Fundamentals 002:Training to draw straight lines using “wheels”

In this post I would like to share an experimental approach for training to draw straight lines. [Edit 19/06/2020: To avoid any misunderstandings, please note that the use of this assembly (wheels on pencil) can be seen as a part of warming up exercises and the idea is purely experimental. Please do not expect a discussion on ruler vs wheel assembly vs freehand drawing. If you have a curious and an open mind and prefer lengthy/detailed blog posts, then this post is for you. If not please stick to using a ruler or please look elsewhere for help. Thank you for your understanding.]

In my previous post on drawing straight lines, I compiled a list of useful advice from various artists on youtube. I began with a rather ambitious plan of drawing 1000 straight lines a day, which unfortunately I was unable to do so. I was busy with making paints and learning to paint in watercolours. It sort of took over. I am comfortable drawing long straight lines exceeding 15 cm horizontally and diagonally, and short vertical/perpendicular lines (10 cm in length) freehand. However, I struggle with drawing vertical long lines (exceeding 10 cm, target is at least 20 cm) freehand without the use of a straight edge. I also want a way of keeping myself motivated and making the warmup line drawing exercises fun.

Today, I returned to practising drawing straight lines, and I came across a youtube video advertising a pen which has wheels on it, to assist drawing straight lines and circles. There were a few shortcomings with this Straight pen by Lainova/ Jetraider first, the wheels are a permanent fixture with the pen, so it’s fine as long as one wants to draw using a ball point, and secondly, it’s not available in the EU. The reviews on this pen were mostly positive but some of the reviewers pointed out that drawing long straight lines were not easy. However, this pen inspired me to experiment and I am very excited to share my idea and experience so far.

First, I would like to clarify that I do not have any intention of copying the patented Jetraider Straight Pen, this DIY setup is inspired by it and shared here for educational and training purposes. This set up also differs from the commercial “Straight pen”: 1. the wheels are larger, 2. The angle between the wheels and the writing instrument is different, 3. The wheel attachment is not a permanent fixture of the pen/pencil, technically any writing instrument can be placed using some putty rubber or bluetac. 4. Unlike the commercial straight pen, this attachment can’t be used to create circles or circular shapes.

Using parts from Lego Mindstorm/Technik, including the wheels (or in one case I used the gear cogs) I created a simple cradle/attachment shown in Figure 1. I made two different attachment with different wheel diameters.

I attached Faber Castell 2B and 6B clutch pencils in the Lego attachments using some putty adhesive (Figure 2). The advantage of using the putty adhesive is that the pencils are only temporarily fixed to the wheel attachment, and should I wish I can use a variety of mark-making instruments such as fountain pens, technical pens, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils. I will experiment with my synthetic e-sumi brushes in the future.

Figure 1: Wheel attachment for writing instruments made using Lego parts. Please note that the apparent patterns is a result of drawing lines over an uneven surface rather than the marks made by the wheel.
Figure 2: Faber Castell Clutch pencils 2B and 6B attached to the wheel assembly. Please note that the apparent patterns is a result of drawing lines over an uneven surface rather than the marks made by the wheel.

Straight lines in different angles can be drawn with little effort. The wheel attachment with the larger wheels is more comfortable and I was able to draw long straight lines.

Figure 3: Vertical straight lines drawn with 6B clutch pencil on wheels. A4 printer paper 160gsm

Figure 4: Lines drawn mostly with “pencils on wheels” in various directions. Printer paper 90 gsm.

After a few pages of drawing straight lines with these wheel attachments, I now feel that Drawing is like cycling on paper. I view the “wheel attachment” like stabiliser wheels when learning to ride a bicycle. With some practise with my “pencils on wheels” I have felt an improvement with drawing long (over 10 cm) vertical straight lines (this is what I struggled with most). I can feel a change in how I use my shoulder and arm when drawing straight lines freehand (without any rulers or wheels).

This is also great for shading, and my hand and arm doesn’t hurt as much. I used 160 gsm printer paper to practise. Of course, this is great for doing rough studies, as the wheels would I think abrade the paper. But I think it has some great potential for outdoor sketching and conceptual drawings perhaps.

I will try and share a weekly update on this experiment and if/how these “pencils/pens on wheels” improve my ability to draw long lines in various directions.

Vegan-friendly & Economical Drawing surfaces: Part 1 non-paper methods

I would like to share some information for anyone who draws and paints on a regular basis. As a student learning to draw and paint, I am using about 5-6 A4 sheets per day in various tasks such as: warm up exercises (line, circles practise), sketching (fast under 15 minutes), drawing (ranging from 30 minutes to over 3 hours), watercolour painting (fast impressionist sketches to more detailed paintings), acrylic painting and oil painting. I also use pastels and large chunks of charcoal.

