Basic Art Element — Line

A line 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 pattern when combined with other lines.

A line is a basic building block* of all visual art. They are very important to a composition as lines perform a number of functions. They can be used to divide the composition, direct the viewers gaze, define shapes, and/or 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.


Texas Flag Barn canvas art“Texas Flag Barn”
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
20″ x 16″
Oils on gallery wrap stretch canvas

>> More info


Types Of Lines

  • Horizontal lines
    • suggest landscape and the horizon
    • impart a sense of peacefulness, vastness, stability and constancy
    • associated with earth bound things and suggest a feeling of rest or repose
  • Vertical lines 
    • 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
  • Diagonal lines 
    • suggest depth and the illusion of perspective that pulls the viewer into the painting
    • appear to being 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
  • Curved lines
    • sweep and turn gracefully between end points and is another type of line that the eye like to follow
    • provide a greater dynamic influence in a picture
    • are more aesthetically pleasing, as they 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.
  • Organic lines
    • 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
  • Implied lines
    • don’t actually exist at all and can not be shown visually
    • are lines created by values, colors, textures or shapes that guide the eye though 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)
  • Contour lines 
    • define the edges of objects and also the edges of negative space between objects
    • create boundaries around or inside an object
  • Geometric lines
    • 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.

Homework

Draw an example of each type of line as described above.

Your Next Art Lesson

If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.

The Basic Elements of Art (Introduction)

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 1

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 2

Basic Art Element — Form

Basic Art Element — Line

Basic Art Element — Shape

Basic Art Element — Space

Basic Art Element — Texture

Basic Art Element — Value

The Basic Elements of Art

Learning about the basic art elements and how they work in conjunction with the principles of good design.

The basic elements of art are the “building blocks” used to create any visual art piece. The elements are color, form, line, shape, space, texture and value. Without them, it would be impossible for an artist to create art. Every artist, whether they realize it or not, uses at least two or more of these elements in their art-making. For example, in sculpture an artist uses both space and form, and a painter will utilize line and shape when creating a painting.


still life oil paintingThe Study
Still life by Teresa Bernard
14″ x 11″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Defining The Elements

  • Color — A pigment used in artwork, along with their various values and intensities, such as the primary colors – red, yellow and blue.
  • Form — The mass of the shapes created by the forming of two or more shapes or as three-dimensional shapes when showing height, width and depth.
  • Line — A mark (actual or implied) that spans the distance between two points used to define shape in two-dimensional work. Implied line is the path that the viewer’s eye takes as it moves along a path from form, color, or shape within a work of art. Click for more information about lines in art.
  • Shape — Any area defined by edges within the piece bound by line, value, or color. It can be geometric (for example: square, circle, hexagon, etc.) or organic (such as the shape of a puddle, blob, splatter, etc.).
  • Space — Refers to the empty or occupied areas around, between or within components of an art piece. It is either negative (empty space) or positive (occupied space).
  • Texture — The way a surface feels or is perceived to feel. The actual or implied structure and minute molding of a surface (rough, smooth, etc.) which can either be seen or felt with the sense of touch.
  • Value  Shading used to emphasize form. The degree of lightness or darkness of any given color within a piece of art. Adding white to lighten the color is called “tint” while addition of black is called “shade”.

An artist will skillfully use these elements, mixing them in with the principles of design to compose a sensational piece of art. Not all of the elements have to be utilized, however, there will always have to be at least two present.

Questions

Why are the elements of art so important?

Your Next Art Lesson

If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.

The Basic Elements of Art

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 1

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 2

Basic Art Element — Form

Basic Art Element — Line

Basic Art Element — Shape

Basic Art Element — Space

Basic Art Element — Texture

Basic Art Element — Value