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What's a "Line"?

You might remember from high school geometry that a line consists of two points. How can we
extend this rather conceptual definition to describe "line" as an element in art? Your 2D design
book gives us a great way to think of lines:

Theoretically a line is an extended dot; so, if

only one person shows up, a dot is made. But, as
other people are added, with their different
dimensions and positions, the line's
characteristics change. In art, these line
variations are called "physical characteristics,"
and they can be used by the artist to create
meanings as well as to reproduce the
appearance of the artist's subjects. (Ocvirk, et
al., p.74.)

Just imagine the different materials you can use to draw or make a line, and consider that various
types of lines each will make. For example, a charcoal line will look different from a pen line.
Sand laid on a floor will create a different line than a rope hanging from the ceiling. The line we
perceive along the edge of a cement block feels very different from a line made by a brush
soaked in paint dragged across the surface of a canvas.

What do lines do? .

LINE is a very important record of feeling or document of implied action. LINES speak: the
directional energy of both visible an invisible lines is capable of communicating messages of
speed and direction.

"Invisible" lines (or implied lines or imaginary lines) trace paths of motion across the visual
field. Invisible lines are very powerful, yet may not affect everyone exactly the same way.

Consider, for example, the symbolic or associative

feelings/nuances of:

Horizontal lines still, asleep, inert, silent

Vertical lines awake, alive, vital
Diagonal lines movement, action, dynamic
Straight lines rigidity, stiffness, formality or
Curved lines organic and man-made
The line divides, measures, and binds; a straight line is infinite, and may symbolize the path to
man s destiny. When the line is horizontal, it reflects the temporal world, and when vertical it
reflects the spiritual real. A sinusoidal line reflects motion, as in the movement of oceanic waves,
and a straight line reflects an undeviating line of conduct (Cooper, 98).

What do lines mean in art?

VERTICAL lines often create a sense of strength and balance in a composition.

THICK lines often make the work of art appear aggressive and strong.

THIN lines are sometimes read as delicate and fragile.

CURVING lines often create the appearance of harmony, rhythm and gracefullness.

ZIGZAG and DIAGONAL lines are read as energetic, explosive, and dramatic.