Sunday, December 7, 2008

In Search of the Perfect Imperfect Line

Although there is wealth of inspiration in Oliver's Folk Art Gallery, I was first taken by the use of line in one artist's work. Michael Banks  coats plywood with tar, and paints wonderful, imaginative l figures on these boards in oils. He then incises through the paint to make gestural and random lines and drawings. How can I better use line in my own work? What tools can I make them with? Can I be brave enough to slash a random line here or there? Can this be a break though? This type of exploration is what keeps we artists excited. What do you make lines with? What else can you make lines with?

My first attempt at my "perfect imperfect line" required that I move to canvas. Here I created lines with stitching.  My first few attempts were nicely crude and random, but I quickly got fancy. But as my embroidery improved, the rough look I was after began to fade. 

(Promises, 12 x 12, mixed media on raw canvas)

Switching back to watercolor, I was then was able to make headway with creative lines and patterns. But the pen was too easy, and after a series of 3 of these boredom set in once again, and I was ready to move on.

 (Imagination and Reality #1, 30 x 22, watercolor on paper)

So I dug out a ruling pen from my graphic arts' days. This pen allows me to fill it by running a brush loaded with watercolor across the dual points. Switching colors with this is easy. But it is a pen, and I quickly became too facile with that too. Michael Banks' gestural look was once again escaping me.  

Then I squirted some acrylic right out to the tube onto a sample painting like Laura Owens might do. That was cool. I will use this again some time. 

Next came an experiment with a hypodermic needle which clogged instantly. But Jane Filer mentioned a tool that reminded me of a big "hypodermic needle" that I bought years ago for monotypes. (Similar "bellows bottles" now available at For now, I have found my tool!
I can squirt acrylic paint directly into the back of it, and hold it in my fist as I push the plunger with my thumb. With this awkward movement, I'm achieving a gestural line that has a life of it's own. I can "inject" any extra paint into back into its tube and flush it out with my paint water with a few pumps of the plunger. 

Where will this new line take me? Look where it took me at first. Where can I go from here? 
Write me about you experiments with line. We'd all love to hear from you.
(The Day the Ginkos Fall, 12 x 12, acrylic on raw linen)


Susan Webb Tregay NWS said...

Hey there!

Myrna said...

Susan, I love all the questions you are presenting in your post. I have been having fun drawing with Cheap Joe's "Oiler-Boiler". A squeeze bottle with a fine needle imbedded in the lid. I like the fine line so only diluted watercolor or ink so it doesn't get clogged. I found a similar bottle with a slightly larger needle at Tap Plastics. Acrylic ink works in that bottle but I clean the needle frequently to be on the safe side.

Constance said...

Good stuff!
You make me THINK!
When I say to my husband that "I am thinking..." he always says--
"Does it HURT?"

Please feel free to add our studio to your list via the website.
Our classes are going well thank God! We have two exceptional instructors with Pat Wellborn and Sharon Carlyle.

Barb sold 5 small paintings in the last 45 days or so -- so she is a happy camper!

KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK and dialog for us artists!