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Julie Mehretu: Layering Lines


In this lesson, you will explore new ways of drawing. You will find connections between your own drawing process and the artwork of Julie Mehretu.

Grade Level



Inspired by the work of Julie Mehretu

  • Unit & Lessons

Materials and Tools

  • A drawing tool: pencil, pen, crayon or marker
  • A piece of paper (printer paper, construction paper, notebook paper)

Drawing With Our Bodies

Step 1

First, we will draw in space without using a drawing tool.

Stand up and raise one arm high up in the air. Using your
whole arm, begin by drawing many different large, imaginary lines.

Or, try drawing like this while sitting down.

Step 2

Draw reaching above your head. Try drawing straight in front of you.

Bend over and draw on the ground.

Switch to your other hand and arm.

Move as if you were making a large drawing the size of your entire body, in the air.

How does it feel to draw like this?

Drawing From Above

Now let’s try some of the same techniques to draw on your paper.

You can place your paper on the ground and try drawing from above.

While Sitting

You can also draw on the ground as you sit on a chair.

Using your pencil, pen, marker or crayon, explore drawing different lines and marks on the paper.

Making Marks, Lines and Layering

Try drawing with the side of the pencil.

Explore making light marks by pressing gently. Then, press harder and see how your mark changes.

Continue drawing on top of, or crossing over, your lines and marks. This is a technique called layering.

Drawing at a Table

You may place your paper on a table and stand while you draw.

Remember to use and move your whole arm!

On your paper, experiment and try making all the different kinds of lines that you know. Make straight and curved, dark and light, thick and thin, wavy, zigzag and curly lines all over your paper.


Look at your drawing.

What kinds of lines did you make?

What words can you use to describe them?

Where did you layer your lines?

Close Looking Julie Mehretu

Now, let’s look at a drawing by Julie Mehretu.

What kinds of lines do you see?

Where do you see lines that are layered on top of each other?

Are any of her lines similar to lines you made in your drawing? Which ones?

Julie Mehretu, Mind Breath Drawing, 2012, Graphite on paper 22 x 30 in. (55.9 x 76.2 cm)
© Julie Mehretu Photo credit: Marc Domage Marian Goodman Gallery

What types of marks recede into the background? What marks come forward?

Select an area where this layered dynamic is particularly strong. Describe what you see. What do you think the artist did to create these layers?


Exploring Lines and Space
Inspired by the Work of Julie Mehretu

Writing Team
Judy Hoffmann
Kate Field

Project Team
Julie Applebaum, Senior Director
Andrea Burgay
Nicola Giardina

Studio in a School Association 
Patricia Hewitt, Chair, Board of Directors

Studio in a School NYC
Alison Scott-Williams, President

Graphic Design
Don Giordano

Studio NYC thanks Julie Mehretu and Marian Goodman Gallery for their support and permission to use selected photographs.

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