Single-Line Sketching Revisited

I reported on some single-line sketches I’d done in a previous post, an idea presented by Marc Taro Holmes in his free PDF handout, Making Expressive Pen and Ink Drawings on Location.  Marc has a new Craftsy course titled Travel Sketching in Mixed Media, an amazing follow up to his People in Motion course and he begins the course with the single-line sketching exercise.

Getting to see him actually do single-line sketches made me realize that I was doing them “wrong.”  They are, afterall, an exercise meant to loosen up your hand and to get you to emphasize the big shapes, while not becoming mired in details.  But Marc had said, “Keep the pen moving” and so I did.  The result was that each time I had to stop to figure out how to get from one thing to the next (a distracting problem of single-line sketching) I ended up with a bunch of squiggles as I “kept the pen moving.”  The results were very scribbly sketches.

Ok…just you…yeah, you, the one looking into the monitor.  Lean in close because I don’t want to give away Marc’s secret to everyone, but just between you and me [dropping my voice to a whisper] he doesn’t do that.  He stops his pen on occasion as he looks how best to get from point A to B between objects.

And so, I was out doing more single-line drawings.  I’ve also decided that I’ve got to learn, once and for all, how to draw while holding my sketchbook and standing up.  I really struggle with that.  My line work becomes completely out of control.

I took some inexpensive watercolor paper (9×12) and cut it in half.  These 6×9 sheets were used as I did a bunch of single-line drawings.  Each of them only took a minute or two for the linework.  Then I added some brush pen darks (another place I struggle) and for a few of them I added color.

This is a great exercise that sets the stage for the less radical approaches to expressive drawing that Marc explains in his class.  Tell you about them?  Heck no…go take the class (grin).  You’ll never regret it and Craftsy classes are inexpensive.  Here’s one of my single-line sketches.


5 thoughts on “Single-Line Sketching Revisited

  1. There is a certain …
    …. excitement and immediacy in this sketch

    Its so alive!

    Very well done you must be proud of this one, frame it and hang it on the wall as a reminder of how far you have come.


    • I’m glad you like the sketch, Alan. I’m not sure that I want a grain elevator to be ‘alive.’ I’m probably assembled wrong but I fail to see why sloppy/wonky is superior to accurate/precise. Different yes, better, not from my perspective. Otherwise I’d prefer the Mona Lisa if Picasso painted it. Anyways, while this sketch won’t find my wall (none of my sketches do), I’m glad you like it. — Larry

  2. interesting coincidence, i was thinking about taking Marc Taro’s new course about mixed media sketching. Single line sketching makes drawings alive…

  3. So funny that you posted on this. I’ve been looking into Marc’s technique and have decided to give it a shot. You hit on one of the points that concerned me.

    I’m glad to see you’re experimenting with single line sketching. I think your pic looks just grand! Keep up the good work 🙂

    • I’m not sure what point you’re referring to but I’m really having fun with the single-line stuff. For me it’s more than just moving to a single line as it’s a completely different approach from my more deliberate drawing approach. I think Mark is right that you need to do a dozen or so of them before you start to understand and execute successfully. I also think it’s strategic that Marc’s single-line examples are of coastlines, and mountain tops. When you get to more complex scenes (buildings, cars, and people) you really need to move to the 5-7 approach, and I see those as simply taking what you’ve learned from doing to the single-line and creating a scene with half a dozen single-line sketches on the same page to create the scene. I’m still stumbling my way through this, though, so maybe I’m wrong about that.

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