In Part 1 here, I will focus on reusable resources and methods which I am currently using to practise drawing and sketching. These typically involve an erasable ink some surface as well digital devices such as an IPad. My focus is also on using vegan-friendly materials where possible.

Resource 1: Whiteboard with whiteboard markers

Whiteboard with vegan-friendly whiteboard markers produced by Faber Castell. The ink can be refilled using Faber Castell refill ink bottles which can be purchased on Amazon or in some stationary shops. In the future, I will experiment filling the whiteboard marker pens with Faber Castell Fountain Pen Ink (vegan-friendly).  I also purchased some Rocketbook beacons (https://getrocketbook.co.uk/pages/beacons-how-it-works) these are silicon orange triangles, and I use the Rocketbook app to capture the image. See Figure 1 (whiteboard with Rocketbook beacons) and here is the pdf link of the image captured and processed by the Rocketbook app: RB 2020-02-17 09.02.35

rocketbook_01
Figure 1: Photo of the whiteboard equipped with the Rocketbook beacons (orange triangles made up of silicon).

I also painted my own orange triangles with some orange acrylic paint mixed (Royal Talens, listed as vegan) with matt acrylic medium from Liquitex (vegan-friendly) on Fabriano Tela oil paper (vegan-friendly, discussed below). The DIY triangles work as well as the Rocketbook beacons. I have 2 whiteboards one is about 90 x 60 cm with a stand and I have fixed the official rocketbook beacons, the other is an A3 whiteboard with diy orange triangles.  I like the whiteboards as they allow me to practise drawing long lines and countless circles without worrying about using too many resources. It is also useful for thumbnail sketching and taking notes during the drawing/painting process as well as for R&D on art materials.

Price:  The cost for using using this method depends on your skills to spot a bargain. Sometimes you can get the whiteboards for free in various local listings. Faber Castell white board marker pens (vegan-friendly) come in a set or can be purchased individually on Amazon or local stationary shops. DIY Rocketbook Beacons can be constructed easily at home. The Rocketbook app (android/ios) is free to use.

Uses: 1. Practising lines, circles, boxes; 2. Perspective drawing exercises, 3. Thumbnail sketching; 4. Pen and Ink style drawings with non-permanent markers by Faber Castell.

Resource 2: Ipad Pro 12.9″ with an Apple Pencil

The IPad Pro is certainly the most expensive resource for practising to draw and paint, but it is also a brilliant digital drawing tool. If you can draw on the slippery surface of the ipad, drawing on paper feels a lot easier. I tried Paperlike coating for about 4 months but I didn’t like it much. I like drawing on the glass surface.

Obviously this is the most expensive resource. I purchased mine second hand for a very reasonable price listed on local listing (considerably cheaper than Ebay).  It is a second generation IPad Pro 12.9 inch (2017), and it included a brand new unopened apple pencil. Private listings (local shop windows, and dedicated local listings online) can be generally considerably cheaper than Ebay. I did purchase Ipad 2018 model with an apple pencil, but I ended up selling it and switched to my Ipad Pro 2017. I found the screen on the Ipad 2018 too small and the Ipad pro is like a laptop (with a smart cover) which I also use for typing up my notes, language learning and working on fiction projects (Scrivener plus Word). I use procreate, Artrage and Autodesk Sketchbook apps to draw and sketch. My favourite app is definitely Procreate, and I have enrolled on some Udemy courses which go deeper into the settings. I try to use the simplest paint brushes in the software (pen or pencil tools) for sketching, which then allows me to transition to paper more easily.

I like the Apple Smart Cover for typing on but its not really ergonomic to draw on (Figure 2).

ipad_01
Figure 2: Ipad Pro 12.9 inch (2017) connected to an Apple Smart Cover.

I considered various stands for the ipad and I opted for a laptop cooler. The stand is made of sturdy metal and its compact (see Figure 3). I like this so much that I purchased another one to prop my drawing and painting boards. I can adjust the steepness of the stand by selecting different angles (20° to 45°). The stand does not take much space and it comes with a storage case which has ample room for the Apple Pencil.

Figure 3: Ipad Pro 12.9″ (2017) on a laptop cooler stand.

