Drawing with Line – further explorations

While working on the recent Research Point concerning line, I had some ideas that I decided to explore in the context of my orchid.  These are summarised below:

1.  After Klee.  The first of these was to take a line for a walk.  It is quite tricky to keep a drawing tool on the paper continuously, especially as you must think ahead about the route that the pen will take. I found this too much for the first attempt and so this is actually three or four separate lines.  The top flower appears more rose-like than orchid-like but the line is fluid and the plant has some life, while not being life-like.

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2.  After Vaslaw Nijinsky.  Nijinsky produced a number of abstract drawings, many of which reflect the movement of dance. Nijinsky turned to art once schizophrenia had been diagnosed and his dancing career was at an end. Leowelzin’s Weblog has an entry on Nijinsky’s abstract works (in German but with many images).  The energy in some of these images caused me to wonder how the movement in a work inspired by a dancer in perpetual motion could, in turn, help to convey the imperceptible movement of natural growth in a plant.  The partially abstract A4 drawing that has resulted is a product of play more than skill but has helped me to perceive the growth habit of the orchid rather better and has begun to cross the boundary between line and tone.

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3.  After Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  I very much like the transparency in Rennie Mackintosh’s flower watercolours.  He creates depth in his paintings by allowing the structure of the plants – petals, stems, leaves – to show through, creating additional visual interest and complexity in his botanical images.    Some of his paintings contain more “bare” structural elements than others, which might be perceived as being less finished but which I prefer for their contrast and somewhere for the eye to rest.  I attempted two drawings in this style. Rennie Mackintosh’s best watercolours contain a variety of flowers, offering contrasting shapes and structures. I found that an orchid alone offered few opportunities for overlapping structure and variety so I included a bunch of hazel twigs, which I like for their twisting, fluid lines as well as their strong verticality.  I used a fineliner, Inktense pencils and wash.

Here is the first drawing:

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The composition is naturally strongly vertical and doesn’t really work on conventional sizes of paper (drawn on A3 and image then cropped to eliminate an expanse of white paper).  Here is a crop of the flower detail.  That the twigs reach the edge helps to draw the viewer into the flower mass.  However, I felt that there might be a bit too much structure here – the image is too fussy.  I was uncertain about the intensity of colour – the underlying structure has to show through and it is the delicacy of Rennie Mackintosh’s flowers that attract me.  The lines are too thick here, even for a fineliner!

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I made an attempt at simplifying the image while retaining enough structure for interest.  After drawing the flowers themselves, there was too much negative space and a few hazel twigs were added to balance the composition. I used a finer pen for this A4 drawing, which has resulted in cleaner lines.

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One further exploration was not directly influenced by any of the above but came from a consideration of using line to reverse positive and negative space.  I created a stencil from an earlier drawing and used grey and black marker pens to create a background.  This threw the flowers into the foreground but, with an absence of structure, it didn’t work.  I considered the possibility of introducing subtle areas of tone using soft lines in a similar way to the background but was not sure how this would work – to be effective, surely the lines should follow the growth direction of the petals, which would contrast (or compete?) with the lines in the background?  I could not visualise how this might work and so it remains something to try out in the future. However, the flowers did need some structure so a fine liner was used for this.

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Overall, working in line has focused my attention on movement, angle and perspective and has brought me to the point where I am ready to explore tone.

Further sources:  While I have some concerns about the use of images on Pinterest, it can be very useful – as in this collection of Rennie Mackintosh flower paintings.

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