A few months back, I published a post featuring a few drawing exercises designed to help artist learn better line control. That post and another featuring curving lines have been so popular, I decided it was a good idea to share a few more straight line drawing exercises.

Some time ago, I started reading How to Draw What You See by Rudy De Reyna. It’s an old art instruction book, originally published By Watson Guptill Publications in 1972. It’s not exactly state-of-the-art, but some things are timeless.

Drawing is one of them.

Each chapter represents a project, with assignments to draw and exercises to practice. It starts, as you might guess, with the most basic drawing element: the line.

The first project was drawing straight lines. Freehand.

I’ve always said I can’t draw a straight line with a straight edge. I have the evidence to back that up. Plenty of it. So I was skeptical when Mr. De Reyna said anyone could learn to draw a straight line.

But I’ve done enough practice with line exercises for straight lines and curving lines, that I decided the line drawing exercises in the book were worth a try. Below is one page of practice for the first exercise.

Freehand Line Drawing 01

I’d like to point out a couple things about these lines. First of all, most of them are fairly straight. They aren’t parallel, but that wasn’t part of the exercise. The exercise was drawing straight lines.

I also paid attention to the direction I was drawing. See the arrows on the ends of some of the lines? That’s the direction the pencil moved across the paper. For the most part, I drew from left to right. That’s no surprise. I’m right-handed and drawing left to right is natural.

I drew the vertical lines and diagonal lines by turning the paper.

What was surprising was that in some cases, it was just as easy to draw right to left. Look at the lines below. I drew every other line left to right. But rather than go back to the left and draw the next line, I drew it right to left. Much to my surprise, those lines are as straight as those drawn left to right.

In the end, the direction in which I drew didn’t make that much difference.

Freehand Line Drawing 01b

Following is the second page of lines.

For this exercise, I not only tried to draw straight lines; I tried to make them parallel. I also tried to connect them to create shapes. The longer lines outlining the series of inset triangles are the result. I drew all of those lines left to right.

Then I began filling in the smaller spaces by turning the paper and drawing more lines in random patterns.

Freehand Line Drawing 02

This section of lines (below) represents another discovery. It was easier to draw from top to bottom, moving the pencil toward me, than it was to draw left to right.

Freehand Line Drawing 03

This is an important discovery because it verifies what I’ve observed about my drawing habits for quite some time. Whenever I’m drawing repeating strokes to draw something like grass or hair, I usually turn the drawing in whatever direction is necessary to allow me to stroke toward myself and still draw a ‘bottom-up’ stroke (from the bottom of the blade of grass or strand of hair to the tip of it).

That might seem like a small thing, but imagine you’re working on a larger piece with a lot of grass. Your hand will fatigue from the constant and repeating motion unless you take a lot of breaks or find another way to draw. Such as changing the direction of the stroke. Stroking away from yourself instead of toward yourself.

Understanding this type of drawing mechanics will help me work more on those kinds of drawings. I can give my drawing hand a break without stopping work just by turning the paper and changing stroke direction.

And here I thought I was just doing a couple of line drawing exercises!

The bottom line? No time you spend drawing is wasted, even if all you do is put lines on a page.

So do some line drawing exercises and see what happens!