Tag Archives: Single continuous line drawing

The Sunbathing Foxes are back in Gledhow Valley.


Two foxes sunbathing in my garden in Gledhow Valley on 15 February 2019.  Photo by Mick Burton, continuous line artist, Leeds, Yorkshire.

This burst of warm spring weather is bringing out the foxes just about every day. These two spent about 30 minutes wandering around, sitting and just relaxing.

Not too different to the painting which I did of a couple doing similar things a couple of years ago.

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My single continuous line painting of two foxes sunbathing a couple of years ago.   Mick Burton, continuous line artist, Leeds, Yorkshire.

The first time I saw foxes in Gledhow Valley was in the late 1970’s, when I lived near the middle of the valley and brought the dog to this end of the woods, above the Well House, and spotted a pair of cubs playing.

To see more animals go to the Friends of Gledhow Valley Woods website    http://www.fgvw.co.uk      .

Demonstration and Workshop at Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club by Mick Burton, Continuous Line Artist


Mick Burton explains how alternate shading can be used to colour a completed single continuous line.  This is Dottie, a lurcher pointer cross.   Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club, December 2018.  Photo by Chris Noble.

As a member of Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club I was delighted to run a workshop in December 2018 to demonstrate how I do my Single Continuous Lines and here I explain (above) how black and white alternate shading was applied to Dottie at the request of her owners.

Here is a photo of Dottie (below) checking out her portrait.


This is Dottie checking out her portrait, done in Single Continuous Line with alternate shading by Mick Burton.  Photo by Stuart Firth.

I explained what my approach was to drawing Single Continuous Lines.  People often assume that I start at one point and draw the line, depicting my subject, all in one go and finish where I started.  I have done this from time to time, and my cat drawing is an example, but I now complete all my drawings in sections and then gradually connect up all the loose ends.

One of the more enjoyable parts of doing continuous lines is the freedom to incorporate all sorts of patterns involving curves, loops, sharp corners, etc.  In my case doodling these patterns was first triggered when I saw examples of Art Nouveau when I was about 9 years old.   I now drew some examples for the members and asked them to have a practice.

I then explained my approach to drawing an animal.  After doing a very basic sketch of my subject, I put in key marks throughout and then start on one section, such as the head.  Next I will initiate other parts such as legs and other distinctive features before connecting up all the lines.  I do not worry at this stage if there is more than one continuous line throughout, or that the lines may appear to be crudely drawn.

I said that I would demonstrate this approach by drawing an elephant, a subject which I have not attempted for about 50 years.

The result is shown below.  At home I usually start by using pencil on A4 size paper so that I can change the line as I go on.  The result can be scanned into my computer so that I can scale up to any size using Excel.  For Dottie, above, scaling up resulted in printing off 10 A4 sheets to stick together so that I could then trace through onto a big canvas.

For demonstrations I use a thick marker pen, usually on to A2 size paper but as there is a large screen at this club I used A3 size paper.  Poor quality paper is alright as the marker moves more smoothly, but of course a slightly shaking hand is magnified on the big screen.

It is important to keep an eye on loose ends.  I realised that I had three at one stage and was struggling to see the fourth, but a member spotted it on the big screen.  It was not too far away and I could link it back in without making the lines look too congested.


Demonstration of a Single Continuous Line Elephant, initial drawing, at Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club by Mick Burton, December 2018.

I said that this was fine as an example and the members could now have a go at any subject they wanted.  Also not to worry too much about loose ends or not being able to keep the lines clean.  Part of my aim was to introduce elements that could be incorporated into their own work and to encourage people to develop patterns or techniques of their own.

Regarding my elephant, I said that I would smarten it up later at home, by making sure that there was only one continuous line, smooth out the curves, etc and show them the result at a later meeting.  Also, I would produce a coloured version at home to link in with my intention to explain my colours later in the current session.

I was pleased with the drawings the members produced and enjoyed going round discussing their progress.  Here are a few examples of their lines, continuous or otherwise, including some colouring (which I did not start to cover until after these drawings).


Kingfisher continuous line by member of Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club, December 2018. Photo Mick Burton.


Dolphin continuous line by member of Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club, December 2018. Photo Mick Burton.


Butterfly continuous line by member of Harroagate and Nidderdale Art Club. Photo Mick Burton


Runners continuous lines by member of Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club. Photo Mick Burton.


Rhino continuous line by member of Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club. Photo Mick Burton


Horse continuous line by member of Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club. Photo Mick Burton.


Pig continuous line by member of Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club. Photo Mick Burton


Dog continuous line by a member of Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club. Photo Mick Burton.


Pigs continuous lines by a member of Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club. Photo Mick Burton.


Teddy continuous line, done on a laptop, by a member of Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club. Photo Mick Burton.


Hen continuous line by a member of Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club. Photo Mick Burton.


