Draw Better: Line

Hello everyone!

Here is part II of my Draw Better series of posts. Today we’re going to be looking at line in art. Most of us think line only exists in graphic design and animation. But actually line is everywhere, especially in our imaginations…

No I’m not crazy, most perceived lines are actually in our imaginations. The brain is constantly attempting to connect the dots. It’s how we perceive space and continuity. It is helps us identify objects. I think we’ve all see those optical illusions that create shapes that aren’t really there.

Optical illusion of a 6 pointed star

Illusions like the image above are evidence that the mind creates lines where they don’t exist by “filling in the Blank”. Our minds take the interrupted lines that don’t have a capped end and try to connect them, seaming them up to create a shape. This happens when two lines follow the same implied path. This is used in art to guide the viewer either overtly or discretely in order to create flow in a composition.

Another use of line an image is to identify a shape. For example in the image above, we see both real and implied lines working together to create a shape. With a little help of optical illusion these lines work together in an interesting way, with implied lines created by the Pacman shapes, the actual lines made by the arrows, and the implied lines we perceive because of the orientation and positioning of the the group of shapes and lines.

Within this image we see several line elements coming together at once.  We see line weight and texture. We see a “0” point line, which is essentially an invisible line. Then we see lines of a fairly heavy weight. This variation of line helps make the above image more interesting. If it was just a star, we’d be like, “so what, big deal, its a star. Any moron with Microsoft paint could come up with that image. But by using a combination of shapes, weighted lines, and implied lines to create the form, the artist here made a very interesting image, and a cool optical illusion.

line variation helps an image take on meaning

Say you are drawing a picture. Most people let each pencil mark be the same weight, value, and essentially bear all the same characteristics as the rest of the marks on the paper. While this can be used stylistically to create harmony in an image, most of the time, it leaves the image feeling boring. Take the image above for example. The artist used multiple weighted lines of different textures and qualities to create texture, shadow, shape, and contrast. Notice the boldest lines make up the borders and shading on the monk? The borders frame in the image and set it apart from what would have been a page of text, making the image feel important, while the boldest lines identify the monk as the subject of the composition. For the details, we see small and undulating lines. That’s because if they were bog bold lines they would make the picture confusing and messy, distracting the viewer from key elements of the image. It would make the image “hard to read”. However, since the artist paid careful attention, this woodcut print comes across as a well designed and delicate graphic work.

So, next time you put pencil to paper, remember make it intentional. Each mark should say what you want it to. Do you want all those lines to be talking at the same volume? Or should some stand out above the rest?

Was this helpful? Leave a comment and let me know!

Also check out my video for a brief overview of what we discussed today.

Draw Better: Lines


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