Part Two - Lines
In part one we talked about how different visual shapes affect us psychologically so we can use that information to make better decisions about our compositions and art pieces in general. This time we’ll tackle lines.
Lines are the delimiter of shapes. But they have their individual meaning even if the don’t enclose shapes. When they are group together or repeated, they emphasize their concept.
In composition, they’re used to lead the eye in certain directions, or divide visual elements to create balance and order.
Since the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, we can derive some meaning around that concept. Link, union, communication, relationship, coordination. They represent masculinity.
Horizontal lines will give a sense of peace, calmness, reliability, trust and serenity. They make the viewer feel grounded, since they correspond with the horizon.
Vertical lines feel more celestial, since they go upwards. They take you off the ground, so to speak. They tend to draw attention and dominate the composition. They give a sense of balance, hierarchy and efficiency.
Diagonal lines are dynamic and evoke motion, speed, and a certain unsteadiness with their precarious angles, even a little bit of tension.
While straight lines are rigid and feel stiff, curves are flowy, so they give a sense of softness and smoothness. They are more connected with natural and organic things, as opposed to the artificial, man-made feel straight lines give. They are often used to represent sensuality, but not only in the strict sense. Objects with curvy designs feel “sexier” than those made with straight lines. They give a sense of comfort and ease. They also represent femininity.
Curves can also be used to lead the eye to a certain point or focus, but the path to arrive there is gentler and more fluid, allowing the eye to wander off a bit and have a softer “trip”.
Spirals are quite unique. Although pretty present in nature, they have mesmerizing and almost magical qualities. Since they start small and grow outwards (and in nature it happens literally), they are directly associated with birth, life, growth and evolution. They are ubiquitous in nature, from shells and snails and so many growth patterns of plants, to tornados and galaxies.
They represent the cycles of life, seasons and time passing. They can go on forever, so they represent eternity as well. They are feminine too, derived from their curved nature, although you can also make spirals with sharp angles, which gives them a tougher and more masculine feel.
It has fascinated scientists, mathematicians and artists for centuries. Lookup the Fibonacci sequence and you’ll be amazed. It’s not only found in nature; it is used by us artists to make better compositions as well.
Because how the lead the eyes, spirals can feel hypnotic and give a sense of mystery. Depending on the context, they can evoke fear of the unknown and danger, if it feels you’re looking down into their never-ending depth. It they move, they can make us feel dizzy and evoke a state of unbalance.
The most common meanings of spirals would be: growth, life, death, transformation, creativity, continuity, illusion, serenity, intelligence, energy, vitality and imagination.
Now that you have a broad idea of what shapes and lines mean and how they affect our perception, you can make informed decisions about how to compose and plan your art pieces. Use shapes and lines purposefully in order to successfully communicate your visual messages.
Barbara Din is a visual artist, graphic designer, painter, interior designer, crafter, musician and writer living in Argentina.