Lines are not only those we draw with pens and pencils. In art they can be positions of bodies, objects or images and even a glance seen in someone’s eyes.

For example, can you see the invisible line coming from this girl’s eyes? Where does it point? See how your eyes follow along this glancing line. There are three major categories of lines: VERTICAL, HORIZONTAL, and DIAGONAL. 

Our responses to them in art are often related to when our bodies are in those positions, or to things we see and experience in nature. For example, we understand the rigid feeling of a strong vertical line when we place our body at attention, or the calm, restful feeling we have when we lie down horizontally.

rollover image of an eye drawing an imaginary line

Scroll over the image above to see how a line can be created by a glance.

VERTICAL lines imply that our body is stiff, dignified, formal or still. Consequently, when we see a very upright figure in Egyptian art, we project our feelings and accurately envision a regal, important figure. 
HORIZONTAL lines in art give us calm, quiet feelings, because they bring ideas of sleep and rest. If an artist wanted to show a composed, peaceful setting, many horizontal lines would help elicit this effect from the viewer.

DIAGONAL lines are the most active. They imply movement, tension, sometimes violence. Imagine a jogger whose legs and arms are formed into zigzags by diagonals. The whole thrust of a runner’s body is forward—on yet another diagonal. 

Remember these qualities of the three types of lines as you view works of art. They’ll help you get more in tune with what the artist is trying to express.

Now that you know the basics about Line, click here to practice what you know.


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