Tag Archives: conceptual

Art – It’s all in the Lines

Art is in the lines.

Our newest work, Water Reeds, presents the thought that lines are an important factor in the emotional imprint of art. At first glance you might hesitant with the meaning of that statement.

I’ll admit, the statement is fraught with logical pitfalls and dangerous oversimplifications of reason. Everybody views a work of art differently and therefore the emotions can vary.  The lines are the answer to looking at a work and discovering a hidden meaning to its feeling.

In both art schools and simple school art classes, students learn the artistic value of lines. They create direction and focus a viewer’s attention either towards or away from an area in a painting, sculpture, or picture according to the whims of the artist.


But, the usefulness of lines to an artist is not limited to just the direction you wish to point the viewer. They create an emotional feeling behind them.   You can create aggressive lines that are forceful and dramatic. They beat down the doors of the soul with their thick widths and daring nature. The clusters of thick reeds in their green and brown lines dominate a presence that pulls the eye towards them.

Water Reeds
Water Reeds

Passive Aggressive

Another function of a line in the hands of an artist is that of certain emotional passive aggressiveness. The rendering of these emotions is often accomplished with the thinning of a line. A thin black streak against a colored background is not always forceful. It does not assault the eye but it is not possible to ignore its existence.

The smaller reeds in the center of the picture show this feeling by directing your eye  with a hidden yet forceful way. Yet the real technique is  the way the water ripples actually form subtle lines going against the grain of the lines in the reeds.


Indeed, Our thin lines in the picture direct your eye towards our last line-induced emotion. I refer to passivity. If a thick line is aggressive and a thin line going in another direction is passively aggressive, how then can a line be passive?   The answer is by their being no line.

In the center of the picture you see the gentle reflections of clouds in the water.  True enough, if you were to grab a magnifying glass you would see a line. However, art is about illusion. The place where the blue of the water stops and the white of the cloud begins marks a line of some sort. Yet, from a distance, there is the gentle illusion of no discernible line. One color just stops and the other begins.

One last thought about art around the useful techniques and fashions of lines. Nature has provided us with this tranquil scene of reeds. You feel the light breeze and the warm summer sky. The picture in itself is very relaxing. However, to be relaxing, you as the viewer just need to read between the lines.

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Has Color Influenced Your Photography Today?

I’ll admit it.  The inner geek/nerd in me loves color.  My fascination began when I went down in one of those tourist submarines.  We approached a depth where the red wavelength could no longer reach and my red ball cap became grey. Since then I’ve been hooked on what color is and why we need it in art.


A scientific definition of color is the resulting wavelengths of light reflected from a solid surface and projected into the eye.   A flower has as certain color due light either being reflected or absorbed by the pigments in the flower itself.  A flower is yellow

Mom Loves Tulips- color
Mom Loves Tulips

because it reflects the light wavelength of yellow while absorbing the other wavelengths of color in the visual spectrum.

We are visual creatures.  We respond certain ways to the stimuli provided by color.  It warns us of danger, like a traffic sign, or tells us about a certain cultural notion or idea such as the color of a wedding dress or a shroud.


It even influences our moods.  The artist will see color as a means to communicate a message.  We use it to communicate feelings and ideas and even actions.  A photojournalist might use it to emphasize a tragic event.  A picture of a displaced family watching their house burn is sad.  However, add the splash of color of the fire or the lights of the fire truck reflecting off their concerned faces and you have the makings of an emotional tragically powerful event.  The faces don’t change the emotions of the viewer as intensely as the hues of the fire reflecting off of their faces does.  It makes the viewer part of the experience.

A fine art photographer might make a photograph of a rosebush being pruned by an old gardener completely black and white except for one single red rose.  Bam!  The viewer’s eye is instantly transported to that rose.  The rest of the picture becomes secondary in nature.  The viewer may ask themselves,  “Why the rose?”  Why that rose?  Only then do they notice it is the rose being pruned by the gardener.   You have told a powerful story.  All from the coloring of a single rose.  The rosebush itself had no power of suggestion, just the rose.

Color is a vital element of art, particularly photographic fine art, it is an important step in communicating with your audience in new and dramatic ways.

Are You Out of Shape? Photographic Art Elements

We are always being reminded how easy it is to get “out of shape”   or how we need to “get in shape.”  Sometimes we are even told to “shape up”.  I’ve often wondered at the reasoning behind this.  It is this misuse of the word shape that brings us to our next topic.  The next element of art is the simple shape.  What is a shape?  To have a shape you must manipulate a pair of lines.

