There is a wealth of untapped Power in the Line waiting for the beginner artist to learn to use. Lines are an intriguing and fascinating part of art design and is one of the most versatile tools the artist has to work with.
The voice of a Line can whisper, beckon, gently guide, hug or shout, scream, shove or, smack you in the face. Lines can rough you up, they can soften you up. They can make you soar and make your head swim.
A Line can talk to you and tell you a story, a Line can take you for a walk along the garden path and the Power within a Line may also act as a closed gate and stop you from going any further. Its all in how you harness that Power.
Ultramarine Blue watercolours Lines
The expressive language of the Line is as limitless as our vocabulary, nearly infinite as we learn more! The Power of the Line is a fantastic design tool that is applicable and of value not just to drawing artists but to the colourists, the painters as well.
There are innumerable types of Lines, but some of the ones I most commonly will use are: soft blurred lines, hard sharp lines, broken edge lines, solid lines, vertical, diagonal, horizontal, curved lines, jagged lines, straight lines, implied lines, coloured lines, gradated lines. Each of these Lines say something different and unique.
Every type of Line will be unique for each person who uses it. We each ‘stamp’ our individual voice into it every time we create a Line. As we create our Lines, it becomes our language. Just like our verbal language, we have inflections, tone, patterns of speech, word choice preferences – so too, will we develop Line inflections, tone, patterns and type preferences.
1. Soft lines create depth background and distance; they’re much more ‘welcoming’ and inviting – They are Soft! Soft edges give respite to the eye, so that when there’s been a hard edge leading us along briskly, the softer blurred edge will give us rest. But the eye will still be moving through the painting, just much slower, gentler. The soft edge creates balance and harmony.
2. Hard sharp lines draw the eye in. They will act as flags and guideposts to direct your eye towards a ‘something’…. that something, is what you need to have predetermined in advance. A short series of hard sharp lines will act as arrows and if spaced sufficiently enough apart, will also allow the viewer a bit of time to briefly pause, before their eye travels to that next Arrow (hard sharp edge) guiding them along the journey through the painting on the route you have planned for them to travel.
3. A solid, thick, unbroken line can be quite dramatic. They can “lead the eye” to where the artist directs. They can be Overwhelming. It can take over. Often, the solid unbroken lines done without discretion will give the look of a colouring book outline. These lines need a great deal of judicious planning and kept to a minimum, so they don’t take over. My example “Leading Lines” in oils illustrates the nature of solid unbroken lines. They Lead. They are quite dominant.
4. Broken lines create more visual interest, provide texture, help guide the eye gently, helps avoid repetition. These also help beginners to not be too stiff and tight when drawing and painting. The example I chose below in oils, the white paint broken against the blue paint does create a great texture and makes for more interest in that Line. Broken lines have a way of inspiring us to be freer, looser, to paint more boldly! Because we aren’t subconsciously worried about “going outside the lines.” This is an extremely – important factor for beginners.
5. Vertical lines ‘uplift’ lead the eye up, they will also create more energy to the painting. Horizontal lines will smooth and calm the eye, creating a sense a serenity and peacefulness. Diagonal lines can be quite vigorous, active. They give a lot of Energy. I think a good design is a balanced ratio of all three of these. Try not to have only horizontals…… this may put the viewer to sleep! All verticals could possibly be inferred as ‘prison bars’ and an all diagonal design – oh my – let Chaos Reign!! You get the idea.
6. Jagged lines work along a similar thought as the diagonal lines; very active, very aggressive. Use wisely. Less is more. They will evoke a response from the viewer. So you want to make sure, that is the response you are aiming for.
7. Curved lines are quite the opposite. Flowing, soft, gentle, inviting, peacefulness, gracefulness… all these spring to mind when viewing the curved line. When you look at my image Equine Lines in Indigo, the curved lines evoke a lovely flowing gracefulness and elegance to the horse.
By understanding and harnessing the Power of the Line you can communicate ideas, moods, stories with greater depth and expression. Broken Edges Lines using Blue and white oils create a vertical broken line, the broken edges provide a ‘relief’ from a stark solid unrelenting sharp edge. The broken edge gives the viewer’s eye a bit of a rest.
Beautiful Indigo blue curving lines form the graceful shape of the Arabian horse with flowing mane and tail.
Lines To Tell A Story – The Girl Hiding
Very few lines and yet intense mood, tension, atmosphere has been created. Her huge eyes peering over the chair express a wealth of emotion. The chair had 5 Lines to create it. It starts a story. It elicits a response in the viewer. Even I who created this, now want to know more. I’m inspired to find out more. Who is she? Where is she? Why is she alone? What is she afraid of? Its intriguing, how a few simple lines – can capture the imagination so.
This is the Power in The LINE.
Lines of dejection was created with 3 Lines; body, arm, head. More space behind the person, less in front increases the mood.
Straight Lines are by nature rigid. Stiff. Tight. Straight lines aren’t inviting or welcoming.
They don’t make they viewer want to ‘come in’ and visit! Straight lines often act as pointy ‘bristles’ which deters people, a Hedge that turns them away. But, the artist WANTS the viewer to come in and Look and stay a while. …….. oh dear. its a dilemma.
I came up with a Challenge. In this challenging exercise I gave myself the Objective: make an image using Straight rigid Lines, plus some dots, that created a sense of fun and movement and energy. I’m much more at ease and at home with inviting, welcoming, happy flowing lines, curves, merging of shapes and Impressionistic splashes of paint. So this was a challenge. But I actually once I got in the zone, I had fun, enjoyed the process and plan to do more in the future for myself as well as in workshop formats. They are quite relaxing and imaginative.
Lines (used mindfully and effectively) communicate and express so much more than words. Perhaps that is where the phrase “a picture is worth a 1000 words” got its start. Lines are a useful, relevant and fun language to learn. You learn as you go that there is: Power in The Line !
This has been the longest post I’ve created todate.
I hope you’ve found it: entertaining? intriguing? informative? humorous? not too long? Your comments on any of those – will be helpful for future posts and is Appreciated!