A guide to continuous line drawing

Hello, messy tribe!

Sasha here again for the Season of Connections. This Season seems so intimate and deep to me, so I wanted to come up with a tutorial that would let you connect your senses to your art.

The Idea

Continuous line drawing is a popular exercise among artists and sketchers. It lets you make an instant heart-mind-hand connection to your subject. The idea of this exercise is that you draw an object/person/place that you see without lifting your pen from the paper. While doing this, you should keep your eyes on your subject 80-90% of the time without looking much at what you are doing.

The main point of doing a continuous line drawing exercise is the ability to pay attention and let your hand connect directly to your vision. You get a chance to look at your subject with the artist’s eyes, see all the lines, bends, small details in it.

There is a variation of this exercise which is called blind contour drawing. It is similar to what Vanessa has taught you in this tutorial. Just make sure you keep your pen pressed to your paper at all times for the continuous line effect.

The How

Let me quickly outline a few general pieces of advice for creating a continuous line drawing:

  • Look at your subject 80-90% of the time. You can, of course, look at your drawing to see if you are going in the right direction. However, don’t let what you see distract the connection that you’ve established with your subject. In all honesty, the drawing will probably not look much like the reference the first few times you are doing it (or ever!), but that’s the point! Draw HOW you see, instead of WHAT you see. Let the line be the continuation of your vision.
  • Choose a starting point. This is a point which will give life to the line which forms your drawing. If I am drawing a portrait, I tend to start somewhere in the middle of a face, e.g. the eye. It let’s me imagine the proportions of the face better. However, you can choose to outline the whole face first if that’s what your intuition tells you to do.

  • Trace the same lines over and over again for a clean look. When you are drawing in one long continuous line, it is inevitable that you will need to go from one point of the image to another. It might be the biggest challenge of this exercise. There is an easy way out – just trace back along the lines you have already created. Say, you’ve drawn the nose and the right eye of a portrait. To go to the place on the page where the left eye is supposed to be, trace the lines of the right eye and the nose back to the left. Of course, there will be some places where this trick won’t work (e.g. going from the eye-brow to the hair line), but, at least, it will keep most of your drawing clean-looking.
  • Go wild with the lines for a creative whimsical look. If you don’t care much about the neatness of your drawing (Me!),  let your ink line dance around the page as you connect the parts of your subject into one unique piece of drawing.
  • Don’t stress if you accidentally pick the pen up from the paper. Just put it back to the place where you stopped and keep that line flowing. You’ll learn to keep it tight to the page with practice.

The Supplies

The beauty of this exercise is that it requires minimal amount of supplies.

  • a good pen that does’t skip and is easy to draw with
  • a few magazine images to practice your continuous line drawing
  • your sketchbook/a loose piece of paper for creating your own drawing
  • (optional) some watercolors or acrylic paint to prep the background to make your drawing more visually interesting

The Plan

Now, that you know the basics, lets look at our plan of actions for today.

For this tutorial, we will do 3 exercises:

  1. Practice. Take any magazine image or a photo of a person and train your hand tracing the outlines of the facial and body features without lifting the pen.
  2. Continuous line portrait. Now, it’s time to create your own drawing. Choose a reference image, your friend/loved one or put a mirror on the table, so you could create a continuous line self-portrait.
  3. Drawing your hand. Hands always fascinate me, although I find them pretty difficult to draw. We are going to attempt to look at our hand with the artist’s eyes and really notice the shape, the bend in our bones and joints, the wrinkles on our skin.

Action Steps

  1. Practice to keep your pen at the paper by tracing over a magazine image.
  2. Create your own continuous line drawing. Choose any subject that interests you:  a portrait, a self-portrait, your hand, your cup, your cat, your house, flowers in your garden, a tree you see from your window, your car, etc.
  3. Keep your eyes on your subject, as if you are exploring its every line and every curve. Let your hand connect to your eyes and switch off the analytical part of your brain. Allow that line to flow.
  4. Incorporate a continuous line drawing into your next art journal page. Let it be the centerpiece of your page or make it a small personal touch to the rest of your art.

Happy observing!  Let your eyes see the magic.

Big hugs,

Sasha

Sasha

Sasha is a freelance online English teacher from Ukraine, currently residing in Poland. She has been creative since very young age being raised in the family of photographers and actors. Sasha is a classic example of a “scanner” personality and often tries new creative things.

8 Comments

  1. Misty Granade

    LOVE THIS!!!

    • Sasha Zinevych

      Misty, you make me happy! Really hope you try it! 🙂

  2. CIndy Jacobs

    So excited and can’t wait to try this!!!!

    • Sasha Zinevych

      Yay, Cindy! Thank you, girl!

  3. Kelli CRESWELL

    I loved watching you work! Thanks for sharing – I need to try this!

    • Sasha Zinevych

      Ah, thank you so much, Kelli! I really do hope you give it a try!

  4. CIndy Jacobs

    I am absolutely loving this technique! Thank you Sasha!

    • Sasha Zinevych

      Cindy, that makes me so happy! I am sure it will look beautiful in your journals!