can project his prior understanding of the represented object or his response to a non-representative shape. Lines are called “containers” by artists.
Lines in drawings are extremely versatile, as a review of good line drawings will show. Lines define borders, but they can also represent textures, patterns, shades and even “gestures,” or motion. When you look at newspaper cartoons – which are line drawings before they are filled with colors, you will often see lines that exaggerate facial expressions or lines that radiate away from “moving” characters to show that they are going very fast. When you look at a detailed pen-and-ink of a bird, you can see the intricate complexity of the bird’s form in bolder relief than when you see the actual bird.
Contour drawing is one form of line art that is often used as an exercise for artists in training, though some contour drawings are so good they would qualify for exhibition. An artist or art student who is about to contour draw will set her materials before the object she is about to draw, then find a starting point for her pencil or pen. From there, she draws one continuous line that represents the form of the object and even the object’s surroundings, without ever lifting the instrument from the surface.
The most common line art practice is the sketch. A soft pencil and paper are the preferred media for sketching along with a gum eraser. Anything you can see, you can sketch, which means no matter where you go, you can carry your sketch pad with you and make line drawings. The pencil sketches of famous artists – which may have at one time been just an exercise for them – have sometimes become high-value art objects.
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images