The line is one of the seven elements of art, along with shape, color, texture, form, value, and space. These elements are building blocks of all art and are a great place to start when trying to interpret the created pieces. The seven elements offer insights into the artist’s unique style and are fingerprints of the individual expression of the author. The power of line art to show us the inner life of the different artists is a fascination since the beginning of time and continues till today. The famous quote by the painter Paul Klee “A line is a dot that went for a walk” expresses the idea of the journey and the movement from one point to the other, which creates the line. In the visual arts, lines are made when an artist draws or paints on paper or canvas, or when different materials such as wood, glass, or metal are bent and shaped. The decision of various filmmakers and photographers on the positioning of their cameras also create lines and are often trademarks for a particular filmmaker or photographer.
The line art is defined as a form of creative production that exists in various disciplines. Covering both the fine art categories, such as printmaking, drawing, painting, sculpture, it is also an important part of the digital artworks, applied art decorations, and pattern making. The images created are distinctive examples of various forms a line can take. The line can be horizontal, vertical, diagonal, zigzagged, curved, freeform, thick, thin, light or dark. Line art can use different colors, but traditional understanding is that it is usually monochromatic. Originally, prior to the birth of photography, line art was used in the form of illustrations later applied in print production, using black ink on white paper.
As an element of creativity that exists everywhere around us, line art also exists and helps to produce some of the most mesmerizing examples of realistic art, abstract line art, caricature, cartoon, graphic signs or typography. Today, we are focused on bringing to you ten artworks of some of the most amazing line art examples found across a range of art categories. Please continue reading and allow your eyes to feast upon the amazing art form that is the line.
Editors’ Tip: Walk the Line: The Art of Drawing
Exploring the fascinating world of drawing, and its endurance during the domination of the digital art production, the authors of the book Ana Ibarra and Marc Valli bring to us some of the amazing examples of contemporary artworks that celebrate this traditional form of art-making. Beautifully illustrated, the book includes interviews with the international selection of the artists and examples of their works that demonstrate the use of diverse materials. For anyone that is in love with contemporary art, line drawings and illustrations in traditional medium this book is a must-have.
The world of printmaking is possibly the richest arena of some of the best examples of the traditional understanding of line art. The monochromatic aspect along with the richness of lines and surfaces, which are used to build some of the most impressive images in art history, belong to none other than to the famous Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco Goya. The above image is an example of Goya’s etching belonging to his famous series Los Caprichos. The print series, that started as an artistic experiment depict the universal follies and foolishness of the Spanish society in which Goya lived. The set of 80 prints in aquatint and etching printmaking techniques were published as an album in 1799 and today represent one od the most powerful phantasmagoric and disturbing images that comment not just upon the artist’s society but are viewed to stand as a comment on the world at large.
Featured image: Francisco Goya – Etching from the print series Los Caprichos. Image via wikiart.org
The famous Renaissance painter Leonardo da Vinci was above all an inventor pushed on by his inquisitive mind and a desire to learn more and understand the entire world around him. His detailed anatomical line drawings may not be so accurate concerning what we have learned about the human body but are the most beautiful examples of the traditional form of drawing. The pencil sketches showcase the mastery and the precise guidance of the hand. The dark sections that are build with the use of lines display the way in which lines of different directions can be employed to produce a contrast between light and dark areas on the paper without the help of dark colors. The scientific approach to art and da Vinci's need to investigate the world around him helped the painter to produce some of the most mesmerizing images of the human figure and pushed the limits and boundaries of science and art. His line drawings are still appreciated to this day.
Featured image: Leonardo da Vinci – Anatomical Drawings, Study. Image via leonardodrawings.com
Egon Schiele is one of the most celebrated artists of our time. His erotic and deeply psychological portraits, self-portraits, his numerous drawings and studies of female nudes and his portrayal of the human body, marked one of the major shifts in art history. Schiele’s raw and direct production is famous and characteristic due to his graceful black line and the profound expression. Now considered as one of the most famous line artists, his paintings and drawings of the interlaced body express the idea that a single black line on a variety of surfaces can be viewed to stand as a sketch and as a finished work of art.
