In this sixth issue of my Language of Painting series, let's look at Line and Direction. If you'd like to review the previous discussions, here
are the links: Color --Value -- Shape -- Texture -- Size.
All these are about the basic language of painting -- its vocabulary, the bare bones visual elements that cause us to see images the way we do. Each of these elements plays a specific role. Successful painting is dependent upon how we cause them to play that role in concert with one another.
PART 6: LINE AND DIRECTION
The elements of line and direction belong together because they are closely related in what they do. Line is the path something takes. Direction is the
position towards which something moves. In that sense, every line takes a direction, and every direction depends upon line, visible or suggested.
Detail from painting by Qiang Huang
Normally, we think of line as a mark that is drawn. That mark can do many things: It can vary in thickness or thinness, it can vary in length, it can be rough or smooth, it can encompass a
shape, it can be light or dark, or it can be all those things, some of those things or one of those things in any color.
Several drawn lines grouped together can create degrees of value or degrees of texture. How we arrange them can create a shape.
Line can move with a variety of speeds, slowing us the movement we see in images. That movement involves direction. In fact, it can't happen without direction.
A suggestion of line moving in a direction can be created by the way we arrange shapes. Traditional arrangements of shapes are a triangular direction, a circular direction, an S direction, an L direction, a C direction,
or a converging direction. These are called visual paths.
Here's a watercolor painting of mine with images arranged in a triangular path.
Double Dare Watercolor Dianne Mize
So, when working with line and direction, the painter is aware of both marks that create lines and the various ways those marks can be used, as well as a suggestion of a linear path
caused by the way images are arranged. But the other side of that is seeing those same characteristics in our surroundings--asking why we see an image or a scene the way we do.
The miracle of the role of line and direction as a visual element is their power to allow us to record what we are seeing and feeling, and to distinguish images' relationships to one another.
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