Line is one of the elements of art. I started thinking about line during a retreat with Mary Lou Weidman a few weeks ago.
We were considering the piece I was working on, and Mary Lou explained something to me that finally clicked—I understood it in a new way.
Lines that are horizontal suggest stillness or inactivity, a lack of motion. See the dashed line just above?
Vertical lines are more active than horizontal lines but less active than diagonal lines. Vertical lines suggest upward motion or lift.
If all this sounds like artsy tartsy mumbo jumbo, I know how you feel. I’ve thought the same thing many times in a design class or an art workshop. But this time, something about line kept percolating in my brain and I continued to think about it for several weeks.
I thought I’d test the theory with stick men. ‘Cause even I can draw a stick man.
As I mulled over Mary Lou’s lesson on lines and what they suggest, I thought some more about butterflies.
I realized that to arrange butterflies in straight rows (which are really just lines) is to suggest that they’re dead—scientific specimens pierced with a pin. Right? Of course.
But the minute you arrange butterflies at jaunty angles, they’re living, moving, fluttering things. Even if they’re specimens stuck through with a pin, you’d still get the idea of movement if you arranged them haphazardly, which is really just some disorganized diagonals.
I guess this is why I instinctively added the butterfly to my garden scene at an angle. Can you imagine how silly a straight butterfly would look? Photoshop (and Graphic Designer Denise Starck) can help us:
Once you understand this, you can use line to add calmness, lift or movement to your quilts. Every time you understand a little more about some aspect of art or design, that becomes part of your quilting arsenal. Your skills fill up your toolbox and enable you to create projects that please you. And after all, isn’t that what quilting is all about?