Tag Archives: Optical Art

Spherical Continuous Line Abstract with Colour Sequence.

Spherical continuous line with colour sequence.  Flypast Over Rolling Hills. Mick Burton 2015.

Spherical single continuous line drawing with colour sequence. Flypast Over Rolling Hills. Mick Burton, continuous line artist 2015.

I have modified my Spherical approach to continuous line from the method I described in my Continuous Line Blog post of 9 July 2014, which did not quite reflect the reality I was seeking.

I have kept the idea that when you draw out of one SIDE of the paper you need to return at the opposite SIDE at the corresponding point, so that the pattern matches vertically and after colour sequence the colours also match if you pull the paper round into a tube shape.  This is similar to the equator on a globe of the world matching.

Previously I had said that when going out of the top of the drawing you also need to return at the corresponding place at the bottom.  I was correct to say that the colours would not match, which would be equivalent to the poles on the globe of the world not meeting, but the treatment of the lines needed to be modified.

I realised that the bunching effect of the top being pulled together totally separately to the bottom being pulled together was fine regarding separate sets of colours but matching the line patterns from top to bottom was the wrong approach.

So, when I go out at the TOP now I need to come BACK IN AT THE TOP at the corresponding distance from the other end of the top.   Similarly if I go out at the bottom I come back in at the bottom.  You could then imagine that folding the picture vertically down the middle would mean that both pattern and colour sequence would now match at the top and bottom respectively (don’t actual fold it and spoil the picture ! ).

I recently drew the following for a demonstration/workshop at Stainbeck Arts Club in Leeds.  I started drawing the line a couple of inches in from the top left side and did a few rolling curves diagonally down from left to right, followed by several exits and returns to the picture – initially out at the lower right side and back in at the lower left side, then down and out at the bottom left and back in at the bottom right.

Spherical continuous line drawing with rolling and jagged lines.  Mick Burton 2015.

Spherical single continuous line drawing with rolling and jagged lines. Mick Burton, continuous line artist 2015.

I later tried some “shark fin” curves and a couple of large jagged sequences.

All the time I tried to draw the line cleanly through existing shapes (avoiding going near previous junctions) and being aware of areas I had not visited much.  Finally I needed to work out how to get back to my start point without spoiling the composition too much (here going out and back in can be handy).

I hope you can check the route of the line through the whole picture fairly easily.  I then applied my Colour Sequence to produce the picture at the top of this post.

The first stage is my usual alternate overdraw of the line (if you are overdrawing a section as you go out of the picture you need to continue to overdraw as you re-enter, or if not overdrawing going out it’s not overdrawing when you re-enter).  See my post of 10 September 2014 for the full ALTERNATE OVERDRAW process and my post of 27 September 2014 for the COLOUR SEQUENCE process.

I have used a series of 6 colours from Pale Yellow through greens to Prussian Blue which I have tried to work out in steps of tone.  This is partly to highlight the overlap effect of continuous lines and the natural depth of the abstract.  As always, there is choice of direction of colours – light to dark or dark to light.  Here it seemed best to have the single lightest area at the top and several darker areas across the lower part of the picture.  The picture also has an Optical Art look about it.

Printing the picture in Monotone is usually a good way of checking the steps of colour and light to dark.  So here it is.

Monotone of Spherical Continuous Line

Monotone of Spherical Single Continuous Line Drawing “Flypast Over Rolling Hills”. Mick Burton 2015.

I also produced another similar abstract for the Demonstration at Stainbeck Arts Club to show the Spherical approach with a different flow of lines and colours.  I had coloured the drawing with a sequence from Yellow through Reds to dark Brown.

Spherical Continuous Line with Colour Sequence.  Forest Fire.  Mick Burton 2015.

Spherical Single Continuous Line Drawing with Colour Sequence. Forest Fire. Mick Burton 2015.

Here is the Monotone of this picture.

Monotone of Spherical Continuous Line

Monotone of Spherical single continuous line drawing “Forest Fire”. Mick Burton 2015.

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.

Black and White Alternate Shading

010. 1966-9. Cat, or Ragamuffin. Alternate shade, black. Whilst doodling at work (I was articled to a Chartered Accountant) I was already using alternate shading on some drawings.   I realised that if you initially shaded one outer area on a continuous line drawing, and then worked alternately through the doodle, all outside areas became shaded.   Bridget Riley’s Optical Art (or Op Art) in black and white, with its shimmering effect, suddenly appeared in the early 1960’s.   I started black alternate shading on some of my new figurative drawings.   I now realise that most of Op Art was abstract to make the most of the effect, whereas I was doing animals, people and landscapes.

My Lion in particular produced its own shimmering effect.
016. 1967-9. Lion. Alternate shading, black.















To extend the scope of my continuous line drawings, along with the alternate shading, I had a go at a landscape based upon the countryside where I grew up near Ripon and called it Skelldale.   I could walk along the banks of the River Skell upstream to Fountains Abbey.

006. 1966-7. River, Skelldale. Alternate shading, black.

An exception to the abstraction in Op Art was Zebras (in 1937) by Victor Vaserely, in which he used the black and white stripes of intertwined zebras, and it was one of the very first Op Art pictures.   He then became largely abstract in the 1950’s.   He was unknown to me until several years after I started in 1965.

This was In about 1971 when I walked past Christies Auction house in London, when taking my pictures to an exhibitions agent, and I saw through a window some black and white abstract drawings which had a similarity to mine.   I went in and was amazed at the variety of drawings, so many having aspects which I had experimented with.   The lowest estimate was £14 and I considered leaving a bid, but I decided that it was a lot of money (then) and that I had similar ones at home (stupid boy).   A week or so later I read in the newspaper that Vaserely had been selected to design the emblem for the next Olympic Games (1974).   I should have left that bid !