Friday, March 1, 2024

The Unique Line


2/28/24 blind contour
I’ve been talking for a while on this blog about how frustrated I’ve been by my occasional attempts to find a more expressive voice in drawing. I’ve spent a lot of years developing my rendering skills, and I think I’m at the point of having both competence and a style, which I’m mostly satisfied with. But I still struggle against the literal – slavishly trying to get as close to reality as possible. I want to be able to render realistically when I want to, and I do enjoy that type of drawing (for example, all the realistic pet portraits I’ve been making are so much fun while still being challenging). But that’s the thing – I want it to be my choice, not what I do because I don’t know any other way to draw.

2/28/24 single-line continuous drawing 

Gage Academy
has been my primary influence and resource in learning how to render descriptively. Now I’m again taking advantage of Gage’s rich curriculum to try something new: Learn to find a more expressive drawing vocabulary. The course is called “Find Your Unique Line,” taught by New York City artist Gal Cohen. (Back during the height of the pandemic, Zoom classes were essential. Now I feel OK about going back into the classroom, but online classes have enabled instructors from all over the country and even the world to continue teaching at Gage. It’s probably one of the best opportunities to come out of COVID and that hasn’t gone away!)

During our first class on Wednesday, Gal showed us numerous examples of drawings and paintings that are based in realism (that is, not abstract) but express so much more than the literal description of the image. Then we did several classic exercises like blind contours and single-line contour drawings.

2/28/24 Not coloring inside the lines is not as easy as it should be!

The final exercise was using a reference painting to make a single-line drawing, then adding color while freeing ourselves from the boundaries of “coloring inside the lines.” That seems like such a simple exercise, yet I can’t tell you how hard it was for me to color outside the lines! I got work to do. Stay tuned.


  1. I find blind contour drawing and continuous line drawing a lot of fun. I would have trouble with not coloring inside the lines too. It sounds like a fun class.

    1. It's fun but also challenging to get my brain out of the literal zone! I'm excited about the potential!

  2. I'm with ya on all counts. Even when I think I will just do a quick sketch, I end up engrossed in rendering all the details. And coloring outside the lines? Can't even imagine! As for the idea of renderings "based in realism (that is, not abstract) but express so much more than the literal description of the image", I just read an article about pretty much the same thing, where you not just "record" what you are looking at, but infuse it with what you feel being in that space. It does require a bit of letting go, but a different kind of observation too.

    1. Yes, exactly! Our instructor advises using reference photos and observation as the inspiration and starting point, but not simply reproducing what we see. Obviously, that's what art is, but super challenging for some like me!


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