1.  Two or more lines that start in the same space and travel different directions.

2.  Somewhere in their travels the lines will twist or turn, curve or careen in directions that inevitably end up with them meting again at a different place then when they started.

3.  Overly thick lines will result in a filled shape, while lines along a border will result in an empty one.


That’s it.  If you draw a line  curving in angles from 0° to 180°  and another line from 180° to 360°  you create a circle.  If you draw 4 lines that change at 90° angels to where they connect with one another you have a square.  These are simple shapes. 


Shapes in photography are very important for the same reason they are in painting or design work.  They communicate emotions to the viewer.

Keyboard photograph
CC By katerha

Geometric shapes with sharp angles like squares and triangles will give a cold or very strong emotion to the item in the picture. Think of a row of building blocks.  They represent order and power.

Photograph of Sushi http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmv/15900918/sizes/m/in/photostream/
CCSA by jmv

Circles and blobs are a biomorphic shape.  They have a much more fluid and a natural emotion attached to them.  The line of a circle can curve gradually towards it’s meeting with the other part of the line.  Circles are not in a hurry.   Think of an arch,  or the edge of a flower.  The circle of a flower petals distribute the color of the flower by spreading it out, much like the weight distributed in an arch.  The color of the flower or physical weight of a doorway flows through the circle of an arch.


So, shapes can represent order, chaos, power and grace.  The way you manipulate them in a picture will draw an emotional response from the viewer.  Shapes are either solid or open.  Remember that too shapes can influence a picture by making it confusing, while not enough shapes in your art will make it bland and lifeless.

Thus, I’m happy to say that I’m not “out of shape”.  I have a shape. In fact, I am a shape and, thankfully, the shape that I represent is uniquely mine.

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Elements of Art: Walking the Line.


Few words are as used in the English language as line.  We draw lines, cross the line, get in line, stand in line, run a line and can even get out of line.  The fun does not stop there.  In mathematics you often have to graph lines using formulas and find the length of lines using geometry and trigonometry.  Well, there exists yet another place where you will meet lines.  The art world is full of them.

A line is a series of points or dots placed next to each other so closely that they obscure the single point and make , you guessed it, a line.  Straight lines are not the only lines available.  There are also curved, twisted, curled, broken and parallel among a chosen few.  If you have multiple lines you will end up with shapes.

In photography, both visual and implied lines exist.   The challenge of photography is to use lines in your photographs to guide the viewer to what you want them to see.  This is done many ways, but the use of an implied line is the most effective and the least distracting. When a picture has a person or animal in it the eyes create an implied line or a vector.  The viewer will tend to follow towards the direction the eyes of the animal or person is looking.  The same thing can happen when a person points in a picture.  So, basically, if a woman is in a picture looking at a barn and pointing at the barn, the viewer will look at the barn.

Rush Hour in Chama
Notice how the curb draws you to the center.


Using lines is useful when trying to tell a story in your picture.  Vector lines are a way to say, ”Look here. This is important”.  It will offer movement and action in the photograph. Indeed artists use this element to provide non-verbal communication.  In essence, this creation of action or communication is what makes art, well art.  Artists attempt to communicate on some level about some particular subject or feeling, and they use lines to do it.

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3 Types of Contrast

Contrast is an interesting subject of composition.  Contrast allows us to distinguish one part of a picture from another.  It can draw our attention to a specific point, create drama, or offer a visual clarity of a subject that otherwise be hard to view.  This is true for any art form.

  1. Visional –  Visional contrast is the view of an object by it’s defining lines of color or light.  The old fashion football (soccer ball) is a good example of a visual contrast.  You have white spaces that are offset by black spaces.  This type of contrast will draw the eye to that object, the ball, naturally.
  2. Form –  Contrast in form is easily created using opposite or geometric value.  In other words,  short or tall, fat or skinny, rough or smooth, or concave or convex, these are all types of form contrasts that can add power and motion to your photographs.
  3. Negative –  negative contrast.  When I think of the negative contrast I  imagine the old Japanese minimalist approach to art and design.  The amount of open space in a picture  highlights a single solitary object in the photograph.  This type of photography exists a great deal in various fine art magazines.  Sculpture is usually photographed against a solid black or white background allowing the art work for sale to receive the greatest attention.

By studying and experimenting with contrast you can bring your photographic and design skills to a higher level.  Contrast allows the artist to capture  the viewer’s attention and show, or hide, areas in the picture that might otherwise be forgotten or overlooked.

While the rule of thirds and the golden ratio are all good suggestions to follow they only offer the answers of where a subject in a photo belongs. Contrast will finish the other side of the placement equation with the answer of what or how you place a subject to draw attention to it.

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