Featured image: Egon Schiele – Drawing. Image via davelovell.net
Line art can emerge and evolve from so many different types of art. The famous pop artist Andy Warhol, known for his silkscreens and paintings that celebrated what was considered a quintessential representation of the American culture in the 1960’s was also at one point of his career a commercial illustrator. His famous illustrations of shoes and cats showcase how important and constant drawing was for his artistic practice. The illustrations were produced with the technique known as ‘blotted line’, a combination of drawing and basic printmaking. This example of illustration showcases the free-flowing line that seems to hide the inner child of one of the most successful Pop artists of our time, and also reflect the easy in which he approached the piece of paper and produce some of the most beautiful images.
Featured image: Andy Warhol – Illustrations. Images via warhol.org
There is a form of line art that seems unfinished as if it is done in haste but is also able to convey an enormous amount of the artist’s emotions and information of the world around us, as if capturing the essence of it all. Such is the case with the croquis, monoprints, and drawings of the British artist Tracey Emin. Her production that uses elements of line art resembles the ripped pages of a diary and display events, which happened. The lines are confessions and cut so deep into a piece of paper and an ink plate resembles scars and show us the paths of Emin’s life.
Featured image: Tracey Emin – Artwork. Image via google.rs
The black and white paintings by the English painter Bridget Riley play with the perception of our eye and follow the tradition of the Op art period. They represent a variety of geometrical forms that produce a sensation of movement. During 1961 to 1964 the painter worked with the contrast of black and white, occasionally introducing tonal scales of gray. What her work displays for us, and the reason why we have decided to include her paintings as one of the examples of line in art may surprise some but in fact, they are important as they showcase the variety of the definition what line is. Here, the lines are produced not with the use of pen and paper, ink or a plate, but on canvas and with paint and in a variety of its thickness and color.
Featured image: Bridget Riley – Descending, detail. Image via www.pinterest.com
Gene Davis was an American painter famous for his vertical stripes of color. His work shows us that line can exist without its outline and can stand as an independent colorful surface. His lines and his surfaces the artist implemented in a variety of artistic disciplines. From public art and the painting of a street in a downtown Washington to experiments with light and color, and print works, Davis concentrated his practice on the research in the repetitive geometric rhythm of a particular color and how abstract line art can be redefined.
Featured image: Gene Davis – Apricot Ripple. Image via www.francisfrost.com
Abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock is quite possibly the most famous painter of movement. His method of painting was above all an action. The drips, the dots, the lines, and the different strokes, applied from all different directions, created a net, a vibrant and vibrating surface. The lines, the surfaces, the colors, all of this put together culminated in a pure expression of a single moment of creation. This example moves us quite far away from the understanding of the traditional idea of line art and everything that line artwork can be, but it showcases that any mark the artist makes is an element of his art and that a line can be a grouping of dots, strokes, or paints.
Featured image: Jackson Pollock – Convergence. Image via jackson-pollock.org
How much more is there when talking about line art? So far we have offered to you examples of how a line is used to create abstract works. Susan Hauptman presented before us images that showcased a great technical skill and a softness of her rendering of her self-portraits. The interplay of a variety of questions such as gender stereotypes, identity, and understanding of the human body were all reflected and presented in the traditional drawing technique. Her hyper-realistic images fascinate and show how all the elements of art we discussed in the introduction of this text depending on the preference and the character of the authors can range from childlike illustrations, sketches, paintings, to the hyper-reality that stares back in the face.
Featured image: Left: Susan Hauptman – Self Portrait with Branch / Right: Susan Hauptman – Self Portrait with Bow. Images via forumgallery.com
Today, the rise of the technology and the power of all the different tools an author can use to create his/ her work differs greatly from the humble beginnings of old masters. Their lines, created on pieces of paper, or on a variety of different materials, today exist as joined dots on computer screens, as marks made by a computer pen. With the help of technology, some lines are invisible to the artist himself, whose movement in space can create light lines that move around him. The precise straight line, the free-flowing curved line, the line made up of dots, drips, surfaces of color today artists can create to outstand the yellowing of old pieces of paper or canvases used in history. One can only imagine what the future brings for line artists.
Featured image: CSM Software – Digital Worm Hall. Image via csmsoftware.com