Thursday, 29 December 2011

Elephant No. 88: Continuous-Line Drawing

Today I thought I'd try something I'm not sure I've ever tried for more than a small doodle: continuous-line drawing.

Continuous-line drawing, as the name suggests, involves drawing something without lifting the pen or pencil from the paper. Closely related to contour drawing and blind-contour drawing, continuous-line drawing usually results in sketch-like outlines—although there are also continuous-line drawings made with a series of concentric lines of various weights, creating something that looks vaguely numismatic or philatelic.

Continuous-line drawing from 1884, published
by Knowles & Maxim.

For today's elephant, I decided to use a black Faber-Castell Pitt artist pen. I rarely use these because they make fat lines, and I'm not big on fat lines. For this particular exercise, however, I thought it would be helpful to have various weights of line to work with, in case I decided to give the drawing extra dimensionality. I'm not sure if that's cheating on the purest form of the continuous-line-drawing concept, but if cheating it be, then cheater I am.

Obviously, since I'm drawing this in a continuous line, there won't be any photographs of the various stages, but perhaps that's a mercy to people who don't care all that much about process. If so, this is your lucky day!

Because this was astonishingly easy, I did three drawings. The first was done just to get a feel for the technique. This was drawn on the fly and looks pretty primitive, but I kind of like it. I started at the eye and ended up at the base of the tusk.

The second elephant was also drawn on the fly, but with a little more thought. This time, I started at the top of the head and went back towards the ear first, ending up in the strings of the tassel.

For the third drawing, I thought I'd try drawing from a photograph. This is the photograph I chose.

African elephant in stream.

And this is my continuous-line drawing, made from that photograph. This time I started at the top of the head and went for the ear on the right first, ending up with the blade of grass closest to the elephant.

I really liked this activity, and will try it again sometime. It forces you to think ahead as to where your pen needs to go next, but is otherwise not terribly demanding—and it's fast, at an average five minutes per drawing. I may even try one of those concentric drawings next time.

Elephant Lore of the Day
In addition to never forgetting a slight or injury, elephants also maintain a mental map of their entire range. For most elephants in Africa, this means that they know the terrain of an area measuring over 3,000 square kilometres, or nearly 1,250 square miles—if you're American, an area approximately the size of Rhode Island.

Within this territory, elephants will remember the precise locations of watering holes, sources of food and minerals, roads, obstacles such as rivers and mountains, and human settlement. Studies on radio-tracked elephants have shown that they will unerringly return to specific areas, along specific routes, no matter how far they wander over the course of a year.

Although some of this ability is likely due to the inbuilt directionality of most animals, elephants also seem to learn quickly from their mistakes and successes. They avoid areas where bad things have happened—such as the culling of their herd; and are likely to return to areas in which good things have happened—such as a successful raid on a banana plantation.

To Support Elephant Welfare 
World Wildlife Fund 
World Society for the Protection of Animals 
Elephant sanctuaries (this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information on a number of sanctuaries around the world) 
Performing Animal Welfare Society
Bring the Elephant Home 
African Wildlife Foundation

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