“Straight Line” by Susan McCollum

“Drawing is putting a line (a)round an idea” Henri Matisse

I’d like a dollar for every person that tells me they can’t draw a straight line. Artists draw lines and marks that are quirky and individual, sometimes straight but usually not. Just as handwriting is unique and recognizable for each person, lines and marks express the personality of the artist. Personality includes physical as well as emotional characteristics; left or right handedness, delicate or heavy, steady or trembling, rough or smooth, angular or curved, lyrical or staccato. Draw a line not to make it straight but to make it your own. This takes repetition; thus persistence and patience (and considerable self mercy). In time you learn your drawing tendencies and broaden your vocabulary of marks. It helps to re-characterize the act; let’s not call it drawing, call it doodling or mark making. This brings the heavenly deed of drawing closer to our own mortal hand.

Here’s something to try: point your arm out in front of you and slowly spiral outwards – you’ve just drawn. Did you draw from left to right or right to left, fast, slow, curved, wobbly, zippy, swooping? You just drew a line. How did it feel? There’s nothing to judge because there is nothing to see. You had a sensation of movement and positioning in space that is uniquely you. try doodling in the air in front of you, just let your arm and hand go where they wish. Do they flit, curve, swoosh, zip, meander, arc? What are your natural movements and rhythms?

Now gaze at something that catches your attention; your pet, a plant, or clouds. Relax your eyes to see then gently respond to the shape and rhythms of your subject by doodling in the air. Again, no need to nit-pick because your mark is not visible. Try to notice your focus and the expression of that focus transcribed by your arm and hand.

The next step can be to make marks of dots, lines, and stains on paper. Use cheap paper; practice with markers on newspaper or pens on cheap copy paper. Be aware that it takes time and repetition to know your materials and create your personal vocabulary of marks. Playing with marks is a valuable activity on its own; ; you can move onto rendering a subject on not. If you do choose to draw a subject, pick something that attracts you. Be kind to yourself and find something with simple shapes. A challenge in making marks in response to a subject is to avoid “naming” it. Think of basic shapes (like circle, square, triangle) while looking, then make your marks. As soon as you finish, turn your paper over, and start a new one. Wait to look at your drawings the next day; not all will be winners but a few will pleasantly surprise you.
Happy mark making,
Susan McCollum

Susan’s art can be found in the Townsend Artisan Guild Gallery and Studio located at 7719 E. Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Townsend, TN.  Susan is an active member of Townsend Artisan Guild and will be participating in several art events in 2019 including The Emporium in Knoxville, TN in October.

12 thoughts on ““Straight Line” by Susan McCollum”

  1. Learning (or attempting to learn) to draw is good for all art forms. A few basic concepts like this one have helped me with my photography

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