There is not a more powerful lesson in art than teaching line. If you think about it, there would be no art without line. This could be a debatable point with non-objective art, but I will refer back to this in a moment.
Most people have no clue, or never spend any time thinking about line. It isn’t something burning in people’s minds on a daily basis. But for an artist, every time you take up pencil or brush you should be thinking about line, how to render it, the size and length of the line, the angle, is it closed or open. All considerations before jumping into the art work.
These commanding thoughts are most useful before you touch the artwork. Thinking time spent previous to working, at least for me, is helpful to work out design challenges. When planning for more than one piece, as in a series, it is my practice to think of several pieces at once. There needs to be connection as well as accuracy. But this is another commentary.
The definition of line is the pathway of a dot through space. A line will always have more length than width. At least this is what I use when teaching line. Students will “get” this concept. To make a line, you have to put the pencil or brush to the paper or canvas, make contact in other words. This creates a dot or point. From there its up to you which way that dot will move, how thick it is, where it stops, and does it connect with any other line. A line is one-dimensional create and has the power to create the edges of a shape or form. Without line, you won’t have either. Now the exception here which could be debatable, is in conceptual, non-objective art. Good example would be Jackson Pollock’s thrown paint method. He didn’t touch the canvas with brush at all but literally threw paint at the canvas. Did he still create line? What do you think?
Line being one-dimensional does have the attributes of weight (or thickness), length, and direction. Lines can be straight, curved, horizontal, vertical, diagonal, zigzagged. They also can be dashed so closely together it will take on the appearance of a line. Each dash is the line however, the continuum is the illusion of a line. When teaching this class, I draw a square on the board, leaving a tiny space between the corners. If you ask students what they see they will invariably say a square. But a square it is not, it is four lines because the corners are not connected. This is also the perfect teaching moment to stress things may not always be as they seem. It takes close observation in art to see detail; you never assume.
Line is one of the seven elements of art. The elements are the components that make up an artwork. Line is used to define a shape or form, it may also be used to create form within a space making small strokes, crosshatch, or dashes. Line can create outline, form, and volume within a shape. Line can be used to form shadows outside the form as well as within. Without line we would have no lettering or cursive. Line is the basic element of all design.
The direction of line can define a particular mood or feeling in an artwork. Horizontal, and vertical lines express solid basic strength. Diagonal lines also represent strength and are often used to be a place holder in space or another object or shadow. Diagonal lines appear unmoving and static. Curved lines are softer and useful in biomorphic forms. Zigzag lines can create tension and stress.
The term line is used across disciplines. In music there may be a line or phrase, in drama there will be lines of speech, in dance there is line in pose and deportment. In math and science line has a bit different definition but is used repeatedly.
Everything you see around you has some kind of line attached to it creating shape and form of that object. Be aware of this design element and especially when you sit down to work on your own artwork. Think of the life of the line when you first touch the surface of your workspace. Where will it go? How think should it be? Will it connect with another? Good luck!