 

Resource 3: Thick paper enclosed in a document wallet

In a clear A4 document wallet I placed an A4 sheet (160 gsm printer paper) and a thin plywood board. I use different tonal papers for practising to draw and paint. I also coloured the A4 sheet with 4 orange triangle using a marker pen, and these act as beacons for the rocketbook app. I use my fountain pen filled with some Graf von Faber (Faber Castell archival ink, vegan-friendly) to draw and sketch on the document wallet. The ink dries within 5 seconds and it does not smudge. I also tried Faber Castell Black ink for fountain pens (cost 6 euros for a bottle) but it was too runny and there were lots of ink blobs.  The sketch dries rapidly and with the Graf van Faber Carbon Black ink the lines don’t smudge, shown in Figure 4. I also made some small orange triangles and capture the image using Rocketapp. This is a great method for practising pen and ink style drawings and for tonal thumbnail sketches. I use a wet tissue paper to remove the ink sketch and reuse the document wallet over and over again.

plastic_coated_board
Figure 4: Pen and Ink test on A4 document wallet with Graf von Faber Carbon Black ink (vegan-friendly). The drawing board can be reused after erasing the sketch and ink marks using a piece of tissue or rag wetted with water.

I am also able to use Non-permanent Fine tip marker pens (Faber Castell brand are certainly vegan-friendly and refillable) instead of the fountain pens. This certainly gives me clearer and well-defined lines, as shown in Figure 5. The ink dries within a few seconds and they don’t smudge. The board is again reusable after cleaning with a piece of damp kitchen towel. I am also able to capture the image using the Rocketbook app but the app ignores the cream background. The image nevertheless is clear (here is the link to the pdf image): plastic_coated board

plastic_board_OHP
Figure 5: Pen and ink drawing test on a document wallet with Non-permanent Fine Tip marker from Faber Castell.

Variations: I also use grey or cream coloured thick printer paper or card instead of using white paper. Make sure to use the normal camera app instead of the rocketbook app for capturing the image.

 

In Part 2 (next blog post), I will present a list of paper surface which are vegan friendly and I will discuss their economical and sustainability aspects.

Fundamentals001: Drawing straight lines without a ruler, a survey and grounds for experimental study.

Drawing straight lines freehand without using rulers or straight edges as a guide is a useful skill for furthering drawing and sketching skills. Lines obtained with a ruler or another straightedge can appear very harsh and sometimes end up discouraging line movement in the final works.

My aim this month is to focus my energies on improving my skills to draw straight lines which look organic, fluid and somewhat linear. There are a number of drawing books available, and skimming through some available via Scribd (e-book subscription service) there are only a few books that stress the need for mastering the straight line. I have listened to and read both sides of the argument, and I believe that drawing a straight (-ish) line could help me improve my drawing skills.

Youtube is an excellent free resource for learning to draw and paint. I watched a number of youtube videos and took copious notes over a few days. Then I selected the most relevant ones and noted down the key points. I have critically analysed the information and synthesised key points.

Section 1: Mindset

Guideline Source
Clear your mind and focus your intention on drawing a line. (15)
Make Decisive movements when drawing. (2), (9), (14)
Using the “dot to dot” technique focus your eye on the endpoint (target). (3), (13), (14), (15), (17)

Section 2: Stance and grounding

I have to consider how to hold the pencil and what is the best way to use my arm to draw straight lines.

Guideline Source
PREPARING THE PAPER
Different opinions on whether to fix the paper or not:

Don’t fix the paper to the table, as turning the paper would make it easy to get a comfortable angle. (applies while drawing sitting down).

Draw lines in any direction without turning the paper to master this technique.

 

(1), (6)

 

(2), (3)

HOLDING THE PENCIL
Don’t clench or grip the pencil hard. Allow it rest in your hand. (1)
Both Tripod and Overhand grips can be used. It seems like it’s a personal preference. 1-17
Keep your hands still and keep the pencil still in your hand. (16),
PREPARING THE STANCE
Placement of Hand (different views)

Keep your hand in the air when drawing the lines this will eliminate smudging.

Place the heel of the hand on the paper use the sensation as a guide to draw vertical lines.

Place the non-drawing hand on the edge of the board along the vertical axis and use that as a guide to draw vertical lines.

(2), (10), (14)

 

(11)

(12)

Use the entire arm when drawing lines. (1), (2), (5), (6), (15),(16)
Use your biceps and triceps. (1)
Different opinions on the role of shoulder and wrist:

Lock your elbow and wrist and draw with your shoulder as a pivot using your whole arm.

Only lock your wrist when drawing.

Lock your wrist and use your elbow as a pivot to draw short lines.

Lock your wrist and elbow and using the shoulder as a pivot draw long lines.

For vertical lines only bend your elbow and keep your forearm straight.

For horizontal lines, stretch and bend at the shoulder

 

 

(2)

(6), (7), (8), (15)

(10)

 

(10)

 

(16)

(16)

Focusing one’s eye

When using the “dot to dot” technique focus your eye on the endpoint (target).

