A Palm Frond

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In this section, you can see four different approaches to drawing a portion of the palm frond. These are only a few of the many ways that you can approach this subject using line drawing. Notice how each of the examples creates an entirely different effect from the others.

This drawing was made with a thin, black ball-point pen. There was a conscious effort to keep the pen on the paper, with one unbroken uniform line, while drawing each individual palm frond. The pattern of positive and negative shapes shown here was created by the overall forms of the leaves, rather than by attempting to precisely describe each form. When attempting a drawing such this, you can very lightly draw the object with an H or 2H pencil to give yourself a guide to use.

This example was drawn on a lightly textured paper with medium-hard charcoal. The artist wanted to draw the shapes of the palm frond quickly and energetically, with a fair amount of variation, from very dark and heavy to lighter and thinner. The shapes of the palm frond lent themselves to energetic, sweeping lines in this drawing. It is often the subject that sparks the idea to experiment with a new technique.

Palm Frond Drawing

This drawing was intended to make a bold statement in almost a graphic way with its continuous heavy, black charcoal line. Because of its uniform line, it is perceived in a flatter, more two-dimensional way than the drawings that have a more varied line. The strength of the line and the emphasis on the spiky shapes of the palm fronds give the drawing an aggressive appearance.

This line drawing was executed with a 2H pencil on lightly textured drawing paper. It was drawn with repetitive light, sweeping, gestural lines. The artist consciously tried not to find the correct line the first time, but rather to approach the correct form through a succession of lines. Notice how the numerous gentle lines impart a feeling of movement. The initial lines that were drawn to capture the overall shape of the fronds were left, as they enhanced this feeling of movement.

Heavy Line Drawing
Palm Frond Studies, by Dean Fisher

In this still-life line drawing, the artist used a fairly consistent, heavy line throughout. However, on careful observation, you can see subtle breaks in the lines, as well as a number of darker, accentuated lines. On many of the openings of the objects, the far side of the ellipse was drawn more lightly, along with a few carefully placed interruptions in the lines. This gives the effect of the shape receding in space. Notice that the reflections were also drawn more lightly; this is an effective device that separates the solid objects from their mirror images.

How Draw Ellipse Shape
Containers #2, by Eileen Eder, courtesy of artist

In this drawing of an elderly woman, there is a unity created, with the darker, rhythmic lines representing the outline of the face and features. The lighter, fluid lines represent the recesses and lines of the woman's face. The quality of the line is skillfully varied for visual interest, as well as describing the structure of a human head. The top portion of the head diminishes into the whiteness of the paper, which gives the effect of light falling over the form. You can almost imagine the parts of the head that weren't drawn due to the accuracy and sensitive observation of the portions that were rendered.

Elderly Woman Cartoon

Portrait of an Elderly Woman, by Shell Fisher, courtesy of the artist


In this deftly executed figure composition, Rubens has masterfully rendered a scene of a group of figures in motion by using a flurry of lines of varying thicknesses. This was most likely a preparatory sketch for a painting, with the artist working from memory. Notice the complete unity between the quality and direction of lines, the gestures of the figures, and the composition. Because of the swiftness of the line, it is as if the drawing was blown across the page in a moment. Notice the faintly drawn figures in the distance, and the great effect of atmosphere and space that is created.

Rubens The Feast Herod Sketch
The Feast of Herod, by Peter Paul Rubens, © Cleveland Museum of Art

In this economically drawn rendering of a reclining figure, the artist has used so few lines that you can almost count them. However, because of their proper placement and linear accuracy, the illusion is successful. In most cases, the darker lines are placed in areas where the artist wanted the form to emerge, but a dark accent can also be used in an area that recedes, such as the recess of the right armpit. Contrasted with the light falling on the top of the torso, this dark accent, skillfully placed, gives a great three-dimensionality to the form.

How Draw Nude
Reclining Nude, by Silvius Krecu, courtesy of the artist


A wiggly, almost trembling line was used throughout this still life drawing, which animates the objects drawn and gives them great character. There is a clear feeling for the speed with which the drawing was executed. The similar line, which changes from light to quite dark and heavy, is used to create a different local color or tone in each object, and at the same time, it literally ties all of the objects together.

Silvius Krecu
Bottles and Vases, by Constance LaPalombara, courtesy of the artist

In this sensitively drawn back pose, the artist used very simple and economic means to draw a convincing figure. There is a subtle rhythm to the line, with carefully placed darks. Of special note is the darker line used to draw the left hip and pelvis area, contrasted directly above it with the more lightly drawn rib cage and side of the torso. Because of the clear differences in line here, the rib cage tucks neatly behind the hip and pelvis. The three deftly shaded areas of the drawing greatly enhance the solidity of the figure.

Figure Receding DrawingHow Draw Clenched Fist

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