Monday, January 20, 2014

Elements of Art: Line

First off, sorry about no posts last week.  I had a paper doll commission to complete (yay!) so that had to come first.  It was a great project and I'll share more about it at a later time....

Today we're going to start in on my "big" lesson plan for the year: the elements of art and principles of design.  This will cover several weeks and use several examples (both paper doll and other).  I find the need to cycle back to basics once in a while and hopefully you will, too.

Briefly, the elements of art are the "tools" used to create an image: line, shape, form, color, tone/value, texture, and space.  Principles of design are how those tools are used to create an image: repetition, movement, proportion, balance, unity, and emphasis.  These are the overall composition of your image.

So let's talk about line.

Creating a line is something most of us do as very young children.  It becomes the basis of drawing as well as writing, and it's a tool we use so frequently that it's hardly given a second thought.  At its most basic, a line is the connection of two points in space.  There are essentially two types of lines: drawn and implied.

A drawn line is just that: a mark on paper/canvas/etc.  Straight, curved, thick, thin, dotted, jagged -- there are endless lines you can create.

Implied lines are less obvious.  They're the line created by two objects overlapping or a horizon line in a landscape. They are less obvious but just as important as any mark.  I find with my paper dolls specifically, there are few examples of implied lines. 

Let's look at some lines in action. 

This is one of my favorite paintings! I did this years ago and, I have to admit, I chose furniture & paint in our house just so that I could hang this up! This shows all kinds of lines.  Let's do a little formal analysis and find the lines.  There are obvious ones, like the long horizontal line that divides the image right behind the front pear.  There are lines created where objects meet background, like the sides of the baskets or where the pear sits on the table. 

Here's a close-up of the section above the front pear:

Do you see the lines? Of course!  None of those lines were drawn, really.  These are lines created by the intersection of blocks of color.

Line is also the way the eye moves through the image.

The pink lines represent some of the ways that the viewer's eye might move through an image like this.  Your eyes will follow drawn lines, find implied lines, and create connections throughout an image.

You can also use lines to convey color and texture.  Cross-hatching is a technique where lines overlap to convey different shades in a monotone image.  We went over it in the Shading with Pencil lesson, so I won't repeat all of that again.

So what does all this have to do with paper dolls? Plenty!

Think about the lines you're using.  Do you want to use a heavy outline on your doll with finer lines for the details?  That's what I did with the Kawaii Kids dolls. Those were black & white so all I had to work with were lines.  Try using hatching to shade an image.  I do that with pencil, but you can also do it with line patterns in Illustrator or Photoshop.  Also consider line during layout.  Try to create an entire composition when laying out a doll and outfits.  And test your boundaries!  When I create still-life paintings, I try not to have a solid line unless it's necessary.  I'd like to do this with a doll sometime.  Try painting a doll with watercolors or in a drawing program without outlining.

Cory Jensen

I've mentioned Cory before.  His work is great and very popular.  He has a deviantArt account, Tumblr, Facebook, and you should go follow them all!  Cory excels at subtlety.  These Jasmine dolls use shape to convey line.  There are very few actual lines in the paper dolls.  But the images are clear and easy to cut around.

Rachel at Paper Thin Personas

At the opposite end of the spectrum are Rachel's dolls.  Her blog is amazing and an endless treasure trove of inspiration and beautiful dolls.  I chose one of her black and white dolls to demonstrate her wonderful use of line.  Rachel's dolls are all about line.  Thick outlines for the dolls and outfits.  Thin lines for details.  Hand-drawn patterns.  I'm amazed by her linework!

Newspaper doll

I don't know anything about this doll! I found it on Pinterest.  I'm not sure if I'm on board with Pinterest yet.  Part of me feels like I should set up an account, and part of me feels like it's one more thing to keep up with.  Anyway... I liked this doll.  It makes great use of a limited color palette and uses both drawn and implied lines.  Anything that can be conveyed in a solid color is, and anywhere that a line is needed, it's used.  Limited palettes like this can be a real challenge, and this doll manages to convey strong images that are also clear and easy to cut out.

 In my opinion, that should be the goal of every paper doll -- do I want to cut it out?  It's a toy! Play with it!  And play around with line.  I'll have a new doll up on Friday.  I'll see if I can make it line themed in some way.

Anyway, go out and explore line.  I know I'll be thinking about it more as I create!  


1 comment:

  1. Aww... I'm glad you like my line work. I think medium, for me, defines line quality. Because I work with pen and ink, line is sort of the thing to deal with where as if I was working in another medium, I think it would be more about color shapes.