because i am a painter, i usually work tonally on figure drawings. the eye does not see contours around forms; the eye sees masses of shadow and light. for this reason, when drawing from life, many painters choose the tonal approach to drawing over the linear approach. while i agree that learning to see the light as opposed to delineation of separate objects is helpful for painting, after many years of working tonally, i have begun to feel that my work overall has a certain emotional disconnect. ultimately, what the artist is creating is work that expresses his or her own uniqueness, so do i really need to continue along a path in perfecting accuracy?

American Artist Magazine on the subject:

As prevalent as it has been historically, the contour remains an artificial construction. We don’t see in lines, no matter how accustomed we are to delineating objects with them. When I look out the window and see the edge of a building against the sky, I do not see a line, per se. I see a mass of dark tone juxtaposed against a mass of much lighter tone, and the point at which they meet creates an edge. This edge relationship might be described in an abbreviated fashion with a line, but it might also be more fully described by re-creating the tonal relationship between the two masses whose congruence makes the edge. In tonal drawing, there are edges to masses, rather than lines between them. To substitute a line for the edge of a value relationship is to substitute something that is not there for something that is. That is why linear drawing seems more abstract and intellectual. A line seems intellectual not because it lacks feeling—for what could be more emotive than a Leonardo silverpoint line—but because we don’t actually see in lines and therefore they have to be decoded or interpreted. Juxtaposed tones, being so much closer to vision, seem much more immediate.

i actually like a combination of the two, lines and tone. i hope to develop my drawings much further with the hope of emphasizing expressiveness; less literal, more experimental.

my lines are brown china marker and white conte pencil on pastel paper


Jeremy Elder said...

I prefer tone too. Using charcoal like you would paint is just so fun. Of course, sometimes line is needed to delineate when you can't use color or value. Your drawing has a wonderfully soft balance of tone and line.

Jamie Baker said...

This is lovely, Julia.

because I am a cartoonist, line has always been my way of drawing. I am only now learning (or trying) to see the world without lines (which aren't really there anyway). For some reason that is very hard for me.

:::Julia Lundman::: said...

I keep meaning to retake this photo. The photo is not very good...damn iphone camera!

well, for many years I had felt that line drawing was not necessarily reality, and being a realist painter I felt that tonal drawing was the best for me in that it reinforced learning to see form rather than contour.

lately I have felt that line drawing is far more expressive and interesting for the viewer. i love cartoonists and always have for their sheer ability to interpret. so much personality comes through. isn't that the whole point in the end?

susan said...

What a thoughtful discussion. As a non-artist, I think when I look at the world I do see tones overall. But when I look at paintings I think I see lines more predominately--maybe because I've always thought that lines were an artist's main tool and so I am on the look-out for them!

Mario said...

Hi Julia, I've read your comment on Mr Gurney's blog, and your kind comment on my blog - thank you for that.
If you want to experiment with lines, I modestly suggest that you do some (realistic) drawings relying only on lines of different strengths, no tone at all. Line itself can suggest three-dimensional form. Also, find your favourite line - some people have wonderful clean lines, other people have very different ones.

Out of topic, I was really impressed by your use of color in your oil paintings.

:::Julia Lundman::: said...

Hi Mario,

Thank you! Yes, I read James Gurney's blog and make comments on occasion. He is a really skilled illustrator - one of my favorites. I like his blog, too, for all the information he provides to artists. Quite an interesting guy, isn't he? :)

Oh, well, the balance between line and tone is always something i think about. I have looked a lot lately at some illustration art that inspires me to take a more exaggerated interpretive stance on life drawing as well as painting. I think aritsts go through phases of questioning their work, which is where I am at currently.

Thanks again for the comments, Mario!


Marcelo Braga said...

Nice sketch!

Gerald said...

There's such a softness/dream-like feel in your life drawings. It's so wonderful. Thank you for the subject matter you also discussed. I too, get caught up in lines and tones :)