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4. Further Line Practice

What it is:

This exercise is the next stage of line practice. After you’ve become comfortable with Breathing Lines in all three mediums, you’ll be ready to move on to this exercise.

Like Breathing Lines, it makes a great warm up exercise to start your practice session with.

Why we’re doing it:

  • To stretch our ability to focus and concentrate
  • To increase our control of our medium

What you need:

You can do this exercise in charcoal or with brush and ink.

For charcoal, you’ll need:

  • Some thin or medium charcoal sticks, sanded flat on the end as in the Charcoal Breathing Lines exercise.
  • Fine sandpaper for smoothing the end of the charcoal stick.
  • Some decent sketch pad paper with enough tooth to take the charcoal – but not so much that the charcoal skips across the top of a deep texture. We want to create as smooth lines as we can.

For brush and ink, you’ll need:

  • Chinese brush, medium size, goat hair (or similar)
  • Chinese liquid ink.
  • Paper. Ideally this should be done on a Chinese or Japanese calligraphy or painting paper.  Mulberry bark paper, grass practice paper, rice paper, sized or semi-sized Chinese paper will all do. See the notes on the brush and ink Breathing Lines for more info.
  • Kitchen roll (or similar) for blotting the brush.
  • A small pot or saucer for your ink, and one for some water.

How to do it:

First, watch the video demo, then read the notes below.

This exercise should be done more slowly than the Breathing Lines exercises. It will push you further, since you’ll be trying for even more controlled and even lines. It requires greater focus that you will have used so far for Breathing Lines.

  1. Work with the paper slightly to your right (left if you’re left handed) and shift it along every few lines. This keeps your arm in its optimal position for drawing.
  2. Use only down strokes.
  3. Wet the brush once, at the start of the exercise. Blot off as much of the water as you can before charging the brush with ink.
  4. The crucial part of the line is the beginning of the stroke. Take time to line up the brush at the start of the stroke. Compare its position to the previous stroke. Make yourself pause at this point.
  5. As soon as the point of the brush touches the paper, bring a light pressure down on the tip of the brush. At the same time, begin to pull your hand towards you.
  6. As you draw, watch the space between the lines, not the line itself.
  7. Once you’ve completed a line, pause. Recharge the brush, then blot off the excess. How much ink you need on the brush will depend on the absorbency of your paper and the length of your lines. When you blot off the excess ink, reshape the brush to a point on the kitchen roll.
  8. Prepare for the next stroke.

General considerations:

This exercise takes longer than breathing lines. Breathe normally, or you’ll asphyxiate! I do generally start a line on an exhalation, however.

The practice example in the video demo here was done on rice paper, which is very absorbent. On paper as absorbent as this, you need to keep the brush moving at an even speed. The speed of the brush partly defines the width of the stroke.

Remember to work very, very slowly. Use this exercise to try to stretch your ability to sustain focus and concentration beyond what you’ve done before.