A line is a basic element of art. It is a long, narrow mark or band connecting two points. It has one dimension — length. When two ends of a line meet, a shape is created. Lines can suggest forms by creating volume. Lines can also create textures and patterns when combined with other lines.
A line is a basic building block of all visual art. It is essential to a composition since a line can perform a number of functions. It can divide the composition, direct the viewer’s gaze, define shapes, and make a statement.
Lines allow the artist to direct the viewer’s eye into and around the composition along a path from form, color, or shape within a work of art. They can vary in width, direction, and length, and they often define the edges of a form. Lines can be horizontal, vertical, diagonal, straight, curved, thick, or thin.
Types Of Lines
- suggest landscape and the horizon
- impart a sense of peacefulness, vastness, stability, and constancy
- associated with earthbound things and suggest a feeling of rest or repose
- are perpendicular to the horizon and stretch from the earth to the heavens
- communicate a feeling of solidity, loftiness, and spirituality
- impart a sense of height, grandeur, and formality
- gives the impression of dignity that extends upwards toward the sky beyond human reach
- suggest power with a strong foundation
Horizontal and vertical lines used in combination
- are structurally stable and are not likely to tip over
- communicate stability and solidity
- suggests permanence, reliability, and safety
- suggest depth and the illusion of perspective that pulls the viewer into the painting
- appear unbalanced, either rising or falling, neither vertical nor horizontal
- convey action, movement or direction, restless and uncontrolled energy
- can appear solid and unmoving if they are holding something up or at rest against a vertical line or plane
- sweep and turn gracefully between endpoints and is another type of line that the eye like to follow
- provide a more significant dynamic influence in a picture
- are more pleasing to the eye
- are associated with comfort, familiarity, relaxation, softness, and sensuality
- can also communicate confusion, turbulence, even frenzy, as in the violence of waves in a storm, etc.
- occur in nature and are associated with things from the natural world, like plants and animals
- are irregular, curved, and often fluid
- convey a sense of gracefulness, dynamism, and spontaneity
- don’t actually exist and can not be shown visually
- are created by values, colors, textures, or shapes that guide the eye through the piece of artwork
- are what is implied in the mind’s eye when we see and mentally fill in the spaces between objects
- are created with directional elements such as shape, hand gesture, eye contact, or gazing in a direction (even off-canvas)
- define the edges of objects and also the edges of negative space between objects
- create boundaries around or inside an object
- are mathematically determined
- are rarely found in nature but often found in man-made constructions
- have regularity and hard or sharp edges
- convey a sense of order, conformity, and reliability
*Click for more information about the basic elements of art.
Draw an example of each type of line as described above.
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If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.
The Basic Elements of Art (Introduction)
Basic Art Element — Line — You are here
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