Lady continuous line by a member of Harrogate and Nidderdale Art club. Photo Mick Burton.


Cat continuous line, with colour, by member of Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club. Photo Mick Burton.


Abstract continuous line, with some colour, by member of Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club. Photo Mick Burton.


Abstract continuous line, with overs and unders, by a member of Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club. Photo Mick Burton.


Abstract continuous line, with red alternate shading, by member of Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club. Photo Mick Burton.

Whilst members were continuing with their continuous line drawings I talked about the backgrounds that I had gradually introduced into my pictures to add to the overall composition including my continuous lines.

Rather than simply have a plain background I have added to many paintings a simple coloured pattern effect which I feel complements the individual composition.  One example is a layered graduation of colours for my Single Continuous Line of a pig with my colour sequence.  I call the picture “Pig with Rasher Sky”.


Mick Burton explaining his layered background to his painting “Pig with Rasher Sky” at his demonstration and workshop at Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club. Photo by Chris Noble.

Another background is in my “Stained Glass Window Horse” which appears below.  Having spent considerable time in Ripon Cathedral when young I was always impressed by stained glass windows.  I also read a lot of Dandy comics where Desperate Dan sometimes jumped through a brick wall, “into the middle of next week”.  Consequently the horse has a gap in the wall similar to its outline and I have not included any cement and so that the sun shines through the gaps in the stones as well as the glass.  I chose a canvas where the sun can shine through as well.


Mick Burton explains the stone wall effect as background to his painting “Stained Glass Horse” during workshop at Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club, December 2018. Photo Chris Noble.

Later in the session I explained how my colours are devised and applied and I will cover this in a further post soon, which will also include the finished version of my new elephant and how my colour sequence naturally applies to it (hopefully).      



Another Stainbeck Artist, single continuous line drawing.

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Zena – Another Stainbeck Artist, single continuous line drawing portrait.  Mick Burton continuous line blog, 2018.

For this latest single continuous line drawing, I have used my gap technique to emphasise the crossovers of the lines and thickened certain key crossovers to try and further increase the three dimensional effect.

You can compare the result with the gaps only technique that I used with my blue horse in 2012.

Horse, in Celtic style.

Horse in Celtic style, single continuous Line drawing. Mick Burton, 2012.

You can also compare the portrait (above), based upon a 10 minute sketch of Zina done at Stainbeck Arts Club in late 2017, with my first single continuous line portrait (below) based upon a sketch of Barrie done at Stainbeck in 2012.

Stainbeck Artist, Continuous  Line Drawing.

Stainbeck Artist, a Single Continuous Line Drawing from a 10 minute sketch. Mick Burton, 2012.

I have also used the combined gapping and selected thicker lines on the single continuous line drawing of the Iguana, originally created in 1971.  The colour sequence version of the Iguana being featured on my previous post in July 2018.

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Iguana, single continuous line drawing. I have used gaps and selected thicker lines to enhance 3D effect. Mick Burton, continuous line blog.

“Another Stainbeck Artist” and “Iguana” continuous line drawings will both be on show, along with several other drawings and paintings of mine, at the Stainbeck Arts Club annual exhibition on Saturday 1 September 2018.  See Pamela Cundall’s poster below.

Stainbeck Art Club poster. 20180806_113931(1)

Stainbeck Arts Club annual exhibition, 1 September 2018 in Chapel Allerton Methodist Church, Leeds.  Part of the Chapel Allerton Arts Festival 2018.  Pamela Cundall poster.

Once more the club’s exhibition is part of the The Chapel Allerton Arts Festival.   The festival lasts from 27 August to 2 September 2018.


Chapel Allerton Arts Festival 2018 – BannerGraphic18.  Mick Burton continuous line artist blog.

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).

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 !






Association of Animal Artists Annual Competition Winner !

Mick Burton.  PANTHER (continuous line drawing).

I joined the Association of Animal Artists in November 2013 and have entered two of their exhibitions so far – at Martin Mere Wetland Centre, Lancashire from December to February, which was for British animals and birds, and now their Annual Exhibition at Castle Park Arts Centre in Frodsham, Cheshire which runs from 11 April to 18 May 2014, for world wide species.

Julie Cross, the AAA Secretary and Exhibitions Co-ordinator has just informed me that my ‘Panther’ drawing has been awarded winner of the ‘Creative Creatures’ category in the annual competition.  She said that the judge, Andrew Beckett, liked all my work, particularly ‘Mayer’ the lion, but plumped for ‘Panther’ because of the apparent simplicity and pared-down nature of the image.

Joan and myself are delighted with the news.  Also my daughter Kate Burton, who is a professional artist and short film maker, has said that the ‘Panther’ is her favourite of my pictures. 

Here is ‘Mayer’ the Lion which I coloured in reds and browns 18 months ago, plus the poster for the current exhibition.

