zen japanese  |  simple line technical zen zany



The ‘clean styles’, these are my four minimalist styles where it’s mainly about the line.

Zen Japanese is a decorative style, leaning heavily on Japanese drawings and the peace they evoke. The subject doesn’t always need to be Japanese; it’s useful for Art Deco drawings too. It is usually a line of uniform thickness.

Simple Line
just explains it clearly with no fuss. Good for ‘how-to’ illustrations. Here too, the hand needs to be steady. It differs from Technical in that there is little dependence on the computer, except for the straight lines. So I produce a patient and serene mood for these, by listening to gripping stories. 

is as perfect as human hand plus machine can produce. My sister once observed that when perfection is possible, perfection is expected. The machines are beautiful… 

Zen Zany is distorted and funky, but not as extreme as Grobby. This style is fun but it takes itself very seriously. Lines can not wobble, deviate or be diverted from delivering the funny.




zen japanese

One of the ‘clean’ minimalist styles, Japanese Zen is inspired by posters like those of Hokusai.

Zen Japanese also has a line usually of a consistent width throughout.

Where there is a line, that is. Sometimes I depend on pure shapes, as with the wave depiction.

There is also sometimes a picture that straddles more than one style, as in the Winterman poem illustrations which are a mix of Zen Japanese and Tinted Strokes. Since the Zen Japanese collection was a bit sparse, they came here.


simple line

Simple Line is the basic version of the five ‘clean’ or minimalist styles.

Accessible to the young/adult new reader or a conservative market, it is useful for its clarity. 

Simple Line is restful and gives itself no airs. It just gives the facts without too much fuss. I seldom add texture, shading or highlights, but could show distance with grey lines. Another option is to use thinner lines (but still of an unvarying width) for distant objects/subjects. 

Use this style for ‘how-to’ drawings, (e.g. ‘stages of spinning’), to make things clear and accessible. All in all, it’s a useful style and works even better with solid slabs of colour. One client calls it the colouring-in book style, which describes it very well too. For school workbooks, the line illustrations can be coloured in by the learners. No grey areas or shading get in the way. The simple line may be easy to take in. But it’s one of the most difficult styles to get right. Every detail needs to be accurate. No loose, expressive lines here. One has to draw it the way it is. A head too small, a hand too big – it shows up immediately!

Choose this style if you have something complex to describe. Abstract shapes, distortion of the human body and other funkiness would confuse conservative audiences. They will turn to something else. Something with a simple(r) line.




The Technical style is more perfectly geometrical and accurate than the Simple Line style.

The Technical style is good for subjects dealing with anything that needs to be rendered geometrically perfect.

There’s no soul to it because none is required. Computer-related subjects, science, technology, math, geometry, and other abstract subjects need this style. Some may argue that the word technical speaks more about the subject than the style. This could be true. But common to all these illustrations is that the lines are precise and not organic. In the technical style, accuracy is the main feature. It is in the ‘simple’ or minimalistic, clean family because of the unvarying width of its lines, whether thick or thin. It doesn’t get thicker and thinner to indicate the weight, light direction, aerial perspective, i.e. distance, etc. Nor does it usually become lighter or darker.

The technical style has its distinctive beauty in the harmony of its geometrical accuracy. Geometry, like music, is timeless and is a language all on its own. In this way, it’s like the ‘languages’ understood by mathematicians, technicians, musicians, computer programmers.

Every such practitioner can ‘speak’ to others familiar with that language. When two mechanics or musicians get together, they can work on the same project even though they may not share the same spoken language.

The language of geometry encapsulated in the pyramids speaks across the centuries to modern-day scientists and astronomers. It is this kind of logic that is so beautiful in a geometrical or technical drawing or diagram. And of course, computer programs and their great drawing tools make it all so easy. Still time-consuming maybe, but the alternative is too ghastly to think about.

But for an example that contradicts everything said here… there’s this post.


zen zany

Zen Zany is the funkiest of the ‘clean’ minimalist styles.

With Zen Zany, the line remains the same width as with the Zen JapaneseSimple Line and the Technical styles, but there the similarity ends. This is a style for the more urban, westernised reader.