Expression Through Line

Art 220 Design & Color


LINE is a basic ELEMENT OF ART. Lines can be straight or curved, short or long, thick or thin. Bring a line back to where it started and you might create a shape. Lines can also be invisible within the composition, subtly directing the viewer’s gaze. The quality of lines convey mood and feeling.

During studio, we will experiment with a variety of materials and tools to create lines that are expressive.

Learning Goal: To create expressive compositions using the element of line and a variety of media.


  1. READ: Chapters 6 RHYTHM and 7 LINE in your textbook, DESIGN BASICS.
  2. EVALUATE: Take the Chapter 6 and 7 quizzes after you have completed reading the chapters.
  3. WATCH and DISCUSS (in-class activity): Julie Mehretu: Politicized Landscapes
  4. PARTICIPATE: Demonstrations on techniques for using tools and mediums for this project will be given during class time.

EXERCISE 1: Dry Media

After participating in a demonstration on tool use, use a T-square, triangle, ruler and dry media (charcoal, pencil, conté) to execute a series of exercises. Your instructor will provide instruction.

EXERCISE 2: Wet Media


After participating in a demonstration on wet media, execute a series of exercises. Your instructor will provide instruction.

EXERCISE 3: Word Translation

Using only the physical characteristics of line, communicate the message/idea/concept of four (4) of the following words:

  • Mortal
  • Expanse
  • Holiday
  • Aggravate
  • Profound
  • Reject
  • Heroic
  • Tedious

Use the process of define, create and deliver to produce your work and be prepared to show this process through work in your journal/sketchbook.

Finished Format: Four, 3” x 3” squares dry-mounted in a grid formation on 11 x 14 bristol (allow at least 1/8” gutter between squares)

Student examples:

PROJECT 1: EXPRESSION AS LINE (all work completed in studio)

Composition 1: Expressive Line

  • As you listen to a varied selection of music genres, use media such as India ink, charcoal and acrylic paint and your one-of-a-kind marking tools to create compositions that are expressive.
  • Make at least eight compositions.
  • Make notes about the ideas you are attempting to communicate via each composition.
  • You will use these compositions for the following compositions:

Composition 2: Pattern

  1. Select a composition from the first part of this project and isolate 7 to 10 individual marks in the composition. Choose marks that are interesting or strange or that remind you of something. Use the art department photocopier to make duplicates of the marks you select.
  2. Cut out your marks, also called “elements” and arrange them on a large sheet of paper to achieve an interesting pattern. You’ll need to make decisions such as the size of each mark, the distance between marks, and whether to arrange your marks in an x-y grid pattern or a diagonal grid pattern.
  3. Create at least four “overall” patterns.

Composition 3: Rhythm

  1. Use your patterns to create a composition that explores RHYTHM. You can add color, shapes, textures, etc. Your instructor will demonstrate the process during class.


Present your THREE compositions during formal critique. Use of design vocabulary to explain your work is essential during critique.

  1. Expressive Line Composition
  2. Pattern Composition
  3. Rhythm Composition


After critique, photograph your compositions along with your mark-making tools and upload to this assignment on Canvas. The instructor is available to help you (if you need it) in photographing and uploading your work. You can use the computer lab in Goodnow as well.

In addition to your finished composition, you will be graded on classroom participation, completion and submission of daily exercises, application of vocabulary during critique, exploration, execution of the project, and on your professional behavior during class and the final critique.

Additional quizzes and discussions may apply.


Julie Mehretu, William Kentridge, Cai Guo-Qiang…

Student Examples

Javid Edwards

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