Line is one of the most basic, and yet most powerful, elements of art. With just a few strokes, an artist can communicate a person, an object, an emotion, a place, or just about anything else. And with many, many lines, and artist can create an image that looks like a photograph.
Sir Kenneth Clark remarked, "The difference between what we see and a sheet of white paper with a few
thin lines on it is very great. Yet this abstraction is one which we
seem to have adopted almost instinctively at an early stage in our
development, not only in Neolithic graffiti but in early Egyptian
drawings. And in spite of its abstract character, the outline is
responsive to the least tremor of sensibility."
And Lance Espland remarked, "Line is a rich metaphor for the artist. It denotes not only boundary,
edge or contour, but is an agent for location, energy, and growth. It is
literally movement and change - life itself."
It's amazing how something as simple as a line, a mark, can convey the weight, the feeling, the emotion, and the identity of a subject. It can make the viewer think and feel if executed well. And it can be created with almost any object imaginable.
Line work has the power to stand on it's own, and yet it also plays nicely with others. You can fill it in or paint over it and create a completely different and yet equally successful work such as in book illustrations, scientific illustrations, comic books, graphic novels, and fine art.
The drawing above is the line work of a Halloween illustration. I do plan on coloring it, but the line work worked so well it can stand on its own. So I'm letting it. I drew it with a Copic pencil, a Bamboo brush with Sumi ink, and added a few finished in Adobe Photoshop.
One aspect I've noticed in really great illustration is the effective use of emotion and the skillful communication of it. So often I see illustrations where the figures in it have a blank stare or a generic look. Other times I see where there is emotion, but it doesn't really fit or make sense with the rest of the composition. And there are illustrations where I've seen the artist try for something with limited success.
Nothing is more impressive than an illustration that seems to come to life and jump off the page and make the viewer feel something, but to do this successfully, one must be conscious of two major considerations.
First, the artist needs to figure out what emotion should be conveyed. It doesn't matter how skillful his execution if the thing he's going for doesn't fit. Well rendered mistakes, no matter how skillfully done, are still mistakes. Decide the overall message of the work. What are you trying to say? Then consider the viewer, because communication is a two-way street that requires effort from both the communicator and the communicatee. Who is going to view it? Why are they viewing it? Where will they view it? What will they be thinking and feeling when they encounter the work? What do you want the viewer to think and feel when they see it?
Second, decide how you will communicate that emotion. It has been said that the eyes are the doorways into the soul, and that is true. You can see so much in someone's eyes. The face is also a powerful communicator. There's a reason why in person communication is so much more effective than merely talking over a phone or through words. The facial expressions say so much. Many artists are very good at creating great facial expressions, but they forget people also use the rest of the body to communicate. Consider the gesture of the body. A happy person stands/sits/walks differently than a depressed person. Have you ever seen a person from a distance and could identify how they were feeling even though you were too far away to see his face? Or how about knowing without doubt how a person is feeling from just his silhouette? Body language is a subtle but powerful form of communication, and one that elevates a work once mastered. But don't rely on figure alone. The rest of the work can also contribute to the message with color and form. You may want to continue the emotion to the edges of the canvas, or you may choose to show a completely different emotion as a foil to create contrast with the main figure or figures. Again, consider the message and audience and ask yourself what will relay your message most effectively.
Of course, all this assumes you have a message to communicate. Some people just like to draw pretty pictures, and there's nothing wrong with that.
In the illustration above, I've decided to show a witch at the beginning of her mischievious night. The figure is in a ponderous mood reflected by the body position, facial expression, and eyes. The environment is also in a someone static and indecisive pose. I drew this with my new Copic pencil (an AMAZING new tool!), inked it with a Chinese bamboo brush dipped in sumi ink, and colored it in Corel Painter 12.
If you've been following one of my other blogs, you know the first part of a major Wandering Koala epic is over. Above is a possible cover for the collection. I drew it with a Prismacolor Brush Marker which gave me a really nice line. I'm not sure if I'm in love with the coloring though. What do you think?
I just finished the last two illustrations for the first book of the ongoing Wandering Koala eSerial at WanderingKoalaTales.blogspot.com. I can't believe it's done! I still need to create a cover and color one or two more illustrations before I publish it in print and eBook format as Wandering Koala Digest 4, but the blog parts are finished and scheduled. And after the first part of the story is finished, they'll be a few days of bonuses, so be sure to check back for those.
So what's next? The next book in the series, of course, although I think I'll go back to the Picture Prose format I used in The Caveman Conspiracy, because I really like it and think it will work best for what's coming next. I'm not sure if I'll have it ready to go when the bonuses run out, but I'll try.
So, have you been following the story? What did you think? Leave a comment and let me know.