About Line

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Line, straight or wavy, is an important element of visual design.

-- martin tai (martin.tai@capcanada.com), October 20, 1999


Minox IIIs, Minocolor 100

The lines of a vessel are among the most beautiful of all design endeavors. Naval architecture combines beauty with the essential function of keeping water out. The compound curves of a boat are among my favorite photography subjects.

-- Joe Buechler (jbuechler@toad.net), October 23, 1999.

William Hogarth

English painter William Hogarth (1697-1764) considered line as one of the important element in pictorial beauty. He postulated that any object can be considered as made up of envelope of lines. He devoted several chapters of his treatise "The Analysis of Beauty to the analysis of lines, straight lines, cicular lines, wavy lines, and serpentine lines- which he considered the most beautiful of all lines.

William Hogarth: Analysis of Beauty

-- martin tai (martin.tai@capcanada.com), October 23, 1999.

Lines in Oriental Visual Art

Western visual art, before impressionist movement, strived to truthfully represent nature with its study of light and shade, geometry and perspective.

Thus, western visual art depends on light and shadow, with line playing secondary role, as contour of object

In Chinese visual art, line has its own aesthetic meaning, independent of and stands above surface,light and shade, as evident from the art of calligraphy, which has always being considered as a branch of painting.

Lines had such significance , that Xie He (aka Hsieh Ho) in his Six Principles of Painting, elevated the principle of "Skeleton method and Brush work " to the rank of second canon of painting following "Energy, rythm, life and movement".

Later the method of lines was further developed into "eighteen forms of lines" such as 'musical string line', 'iron wire line', 'flying cloud and flowing water line', 'orchid leaf line'. 'pinhead and mouse tail line', 'high antique fine thread line' etc.

Shi Tao and One Line Theory

Monk Shi Tao(1642-1707) devoted first chapter of his "Analects on Painting" 'On One Line'. Shi Tao postulated that a line is the beginning of painting. He wrote:

"At the beginning of Universe, in its homogeneous state, there was no method, when this formless state dispersed, method began. From where method began ? It began with one line "

This visual art form based primarily on lines and away from light and shadow is a fundamental abstraction, which gives Chinese/Oriental visual art its distinctive idealism and symbolism style.

Straight line implies the feeling of straightness, uprightness, strong, masculine, rigidity, solid, formalism, efficiency, neatness, precision.

Wavy line implies softness, gentle, feminine, grace, flow, movement, change

S shape line was considered fundamental in the universe, and represented in the Tai-Chi Yin Yang fishes diagram.

-- martin tai (martin.tai@capcanada.com), October 24, 1999.

Reeds and Masts, Minox IIIs, Minocolor 100

Nature doesn't like straight lines. Curved lines can be seen as a metaphor for that which is spiritual, and straight lines for that which is temporal.

-- Joe Buechler (jbuechler@toad.net), October 24, 1999.

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