1. Pencil

The simplest way to do the breathing line exercise is with pencil. Most of us are familiar with this medium, so it’s a good place to start.

What you need:

  • A soft pencil, at least a 2B. A 4B or a 6B will be fine too, but much harder than that and the tendency is to press harder to make a mark. We want our pencils to glide, not stutter
  • Fine sandpaper and a sharp knife
  • Cartridge paper – an ordinary sketch pad is fine

How to do it:

This exercise should be approached almost like a meditation. It should not be rushed.

Focus on every line. Become each line as you draw it. It’s better to draw a single line with complete focus than to rush across the paper and produce a mess, learning nothing.

It’s a good idea to take a few calming breaths before you start.

Sitting and posture

I recommend sitting at a table or cross-legged on the floor on a cushion, with a desk easel in front of you. Make sure you are in a comfortable but relaxed position, with your back fairly straight. If possible, have your drawing surface angled slightly towards you.

Ensure that you have room to draw from your shoulder. Move your arm right across the paper in front of you a few times to ensure the movement of your arm is unobstructed.

Prepare your drawing tool

Pencil: If you’re drawing with a pencil, remember to use a soft one, 2B or softer. Sharpen the pencil with a knife and leave a long lead. Flatten the tip with sandpaper so that you have a broad, flat end at about 45 degrees. This will give you a wide, smooth line.

Now take a few deep, relaxing breaths.

Start drawing

  1. Starting at the upper left of your paper (perhaps start at the upper right if you’re left handed) draw a line downwards, pulling your hand towards your body as smoothly as you can.
  2. Pull your arm back from the shoulder. Move your whole upper body, rocking gently backward as your hand travels down the paper if you like.
  3. Keep your wrist loose, but don’t flex it. Rest the edge of your hand lightly on the paper to keep your hand steady.
  4. As you draw the first line with a downstroke, breath in slowly. Stop the line when you’ve completed your breath.
  5. Move your hand a little to the right. Now push your hand away from you, drawing another line. Exhale with the upstroke.
  6. The length of the lines will depend on how long you can comfortably breathe for. Don’t strain your breath or try to hold it. Comfort is key.
  7. Now draw another line down towards you, breathing in.
  8. As you draw, try to have complete focus in the lines. Let each line become your world. Try to make them as straight as you can. Keeping your eye on the space between the lines can help to keep them even.
  9. Continue until you’ve reached the other side of the paper.

In the next stage of this exercise, we’ll be doing the same thing with charcoal. The lines we’ll learn to produce this way will be used in our first design exercises.

Proceed to the next stage.