When drawing the lines don’t keep your eye on the tip of the pencil which will result in wobbly eyes.

(3), (13), (14), (15), (17)

 

(17)

Section 3: Drawing the line

Guideline Source
Use the “dot to dot” technique for drawing straight lines. *(see below) (1), (2), (3), (4), (6), (9), (13), (14)
Apply the “ghosting” technique which means go over the target line a couple of times in the air, before drawing lines. (2)
Using the “dot to dot” technique focus your eye on the endpoint (target). (3), (13), (14), (15), (17)
Using the “dot to dot” technique don’t draw the line pressing directly on the starting dot. He used an analogy of an aeroplane landing and taking off. Begin by touching down on the paper and then towards the end lift the pencil off. (4), (9)
“Ready, Aim, Fire” in conjunction with the “dot to dot” technique.

Ready: Hand, wrist and elbow should be off the paper. This will reduce the friction.

Aim; Keep your aim on the target. Where to start and finish. Keep the aim on the target

Fire: Quick and confident. Put the pen on the paper and make the lines.

(14)
Keep the pressure and speed as uniform as possible. (1), (10)

Section 4: Practise and experiment

Guideline Source
Draw short lines at first, then increase the length of the lines with continual practice. (2), (7)
Practise drawing different line weights. (4), (7)
Fill up A4 pages with lines to cover the page with cross hatching (very long lines spanning the A4 pages). Try not to turn the paper to master drawing lines at varying angles. (2)
Encourages the use of drawing tablets with a stylus to practise straight lines. (7)

 

Future Work

I will be drawing 1000 lines per day for the next 4 weeks to master drawing straight lines. I will show my progress and experimentation on a weekly basis. There will also be a post about non-paper methods of practising drawing and sketching next.

Sources

  1. How to draw straight line freehand, Art Lessons Online, created 7th Oct 2017, accessed 8th Dec 2019 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJkkpN7TZt0&t=2s)
  2. How to Draw a Straight Line Freehand (Without a Ruler) – Tips and Hacks (Fine-Art-Tips, created 27th Nov 2018, accessed 8th December 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haPQ3MigHYg)
  3. How to draw a straight line – freehand! – Architecture Daily Sketches (Themordin, created 5th Dec 2017, accessed 8th Dec 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFs0-mRWUyA)
  4. How to draw better lines _ Its important (Art of Wei, created 24th Sep 2015; accessed on the 9th December 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSpLMzJNSJ4&t)
  5. How to draw a straight line without a ruler part 1 (Easyjammer, created on 14th Sep 2011, accessed on the 9th December 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlG_tYryiFU)
  6. Drawing Tutorial – Freehand Lines & Circles (Joshua Hendry, created 29 Mar 2011, accessed on the 9th December 2019)(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ty4KCPZiCw)
  7. How to Draw Straight Clean Lines Freehand – Beginner friendly (TheSketchAcademy, created 03 Sep 2019, accessed on the 9th December 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuULwiz_mKU)
  8. ‘The secret to drawing a straight line without a ruler’ – Craig Houghton (by Sktchy, created 19 Sep 2018, accessed on 9th December 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNGHWr1SeR8)
  9. Sketching Basics 1: All About Lines (Reid Schlegel, created 01 Jun 2017, accessed on 9th December 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cE6JBbTvTp4)
  10. How to draw straight lines Freehand (HTD TV, 13 Jul 2017, accessed on the 9the December 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8QWGc2fxbk)
  11. Draw a Straight Line (Grant Fuller, created 26 December 2011, accessed on 09 Dec 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58gHQ_96rRs)
  12. Line drawing practice. Hard Mode: Vertical, freehand, slow (Turbinskiy, 30 Jan 2019, accessed on 09 Dec 2019)(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERF1GxiWI_M)
  13. How to Draw Lines Like an Architect | Architecture Lessons | #1 (JM Architecture, created on 02 Jan 2019, accessed 09 Dec 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1sGMKWbOAc)
  14. Joining points method for improving how to draw straight lines (David Lenon, created 18 Apr 2014, accessed on 09 Dec 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6IjKW77WiU)
  15. LESSON 1 – Sketching Straight Lines (Blake Williford, created on 13 Nov 2014, accessed on 09 Dec 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9Q-x8hmoCA)
  16. How to Draw a Straight Line (Jeffery Sama, created 25 August 2012, accessed on 09 Dec 2019)(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTDJqy1muhQ)
  17. Howto: Intro to Technical Sketching – Straight Lines (Steven Combs, created 16 Mar 2007, accessed on 09 Dec 2019)(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2k2x0OVq8A)