Updated: Apr 20, 2020
Every now and then I do little peeks into my own work with these rants and today I didn’t know what to write about today, so I thought I’d talk about lines. I did a blog about figure drawing not that long ago and how soothing it is as an experience, and recently my figure drawings have developed into some finished pieces. I’ve been breaking down the faces, body parts, etc. that I’m drawing down into lines because I’ve always related more to lines than color or any other formative element of the body.
Perhaps it started with my beginnings in art, sitting and drawing the cartoons I liked on the TV for hours on end. I started with drawing and not just any drawings, hard lined cartoons that were defined more by the shapes these lines created than the shades of color inside of them. So by the time I really got into portraying the human figure, I wasn’t picking up on color differences or layers, I was picking up on all the lines that shaped the human form. I can study color, I know how to pick up on certain things about it, but it’s all learned information, it’s not natural for me. I've just always been drawn to lines, so when I got into creating the things I’m doing right now i figured why not break it down completely into lines.
What are shadows when we’re thinking about portraying something like the human figure? They’re representations of a change in shape or form that has blocked the light creating a contrasting shape or tone darker than the (we’ll call it) “base tone.” So if we strip tone and it’s changes/contrasts from our representation completely, how can we show the differences in shape? Line! That’s what I’ve really been trying to do in my new work; break down shadows into the shape that they’re creating and use line to illustrate the change in shape or direction that each shadow implies.
I’ve often struggled with the idea of subject matters getting bland if I keep representing them similarly, so exercises like this are how I avoid becoming monotonous. I challenge all of you to give exercises like this a shot. Strip down your subject matter to one bare element. It could be line, it could be color, it could be shade, but whatever it is explore your own imagery and how you perceive things using just one element. Progress your practices using one of these exercises, then go back to what you usually do and see how it’s changed your perspective, then you can do another exercise to further explore.
There’s always things we can do to explore our own artistic practices. We can alter our own working experiences so that our work doesn’t become stale but we don’t have to totally reinvent ourselves. I think a lot of people, especially in the professional world, are afraid to alter their perceptions or try new things. I’ve talked about adopting a “fuck it” mentality before and I think breaking down our work to its most bare elements in order to self-reflect is one of the ultimate “fuck it” moves. It’s scary to self-reflect sometimes and we can very easily become comfortable in what we’re doing and unintentionally just start regurgitating the same work and ideas over and over again, but that shit’s lame. We as artists should be setting out to visually explore the world and display our ever altering experiences, so don’t just pigeon hole yourself into the same shit because people liked it before. Do more, explore.