Thursday, May 17, 2012

Drawing lines

I am drawing today, so a few notes about warm-ups, and drawing lines:

Do you have rituals to get you in that creative art groove? I definitely do, as the blank sheet of paper is a scary thing. The very first thing I do is to clean my drawing space...sometimes it starts with my entire house ( depends on how artistically blocked I am), sometimes it is just a matter of tidying up my drafting table. That done, I arrange the materials I am going to use, usually just a 0.5 mm mechanical pencil, and some kind of paper. For warm ups, the backsides of printouts that are in the recycle box work great.
I sit down, I breathe, I straighten my posture by imagining that I am suspended from that string attached to the top of my head. Strong string! It lets the body hang, the back is straightened not by pushing with muscles up, but by suspension from the gods above....lord help me if they remember that I am just their puppet.... I breathe again, deeply, reminding my body that it is oxygen that gives me life. Life, what a wonderful thing: to be able to sit at my drawing table and prepare to draw. Ahhh....
On to the warm-up mechanics. Pencil in hand, paper below, arms hanging at my side, gently. Let go of tension in shoulders, in hands. Breathe. First lines are straight, I pull them towards me, making them flow with my exhale. Breathe in, pull line towards me, making line as straight as possible, relaxed as possible. I fill the page with pulled straight lines. Note: Some have excellent hand-eye coordination naturally, (especially if they haven't had too much caffeine), a few have a natural tremor and will never be able to remove the quiver from their lines.
Next step: curved lines. Same process. Breathe in, relax, exhale, pull the line toward me, but this time in an arc, and drawing the arc from the inside, as if I am the center of this drawing universe, and the line I am creating encircles me. Curved lines, smooth and beautiful, drawn from the inside, like frowns, but with smiley energy. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Next step: parallel lines. Or, more precisely, equidistant lines. This is the tough stuff in botanical art. Master this and you can go a long way. What are stems? Just parallel lines. Draw two lines with one line heavier (wider) than the other, and you have drawn a shaded stem. Start with the straight lines. Try drawing a few lines equidistant from the straight lines you have already drawn. Not so easy, is it? Now, think about what you are doing. You have to look at the line you have already laid down, and let your eyes rest on it a few millimeters (or an eighth of an inch, if you will), in front of the point of your pencil. The eye coordinates with the hand. They eye looks and leads. Leads the hand to follow the course of the line, keeping the second line at the same distance from the first. Parallel lines. If this is tough for you, rest assured, it was tough for me too! Practice, practice, practice. Good drawing skills must be learned; think of yourself as a musician, honing your skills.
Next step. Lines equidistant from the curved lines you have drawn. As in the last paragraph, but follow the curved lines.
Final step. Circles. Draw circles. Let the lines flow smoothly, start and stop without breaking. Try using the whole arm, or whole body to create the circle. The goal is to have a nice round circle, with the lines meeting perfectly. No overlap. Try big circles; try little ones. Lots of little ones (great exercise if you are stuck on hold).
If you have managed to read through this, and are not an artist or an aspiring artist, wow, thank you! I will tie it in to life a bit. Good botanical art needs good lines, good lines come from focus, and practice, and relaxation. Good botanical art is a meditation. An escape? Perhaps. To me, a journey to a place that I really enjoy.

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