Monthly Archives: July 2014

Continuous Line Zebra

I visited Yorkshire Wildlife Park in June 2014, along with fellow members of the Association of Animal Artists.  It was an introduction viewing of the animals to be followed up by an Exhibition of our paintings which took place at the Park on Saturday 26 July.  Tigers, Lions, a Leopard and the Zebras were particularly impressive in their large enclosures. 

I have aways been keen to draw a Zebra in my style but the stripes are such a strong feature that I could not work out a way of doing the animal justice with my crossover continuous lines.  Of course I had seen prints of Victor Vasarely intertwined Zebras, done before the war, which helped kick start Optical Art.

Zeus, 5 year old stallion Zebra at Yorkshire Wildlife Park

Zeus, 5 year old stallion Zebra at Yorkshire Wildlife Park

Here is my photo of Zeus, a 5 year old stallion Zebra (with a brown nose). 






I decided that I could use a continuous line, without any crossovers, to follow the pattern of the stripes as far as possible.  As the background of my picture is white, the gaps in the lines around black stripes allow the white to flow through and become white stripes.



Zeus, Zebra at Yorkshire Wildlife Park

Zeus, single continuous line drawing of Zebra at Yorkshire Wildlife Park


Of course I like to have a separate picture of the continuous line drawing without any shading  or colour and I considered calling this version “Albino Zebra”.  However, on searching this phrase on Google it turns out that there is only one albino Zebra in captivity in the world and that is in Hawaii (and this is not really an albino but a White Golden Zebra with a lack of pigment in its stripes).  In the wild the stripes are pretty essential for camouflage and “albinos” do not survive for long.  The Hawaii Zebra is a female called Zoe and so is smaller (and a bit scruffier) than Zeus.  I therefore had to do a specific continuous line drawing of Zoe with a faint slate colouring.

Zoe, albino Zebra, Three Ring Ranch, Hawaii

Zoe, albino Zebra, Three Ring Ranch, Hawaii.  Mick Burton single continuous line drawing.

Why “Continuous Line” ? What is the point of it ?

You may ask why I am so bothered about the line being “Continuous”.  Well here we go –    Skelldale. Continuous  line drawing.

The Continuous Line gives the drawing an enclosed flexible structure, or environment, which in turn means that all parts are related to some degree.  If I modify sections of a drawing there can be ramifications elsewhere, which may be small or extensive.  “Skelldale” was one of my earliest continuous line drawings.

When I compose a drawing I have to bear in mind that the line must return to the start point.  This is a lot of fun when I do an abstract, but for a figurative drawing it is more difficult as I am aware that the drawing will constantly change.  However, I have learned that this difficulty can help to trigger the creative force that often lies within the drawing.

This discipline of having to make choices on the route of the line, or modifying the route, can produce an extra structural effect or dynamic of movement which I may not have foreseen.  This creation of a result beyond my intention is similar to what happens in nature, where the practical necessity of combining all the elements needed in an animal or a plant often evolve into a tremendous design.

        Lizard. Continuous line with colour sequence. Mick Burton, 1971

A further result of the Continuous Line is its creative effect on colours applied.  I worked out a method of applying colour sequences which can further enhance the natural structure and dynamic effect.  A colour only occurring once can be in a key area, eg. the eye of the Iguana.  I used a special repeat pattern for the scale effect.




Flame on the Sun. Spherical continuous line. Mick Burton, 1972My “spherical” drawings, where the line goes out of one side of the page and in at the opposite side, also produce a special arrangement of colours which can apply to a sphere.  The “Flame on the Sun” has coloured areas which match if the picture has its sides pulled around to meet in a cylinder.  However, there is no such match top to bottom, where a “bunching” effect would form the “poles” to complete a sphere. 

Africa. Four colour map theorem. Continuous line. Mick Burton, 1974.

My knowledge of Continuous Lines also lead to my creating them within natural structures when I researched the Four Colour Map Theorem 40 years ago.  This single line along boundaries of the countries of Africa (from my 1950’s school atlas), goes through every boundary junction once only.  I could connect up the two loose ends to make it “Continuous” !  You can use two alternate colours for countries inside the line and another two alternate colours for countries (and the sea) outside the line and you have your Four colours.  Proving that you only need four colours for any map is a different matter !

 So there we are, my fascination with my lines continues.  I will cover all these types of line further subsequently.






Definition of “Continuous Line Drawing”

As I mentioned in my first blog, there are many definitions of “Continuous Line Drawing”, most of which refer to a line which does NOT re-connect.

One of these is that the pen never leaves the paper and you draw until the picture is finished, but that you start and end where you like.  Also “Blind Contour Drawing” puts emphasis on looking at the subject throughout whilst you draw a single line.  These types may also have many merged lines and it may be unclear whether there is only one line, eg. when shading is done by repeatedly going over an area with the line.

To me, a line is only Continuous if it ends at the start point.  Lines that do not re-connect I call “One Line” or “Single Line”.  I only use the word “Continuous” if the line completes a circuit continually.   I own a book entitled “Picasso’s One Liners” which has over 50 of his great drawings, which all start and end in different places and, correctly, there is no mention of “Continuous”.

A One Liner in style of Picasso. M BurtonHere is a demonstration drawing I did last year based on a Picasso “One Liner”.  To be “Continuous” the line would need to return from the foot to the start point in the hat.






My definition of “Continuous Line Drawing” is one drawn line which ends back at the start point and the continuous route can be clearly followed throughout.Elephant,. Continuous  line drawing.

My basic style has lots of cross overs of the line, but some artists produce continuous lines which never cross over – which is fine.

Here are the “rules” of my basic style, where the line crosses over itself many times.


  • The finished continuous line has to cross over itself at least once, but must end where it starts.  It can be drawn in sections as long as the completed line is continuous (you don’t have to amaze everyone by doing it in one go without taking the pen off the paper !)
  • Where the line crosses itself it must be clear that there is only one line (not several merged lines).
  • A line can be drawn off the side of a sheet as long as it clearly re-enters the sheet at the corresponding point on the opposite side.  Similarly, if the line goes out at the top it must re-enter at the corresponding point at the bottom.  This enables the continuous route to be still clearly identified.  I call these “Spherical” drawings, in the way that an atlas map of the earth on a flat sheet denotes a globe.

So that is it !  I just wished to make it clear that most of the images which are referred to on the internet as “Continuous Line Drawings” are not really (to me).