Diego Velazquez, Las Meninas Actual lines are those that are physically present. The edge of the wooden stretcher bar at the left of Las Meninas is an actual line, as are the picture frames in the background and the linear decorative elements on some of the figures’ dresses. How many other actual lines can you find in the painting? Implied lines are those created by visually connecting two or more areas together. The gaze to the Infanta Margarita — the blonde central figure in the composition — from the meninas , or maids of honor, to the left and right of her, are implied lines. Implied lines can also be created when two areas of different colors or tones come together. Can you identify more implied lines in the painting? Where? Implied lines are found in three-dimensional artworks, too. The sculpture of the Laocoon below , a figure from Greek and Roman mythology, is, along with his sons, being strangled by sea snakes sent by the goddess Athena as wrath against his warnings to the Trojans not to accept the Trojan horse. The sculpture sets implied lines in motion as the figures writhe in agony against the snakes.
36 Laocoön Group, Roman copy of Greek original, Vatican Museum, Rome Straight or classic lines provide structure to a composition. They can be oriented to the horizontal, vertical, or diagonal axis of a surface. Straight lines are by nature visually stable, while still giving direction to a composition. In Las Meninas , you can see them in the canvas supports on the left, the wall supports and doorways on the right, and in the background in matrices on the wall spaces between the framed pictures. Moreover, the small horizontal lines created in the stair edges in the background help anchor the entire visual design of the painting. Vertical and horizontal straight lines provide the most stable compositions. Diagonal straight lines are usually more visually dynamic, unstable, and tension-filled. Straight lines by Oliver Harrison
37 Expressive lines are curved, adding an organic, more dynamic character to a work of art. Expressive lines are often rounded and follow undetermined paths. In Las Meninas you can see them in the ap rons on the girls’ dresses and in the dog’s folded hind leg and coat pattern. Look again at the Laocoon to see expressive lines in the figures’ flailing limbs and the sinuous form of the snakes. Indeed, the sculpture seems to be made up of nothing but expressive lines, shapes and forms. Oliver Harrison, Organic Lines There are other kinds of line that encompass the characteristics of those above yet, taken together, help create additional artistic elements and richer, more varied compositions. Refer to the images and examples below to become familiar with these types of line. Outline, or contour line is the simplest of these. They create a path around the edge of a shape. In fact, outlines often define shapes.
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- Spring '20
- Oliver Harrison