Lion in Continuous Line and Colour Sequence.  Mick Burton, 2012

Lion in Continuous Line and Colour Sequence. Mick Burton, 2012

AAA annual exhib Apr to May 2014.

Animals in My Art – How I Started.

My first Animal drawn with a continuous line was the Horse, which was based upon a painting by George Stubbs, where a horse is savaged by a lion. I used the general image of the horse, but with a calm and flowing style (rather than it appearing to be scared witless).003. 1966-5. Horse. Cont line.The Cat was drawn quickly, in about 15 minutes, without reference to any picture. My main memories of cats in my childhood were at my Dad’s work, a market garden in Ripon where he was the foreman. There were always several cats around, which were kept to control the mice and rats in the gardens. Dad called every one “Tib”. The downside was the periodic drowning of kittens to keep the numbers in check. I particularly liked one cat which always appeared to have been in a fight, and so I drew a dislocated tail on my cat. This sort of tail became a trademark in some later animals.
Cat, continuous line.

Following our April Fools Day party on 1 April 1966 (the day after the General Election) when I did my Harold Wilson continuous line, our next venture was a Pink Elephant party.  So I was asked to do another picture.  This elephant was based upon a drawing in a book of animals.  I added a dislocated tail and appropriate colour.012. 1967-3. Pink Elephant. Alternate shading.People said that the flowing lines on the Horse and the Elephant gave an appearance of elegance, whereas some animals were a bit more aggressive.  So I decided that I would draw a Lion in a seated position, with the lower part of its body at ease and relaxed, but with the head suddenly giving out a great roar.  The roar was based upon the opening sequence of Metro Goldwyn Mayer films, where the lion roars through a gap in the logo.

I have a strong memory of sitting with a blank piece of paper in front of me and thinking that I had done the Horse, Cat and Elephant and they had all turned out well.  I had not yet failed to create a picture better than I had anticipated.  Would the Lion work out ?  You just have to start and see what happens.             015. 1967-8. Lion, or Mayer. Cont line.

On the Internet, a couple of years ago, I saw a feature which allowed you to put your own face in the Metro Goldwyn Mayer logo.  Of course I chose to put my Lion’s head in there. Their Lion was called Leo, but I prefer Mayer.pixiz_4f02e0881fb14[1]








My sort of Continuous Line Drawing

Welcome to my Website and Blog.

My style has generated all sorts of reactions, often surprise and delight, and there have been many questions as to how I do my pictures.

There are many definitions of Continuous Line Drawing, and I will look at several of these in future blogs, but I will start with my own basic style.  I developed this style between 1965 and 1974 and then had a break for nearly 40 years.

Here is a sketch I did in 2012 when first attending Stainbeck Arts Club in Leeds.  It was one of several 10 minute sketches that we did, taking it in turn to be the “model”.  This sitter, Barrie, did all the composition for me and I was fortunate with the viewpoint.  I did very little shading and no shadow, but was not considering a continuous line follow up at the time. 

Stainbeck Artist. One of several 10 minute sketches from one afternoon. Mick Burton, 2012.

Stainbeck Artist. One of several 10 minute sketches from one afternoon. Mick Burton, 2012.

At home later, Joan particularly liked this sketch out of the several I had done. She suggested that I do a Continuous Line of it as she had not seen a new one since we had met. In fact I had not done a Continuous line portrait of a person since 1966 when I drew Harold Wilson.

So, on a copy of the sketch, I have penned in Red the marks which I used as a start point for developing the key features and overall structure.

Marks for single line on Artist sketch.

Then the key identifying features were done with groups of continuous lines.

Connecting up the initial feature areas was by using lines matching the structure and texture of the subject where possible. Some changes had to be made to make it work.

A general “tuning up” completed the whole Continuous Line Drawing effect.

Stainbeck Artist, a Continuous Line Drawing from a 10 minute sketch. Mick Burton, 2012.

Stainbeck Artist, a Continuous Line Drawing from a 10 minute sketch. Mick Burton, 2012.

I have always enjoyed the final stage, which includes the flowing decorative effect of the line, which has entranced me since I first saw Art Nouveau pictures when I was 9 years old.

I also show the picture after I have applied colours. My style of colours will be explained later, but this picture helps to demonstrate why I prefer to do a complete continuous line rather than starting at one place and finishing at another. The colours only work naturally if there is a complete continuous line where each crossing of lines is a clear junction.

Stainbeck Artist in continuous line and colour sequence. Mick Burton, 2012.

Stainbeck Artist, single continuous line drawing and colour sequence. Mick Burton, 2012.

This is my basic style. I have many related styles which have grown out of this, mostly related to my observations of how nature operates.

I hope that you found this first post to be useful and are looking forward to more from me.  Any comments, observations, questions or requests will be very welcome.