Here are two sketches of a figure drawing originally made from a live model. The original was a more finished sketch that I am trying here to just redraw quickly in a more gestural way. I am trying to get only what is needed. I did probably a dozen of these.
Then I did some paintings after finding some sketches that I liked. They all have areas of texture presented in different ways, and they have various ways of trying to maintain some line, and they also have washes. The first painting doesn’t work for me. The line is from paint in a squeeze bottle, and it just is too uniform and hokey. The second painting has a nice wash and there is some definite line visible with the use of graphite pencil, but it’s not exactly what I am after. The third painting I like the most because the texture is more what I like but there is no line in it of the kind that I am trying to achieve and the washes/glazes could be more drippy and ‘wrought with emotion,’ not to sound melodramatic or nothin’.
So what am I after exactly with showing ‘line’ in my work? Well this is a good question and one that the folks from Golden Paint asked me after I pleaded with them to make an acrylic drawing medium. One that was in a form (like oil sticks perhaps) that could be vigorously drawn onto an acrylic painting at any stage and that could be manipulated further with water or medium. So I searched through some work that might display what I am after.
The first image ‘Blue Bow” shows line in two different ways. First with the blue paint strokes and second, and harder to see in this image, are the initial charcoal sketching lines underneath. I really like these lines and constantly try to maintain bits and pieces of them in a painting. Inevitably I end up overworking the painting and they get completely covered up, or compared to the paint they just aren’t quite strong enough. I do like the separation of my elements in this piece, the line, the paint lines, the washes, and the heavy areas of paint.
This second piece shows all of those elements in a little bit different way. Here I am using a pencil initially and then water soluble color pencil and then oil paint. I just really like the contrast of the thinnest of pencil lines to wash to thick heavy paint. And also the contrast of thin wispy washes to dark opaque spots of paint.
This last piece was done with paint in a squeeze bottle. The initial fine lines of the paint have soften a bit because the paint has a tendency to spread a little. One of the frustrating things about this technique is trying to vary the tone of the line. You can’t lessen the pressure like you would with a pencil to create a very soft line, with the squeeze bottle you just end up with a line with skips in it. So some of the mood that you might be trying to achieve is lost. The washes were done very quickly before the paint had a chance to set up. If I used the Golden Open Acrylics in a squeeze bottle then I would have more time to play with this.
My objective is not to show the details of a figure or shading etc. I am much more focused on the weight and movement or direction of ‘energy’ that the figure shows. Something that you would see more in a glance rather than a long look I can show weight and movement through heavy application of paint and also through washes, but line is more tricky. This line is important to me, it is a necessary element that makes the painting feel complete and allows me to simplify my application of paint. Drawing on the page is a great way to find the gesture of a figure. You can move allover the page in a light handed way that allows you to search for details and elements that are important enough to keep. It also creates an ambiquousness in detail that causes the figure to look less like they are frozen in a moment of time.
As my paintings get larger this quality of line becomes more important. If I could take a 5’x6′ canvas and create the figure using a few continuous lines, one solid mass of paint, and one wash that drips and runs freely over the canvas I would have found the ultimate way to paint.