Author: Ian McConnell

This lesson will explore line as an element of composition

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Exploring lines as elements of a composition.

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Hello, I'd like to welcome you to this episode of exploring art history with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell, and today's lesson is about lines. All you ever wanted to know about lines. As you're watching the video feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as many times as you feel is necessary. As soon as you're ready we can begin.

Today's objectives are the things you're going to learn today are listed below. By the end of the lesson today you will be able to identify and define today's key terms, and identify examples of types of lines in works of art. The big idea for today is that the line is an important element of composition, and helps artists to define form and shape in a composition.

Key terms as always are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. The first key term is Expressive Line. A line that seems to be an expression of the artists emotions. A Contour Line is a line drawn to indicate the edge of a form. A Gestural Line is a line that emphasizes the gesture of the hand, it is often also expressive. A Curvilinear Line is consisting of curved lines, and a Rectilinear Line is consisting of straight lines.

So we'll begin with contour lines. Now contour lines are-- I should say contour lines simply define the edge of a form. Another way to think of contour lines is that they are the outline of a drawing. The line that defines the overall shape and dimensions of an object. Now this example on the right is rendered only using contour lines.

Gestural lines are lines that emphasize movement in the gesture of the hand. Now where contour lines are more deliberate and static, gestural lines are quick timely. Their emphasis is on capturing movement rather than defining the outer contour of other shape or form. Now this example on right is from a gesture drawing by Rembrandt.

Expressive lines are lines that seem to be expressive of the artists emotions. I'm using the same example of the Scream by Edvard Munch. Notice how nothing in the painting has a crisp, hard edge to it. The middle and background, in particular, begin to blur into a chaotic swirl of line and color that really enhances the feeling of anxiety or impending doom.

Now this painting also has a number of examples of curvilinear lines, which I'm highlighting here or pointing out here, which are simply curved lines, simple enough. Now an interesting side note, Munch claims that this was inspired by an actual event where he was walking down a pier, and notice that the sky had turned a blood red color. Now there had been suggestions that the atmospheric distortion of light, and the resulting optical effects that Edvard Munch was seeing particularly in the upper northern hemisphere, which is where is he lived, Munch was from Norway, that those were from the ash debris from the massive 1883 eruption of mount Krakatoa in Indonesia, interesting.

Now by comparison, rectilinear lines are simply straight lines. The steel movement of the early 20th century, which falls under the umbrella of abstract art, produced works of art that utilized only geometric shapes, primary colors, and rectilinear lines, like ones I'm highlighting here in their compositions. So there you have it. That brings us to the end of lesson.

Let's take a look again at our objectives to see if we met them. Now that you've seen the lesson are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you identify examples of types of lines in works of art? And once again, the big idea is that the line is an important element of composition, and helps artists to define form, and shape in a composition. Well that's it for today. Thank you very much, and I'll see you next time.


Image of Contour Drawing Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Schiele_- _Mutter_mit_Kind_-_1910.jpg; Image of Gesture Drawing Public Domain http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rembrandt.fallhut.jpg; Image of The Scream Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Scream.jpg; Image of Composition V Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Theo_van_Doesburg_Counter-CompositionV_(1924).jpg

Terms to Know
Contour Line

A line drawn to indicate the edge of a form.

Curvilinear Line

Consisting of curved lines.

Expressive Line

A line that seems to be an expression of the artist’s emotions.

Gestural Line

A line that emphasizes the gesture of the hand, it is often also expressive.

Rectilinear Line

Consisting of straight lines.