Elements of a Composition – Lines Part 2

Published: December 10, 2015

by Erin Nolan

CAD drawing of a house

The drawing above was created using CAD (Computer-Aided Drafting) software. The lines are perfectly even and perfectly straight. This could have been hand-drawn by a person, but the personality behind the drawing is not the point. The purpose of the drawing is informative. Here, lines are used to create perspective and show measurement. Notice how patterns of lines are used to indicate texture.

Now that we’ve given some examples of the variety of visible line, we’d like to introduce you to the idea of invisible line in the form of organizational grids and the way the eye moves over them when observing a composition.

In music, there is an underlying rhythm or beat that keeps all the other instruments and singers unified. The visual equivalent is a grid. An example of an organizational grid is shown below.

Georges Seurat’s famous Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte with grid lines shown on top

Georges Seurat’s famous Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

Georges Seurat’s famous Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

Placement of elements within a composition is made much easier when the decision-making process has been simplified. Using a grid gives coherence to the piece that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible or would have required far more revisions before achieving compositional balance.

The second invisible line is a map of how the eye moves throughout a composition. In Grunewald’s painting below, they eye starts at the high-contrast area in the upper left quadrant and travels from left to right in a discordant manner. It suggests the path of the fist, then moves that energy into the crouched man holding the rope.

Grunewald’s painting shown with and without eye movement lines

The final invisible line we’ll share today is perspective. Masolino’s painting below is an excellent early example of early perspective and how that technique assists the organization of a composition.

Masolino’s painting with perspective lines shown

As you can see all, the compositional elements are interconnected. It is difficult to show one element without mentioning the others. Hopefully, you have a better understanding of and interest in the power of lines.

Want to know how to see these lines in art for yourself? Check out this handy resource: http://mopdog.com/creative/how-to-see-linear-composition-in-art