When I think about how to draw the sights around me, my mind immediately starts envisioning line. For me, it is foundational for any good drawing. And I'm not alone. When I first saw artist Steven Ketchum's work I was amazed by all the ways he used line–and line alone–to make so many interesting and surprisingly emotive works. Here are a few of my favorites.
Ketchum isn't drawn to figures that are physically beautiful or idealized. In Yesterday's Party, a somewhat frowsy female figure is depicted with slightly wild hair and dark gaps in her mouth indicating missing or rotten teeth. But the look on her face is kind, and her smile is genuine and sweet. For Ketchum, the essence of beauty is not glamor but honesty coupled with compassion for the people he chooses to render.
| Yesterday's Party by Steven Ketchum, 2010,
ink on paper, 11 x 8.5.
Some of Ketchum's more poignant, if forlorn, works, such as Sign, feature figures with multiple hands or extra fingers. They may at first glance seem grotesque or disfigured, but Ketchum offers a different view. "I imagine someone who is desperate to have affection, to be loved, and how that, in a metaphorical sense, can mutate," he says. "How that genuine need can turn ugly and seem almost aggressive or scary–an act of desperation."
Ketchum is also not stumped by how to draw people with line, despite the volume and curves inherent in the human form. In fact, he uses his drawings to play with the body in different states of action or movement. In Fall Down, Get Up, the figure is violently active, moving so fast he sports extra legs. He could be hurling through space, jerking from the impact of a bullet, having a seizure, or forcefully dancing.
|Sign by Steven Ketchum, 2010,
ink on paper, 30 x 22.
|Get Up, Fall Down by Steven Ketchum, 2010,
ink on paper, 24 x 18.
For Ketchum, drawing and sketching mastery is inextricably linked to mark making and line. In every issue of Drawing magazine, there is instruction and artist profiles that allow me to more fully understand how varied and exceptional line can be–along with shadows, hatching, gradation, curves, and all the rest of the tools a draftsman needs. I've learned so much from the artists in Drawing and I think your art deserves that same opportunity. Enjoy your subscription!