Elements of Art/Line

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What is line?

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In art, line is the continuous movement of a mark from dot to dot.

An identifiable path created by a point moving in space.

Examples of line usage:

Tughra of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent

Leonardo Da Vinci's The Head of the Virgin in Three-Quarter View Facing Right

Francisco Goya's Plate 43 from 'Los Caprichos': The sleep of reason produces monsters

Different lines

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Lines of direction

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The ability to manipulate a line includes suggesting its direction. There is no limit to a created line and below are the most common and basic types.


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Horizontal lines generally travel from left to right and are relative to the horizon. In art, it often establishes a feeling of rest as well as develops a ground in space.


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Vertical lines travel up and down; they're perpendicular to horizontal lines. They often emphasize height and, in art, leads the eye from bottom to top and vice versa.


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Diagonal lines are angled and can either be an incline or decline slope. Artistically, they can be described as "unbalanced" and are considered neither horizontal nor vertical.

Patterns can be created by using any of these lines, especially combining them, and manipulating them to produce variations.

Lines of length

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Lines can be short or long.

Short lines

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Short lines are lines that only extend for a short distance.

Long lines

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Long lines are lines that extend for a longer distance than a short line would.

Lines of thickness

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The thickness or thinness of a line can be achieved by using different materials. A ballpoint pen will create a thinner line than a big marker. Thick and thin lines are used to express different meanings in the work being creative. Using both Thick and thin lines together helps pull together a more cohesive work of art.

Thick lines

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Thick lines give the appearance of strength and allow a supportive quality to the lines around them. They tend to stand out and grab the eye's attention.

Thin lines

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Thin lines appear frail as if they can break under the slightest pressure. Thin lines give the piece a sense of elegance and lightness.

Putting lines together

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There are many ways to put lines together.

One of the simplest is to join a horizontal and a vertical line. A square is two horizontal lines and two vertical lines.

Many lines can be put together to make a shading effect. An example of this is cross-hatching, where many small horizontal lines are put over many small vertical lines. This gives a realistic effect.

Putting curved lines together can create organic shapes unlike the vertical and horizontal lines which create a point.

Effect of lines

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Line creates movement and emotion in an artwork.

Lines of movement

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Lines can often give an artwork a sense of movement. For example, organic lines can create a sense of flowing movement, while geometric line can create a rigid feel or no movement in an artwork. Implied line can aid in guiding the viewers eye around an artwork, this is a form of movement in itself. The viewers eyes are moved by the implied line around the artwork. Repeated lines can create a vibration movement in an artwork.

An example of implied line moving a viewer through an artwork can be seen in Raphael Sanzio's 'School of Athens'. The structure if the building create lines that unconsciously force the viewer to move through the painting and eventually to the focal point, the two men in the middle of the painting. As you can see there are 'lines' all leading to the direction of these men.

Lines of emotion

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There are a variety of different lines in art that all protrude some form of emotions. Organic, wavy lines create a mood of peacefulness and are softer on the viewer. While straight lines can have more harsh emotion for example power or anger. Vertical lines can also depict the same more hard emotions. Horizontal line are more peaceful than vertical lines. Diagonal lines create a sense of motion.

An example of line protruding emotion can be seen in Van Gogh's 'Wheat field with Cypresses' The horizontal, curvy lines, created by the landscape and Van Gogh's visible brush strokes, sets the mood of the painting. The line creates a sense of calmness and tranquility.

Chapter summary

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