Create a palette of lines (an assorted range) using more than one drawing tool. For example, use an H pencil and a Conté crayon.
Look out of a window. Use your palette of lines to draw what you see, being mindful of how each line quality contributes to the overall emotional tone or communication.
Continuous Contour: Imagine a leaf or daisy. Or find a leaf or flower as a visual reference. Using an unbroken line, draw the outer shape of the leaf or flower so that it fills the entire page. Don’t worry about drawing details but do carefully examine the outer shape of the object, drawing with as much specificity to the shape as possible. Go as near to the edges of the page as possible. Once you start drawing, keep your pencil moving on the page. Don’t lift your hand to stop and start. (Search online to see American artist Ellsworth Kelly’s plant drawings.)
Continuous Line: The best tool for this project is a soft pencil, fine line marker, digital pen, or your finger on a touchscreen. Your subject matter will be a room space, still life, figure in space, or yourself.
Once you start drawing a line, your drawing tool maintains contact with the page, producing a continuous (unbroken) line.
Think of this exercise as if you were taking a line for a walk through graphic space. Use the line to describe whatever you are looking at, if you have a life reference. You can use a continuous line to draw from your imagination, as well. To describe enclosed shapes, simply overlap the line. The objects and spaces will appear to look transparent.
Blind Contour: Pretend you are drawing a big circle on this page, a circle that almost touches the boundaries of the page, without looking at the page.
Now, actually draw the contour of an object or form that has an interesting silhouette, such as a crab or shoe, but do not look at the page—look only at the subject matter. Make it as big as possible, feeling for the boundaries of the page as you draw. Don’t be concerned with the end result as much as with experiencing this blind contour process.
Quick Contour: Ask a friend to pose for you. Use a single line to record the contour of the figure. The goal is to quickly record a general gesture. Study the figure for its general shape, drawing as rapidly as possible (about 15 to 60 seconds). Repeat this several times. Repeat it again, allotting up to two minutes. You may need more paper. (If you don’t have a friend around, use an object or animal as reference for these rapid sketches.)
Cross Contour: Look at a spherical object or form, such as a coffee mug, a pear, or your hand. Draw the form’s outline and add cross-contour lines (parallel lines that curve to describe the form’s rounded volume).
Flowing Line: Start drawing a line at the top-left corner of the page. Allow yourself to draw whatever comes to mind—a spiral, a vine, a flower, a figure, or a car. Use a flowing, lyrical line to create the form. (Search online to see drawings by French artist Henri Matisse.)
Distressed Line: Using lines made with charcoal or a very soft pencil, draw something that upsets you. Smudge and scrape the lines.
Implied Line: Draw a car using broken lines that describe enough for the viewer to understand the shape without closing or completing the lines.
Organizational Lines: Using a soft pencil, draw a still life, interior space, or cityscape. Based on careful observations of all major vertical and horizontal emphases within the subject matter, begin by drawing horizonal and vertical lines that will serve to build the composition, to create structural axes as well as describe forms.
Organizational lines display and emphasize the structural axes of a composition and link forms in space. Simultaneously, the lines organize the pictorial space, create the illusion of spacial depth through overlapping, and define objects.
After establishing the relative heights of forms using horizontal and vertical lines, extend those lines further beyond the forms they describe into adjacent forms, as if the objects were transparent. The lines also extend into the surrounding pictorial space, as if the lines were a beam searching the pictorial space. For example, if you’re drawing a chair in a room space, the lines you draw to define the chair also act to partially define the pictorial space of the room, the wall and floor, and any objects next to or overlapping the chair.
You can use sighting—holding up your pencil in front of you and using it as a measuring tool to compare relative heights and widths of objects in your subject matter—to determine the relative heights, widths, and angles.