Study: How do artists portray “force”?

How do artists portray intangible and invisible phenomena, like wind, storms and energy? I’ve been contemplating about this for a while, and archived a number of examples from the web. It appears that, most of the times, the attributes of forces (e.g., strength, direction, turbulence) are portrayed by passive objects, like flapping flags, tree leaves blowing with wind etc. But, sketches can portray many invisible traits, such as emotions, strength, and mood (see the following figure from Scott McClouds “Understanding Comics”). So, how can artists portray such characteristics (turbulence, strength, periodicity) with just line attributes (curvature, boldness, length), in isolation of passive objects in the scene?


To test that, I’m setting up a simple task below and invite you to sketch some strokes to portray the strength and turbulence of the wind in the following given scene.

Given the background image, please sketch the wind in the following three conditions.
(A) Mild, gentle breeze,
(B) a strong, turbulent storm, and,
(C) wind blowing in periodic gusts. The strength of the wind is somewhat in between (A) and (C).

Study background.
Study background.

Here are some samples for the three representations. For more examples of how artists portray wind with sketches, check out this Pinterest board!

1. Download the background image.
2. Sketch three conditions on the top of the background, rename the files as A.jpg, B.jpg, and, C.jpg, and
3. Email me back at rubaiat.habib [at]

Thank you very much and I’ll update the post later with the results. (:

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