Breathing Lines

Breathing Lines is an exercise in drawing straight lines across a page. Each line is done in time with your breath, giving you a calm and meditative experience of daily practice.

Progressing through three mediums, graphite pencil, charcoal and then Chinese brush and ink, Breathing Lines will challenge you to gain more control over your materials.

So often, we fail to get started because we’re so scared of messing up that we can’t bring ourselves to make that first mark.

This exercise will get you started putting pencil, charcoal or brush to paper every day in a non-threatening and low pressure exercise that will help you to build your daily practice habit.

Why we’re doing it:

  1. To build our ability to focus. The relaxed, gentle focus that this exercise develops is the most effective frame of mind for any kind of drawing.
  2. To develop our motor skills, developing a stronger connection between your brain and your hand.

Breathing Lines is also a good warm up. The concept of warming up isn’t common in the visual arts, but it makes your practice sessions much more effective and helps your work go more smoothly if you take a little time to prepare your mind first.

How to do it:

Reading about it may make it sound simple. It’s common, though, for people to find it quite difficult to get any kind of straightness and control to their lines when they first start.

So be prepared. You might be a little surprised by how little control you have over the materials initially; particularly over charcoal and brush and ink. But stick with it for a while, and you’ll see your control improve. That will then come out in everything you do.

I recommend you do the three stages of Breathing Lines in order, spending as long as you need on each one to be able to make strong, even lines.

1. Pencil

Start simple with a familiar medium. This will let you ease in to the exercises without threatening to disrupt your regular practice habit.

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2. Charcoal

Move on to charcoal. You’ll find this more challenging at first, especially if you haven’t used charcoal much, but stick with it and you’ll soon develop the control to allow you to forget about the medium and just draw.

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3. Brush and Ink

This is by far the most challenging medium to work with. Expect to find it very difficult in the beginning. Know that it’s like that for everybody at first!

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4. Further Line Practice

Once you’re comfortable with the above three stages, move on to producing longer lines in brush and ink. Whilst you won’t be able to do this stage in time with your breath (without asphyxiating!) the exercise stretches your focus a little further.

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