Henri Matisse had a signature which was all about the curving decorative line. His simplicity and elegance of line is balanced by a methodical approach with his patterns of decoration.
Matisse’s drawings are spontaneous in that he would draw in a long single line which took him wherever. The lines seem to lack planning, and proportions were not as important as contours. Light, shade and perspective were not his main focus, neither were accurate proportions as can be seen from the girl’s hand in the study above.
For Matisse, line was all! He loved decorative linear patterns and did not bother with restatements. The faces of his subjects usually had no expression or individual character which added mystery to his work.
Below are some lovely drawings I saw a couple of years ago at a Matisse exhibition at GOMA
The reclining ladies are called odalisques.
Here is an easy exercise…
Try going over the face of a Matisse drawing holding your pen in the air. Follow the shorthand way Matisse drew the model’s features. Doing likewise with the model’s dress will help you to feel the speed and pressure of Matisse’s long contours. As you do this, think of the artist himself (you can read about him in the link above) and imagine you are he.
Now go ahead and do your own drawing from a magazine in the style of Matisse.