Sunday, 24 January 2016

Expressive Lines

Watercolour painting of a red and purple leaf and flower, Jacob's Coat Plant, by Shevaun Doherty
“The song of the curved line is called happiness.”
Rene Crevel
What is a line, and how can we use it to improve our art?

Art begins with a line.
Sometimes it’s tentative, thoughtful, exploring. 
Sometimes it’s quick, bold and confident.

Line can hit the page in an explosion of vigorous energy

Feather and sand dollar graphite drawing by Shevaun Doherty
Or caress it in a gentle, delicate whisper.

Dierama pulcherrimum angel's fishing rod watercolour painting by Shevaun Doherty

It can dance across the page with the fluid grace of a ballerina, leading the eye from one point to the next.

Sketchbook studies in ink and watercolour of a Spider Orchid by Shevaun Doherty

Brassia arania verde, Spider orchid watercolour study by Shevaun Doherty

Line is a universal language that we all understand, regardless of age or culture.

To be fluent in line, we need to see it as an expression of  subconscious thought.

Graphite drawing of curling leaves by Shevaun Doherty

Understanding the expressive power of line can lead to better art.

 Ophiopogon planiscapus, black grass and fruit watercolour painting by Shevaun Doherty

A curving line will bring elegance to any painting. 
Think of the beautiful movement of a calligraphic flourish.

Agave coloured pencil drawing in sketchbook by Shevaun Doherty

Jagged lines have a rhythmic visual movement, but overdoing the staccato 
effect can sometimes be disquieting.   

Graphite drawing of Cyperus prolifer Lam by Shevaun Doherty

Soft lines are quiet and subdued, suggesting distance and recession. 
Strong heavy lines demand our attention, and bring things closer to the viewer.

watercolour painting of Egyptian pastoral scene, date trees and buffaloes

Horizontal lines convey a sense of tranquility and peace

Graphite and watercolour studies of Aloe succotrina cactus flowers by Shevaun Doherty

Whilst vertical lines suggest stability and strength.

Sketchbook study chrysanthemum flower in graphite with colour notes, Shevaun Doherty
Lines can also be quirky and fun. 

Reading about the expressive quality of line this week has given me food for thought. 
Here are some of  my favourite quotes-

 “A line is a shared edge”
I don’t know who wrote this, but how true this is. 
When drawing something, it is important to consider the negative shapes that surround the subject. They are of equal importance and will balance your painting.

“Every line tells its own story, even the very tentative ones.” 
Gillian Redwood
Before you begin, think of the story that you want to tell.

“Line can exist without color and tone. 
Tone can exist without colour, but not without line.
Colour cannot exist without line or tone.” 
Harold Speed 

Expressive line a powerful tool. Are you using lines in your art effectively?

I'd love to hear what you think in the comments below.
If you have a favourite 'Line Quote', I'd love to hear that too!

I will be giving my 'Top Tips for Better Lines' in my next blogpost.

Coloured pencil drawing of two white leaves, Centaurea cineraria on orange paper by Shevaun Doherty


  1. Lines are lyrical! I just made that up, but that's exactly what they can be. Especially in the delicate depiction of thin, long leaves/grass, wildflowers that otherwise might look like leaves to some (thinking of Heeyoung Kim's work...), etc. Thanks for the great post! My favorite things, besides looking at your artwork in them, are the quotes you find. Wonderful stuff.

    1. I love your quote!!! I'm going to save that to my list and quote you one day. Thanks Carol!

  2. What beautiful illustrations to the quotes - light, lyrical, strong, explosive!!

    1. Thanks! There are some old ones in there. It's strange but when you look at your images with the mindset of seeing the lines, you suddenly see them in a different way. Try it! I'm sure you'll find your own set of light, lyrical, strong and explosive images.

  3. Slovenly comments and works
    Lines lead us to beauty

  4. That made me smile. I think this has brought out the poets as well as the artists


  5. Hi guys,
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    If someone want to find good and interesting stories online I think this is the best place for you!


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