Line art encompasses all artworks that employ lines on (mostly) blank background, to depict two or three-dimensional objects. Line artists use clean, bold lines without tones or shading to convey ideas, messages, and emotions.
Most commonly, line art is monochromatic, with black lines painted on a white surface. However, with the development of a genre, new, more colorful artworks appeared, skillfully mixing colors to redefine the traditional comprehension of line art.
Line art is one of the oldest art types out there, with first line art cave drawings dating 73,000 years backs. Needless to say, line art has drastically evolved since. Some of the world’s most prominent artists experimented with line art such as Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, or in more recent years Keith Haring.
Drawing by P.Picasso via Pablo Picasso
Figurative Line Art
Celebrated artists like Pablo Picasso or Henri Matisse made some of their most memorable artworks by using nothing more than one or two lines. Matisse particularly focused on line ink drawings and paintings in the late 1940s when his health began to deteriorate. The French artist used simple lines for portraying intimate subjects like nudes, or mythological stories, thus showing how complicated concepts can be elaborated, through transformation into a linear form.
Apart from his Cubist masterpieces, Pablo Picasso was also known for making one-line drawings. By using one uninterrupted line, he depicted animals, flowers, or women in only one stroke of a hand. The immediate spontaneity of one-line drawings was well-received among collectors and critics who described them as “some of Picasso’s most playful artworks”
Abstract Line Art
Alongside figurative, abstract line art started to evolve as well. Unlike figurative line art, which uses lines to represent the outer world, its abstract counterpart uses shapes, colors, forms, and gestural marks to produce compositions liberated from the boundaries of the visual reality. Wassily Kandinsky was one of the first contemporary artists to bring abstraction into line art.
Known for his fascination with lines as one of the basic elements of art, artist Paul Klee created a textbook full of diagrams that elaborate on how lines can be most effectively employed in one's work. American painter Gene Davis, on the other hand, wasn’t afraid to use bright, bold colors. He experimented with repetitive geometric shapes and rhythm, by filling his canvases with vertical stripes of color that simultaneously represent a surface and a composition.
Composition VIII by Wassily Kandinsky
Types of Line Art
Line art spans across media. From drawings to paintings and digital art, line artworks can take on a variety of expressions and visual forms.
Line drawings are the most common form of line art out there. By using a pen, a pencil, a marker, or a brush, artists can depict anything from still life, portraits, to landscapes and geometrical abstraction. The simplicity of line drawings attracts people, reminding them of their childhood, when everyone used pencils and crayons to draw. A skillful artist can convey any message, or tell a story with only a few lines. It is this uncomplicated, yet poignant quality that brings line drawings legions of admirers.
Woodblocks Prints & Engravings
But not all line artworks are hand-drawn. Some of the most beautiful line art pieces come from woodblock carvings and metal engravings. Woodblock prints are made by carving the wood to form a relief picture. This relief is then soaked into ink and stamped onto a surface to create a print.
Engravings, on the other hand, are made by etching images into the metal plate to create the desired artwork. The incisions are then filled with ink, and paper pressed against the metal plate. The paper goes into the incision, thus creating an image. During the printmaking process, the artist can add as many details as he or she pleases, depending on the artworks’ requirements, while various thickens of lines serve to emphasize parts of the composition.
Digital Line Art
In more recent years, with an expansion of digital tools, many artists create their line artworks in digital settings. Most digital artists, draw their lines by using a stylus and a tablet, while some draw directly on the big screen. The artist will manipulate the thickness of lines by pressing the tool lighter or harder on the surface. Less commonly, digital artists physically draw lines and then scan their drawings, to further manipulate them in various programs.
Those who use a pen and a tablet, have a variety of digital tools at their disposal that vary in precision and refinement. When it comes to software, most professionals use Adobe Photoshop, Artweaver, or Procreate which offer plenty of opportunities for manipulation and experimentation.
Art by Retna via Instagram
Line Art & Minimalist Design
Line art is a valuable addition to any home and is an indispensable feature of a minimalist interior design. Although simple in its execution, line art can have a bold presence that will bring, lively and creative pop into your interior. Large paintings, prints, or even indoor murals with heavy brushstrokes and a rich color palette, will provide a burst of energy and give your design a modern touch. Contrarily, calm and modest black and white pieces can bring a relaxing feel to a pattern heavy space. Affordable, versatile, and effective, line art pieces can easily fit into any space or art collection.