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 Objectives

  • To demonstrate the successful application of the element of LINE and PATTERN and the principle of RHYTHM to express ideas and emotions in an original composition.
  • Through studio exercises, explore various mediums, processes, and tools.

Research and Preparation

Research and preparation are important steps in the process of designing a project. Learn all that you can about the tools and mediums you want to use in making a work of art. Look at the work of other artists to see how they solved problems and achieved their goals. Watch videos on these artists and their work. Your instructor will discuss aspects of the project during class, but you are expected to conduct your own research and prep as well. Read the chapters in your textbook associated with the assignment and take the quizzes to test your retention of the material and participate in classroom discussions.

  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.


  • Julie Mehretu
  • William Kentridge
  • Cai Guo-Qiang

Documenting Your Work

An important job of being an artist and designer is documenting your process. As you work on this assignment, be sure to do this. Take photographs and videos, and make notes about the decisions you’re making and the problems you experience. Make doodles and sketches in your journal. You will use these photos and notes along with your final compositions to develop a project page for your digital portfolio. You may also be asked to present work from this assignment during a formal critique. The use of design vocabulary to explain your work is essential during critique.

DSLR cameras are available for this process. Your instructor can get you started.

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:


(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.


In addition to your finished compositions, you will be graded on your process, which includes classroom participation, completion and submission of daily exercises, application of vocabulary during critiques, exploration, and execution of the project, and your professional behavior during class and critiques. Additional quizzes and discussions may apply.

When you have completed your compositions, upload images of them along with images of your PROCESS onto a project page in BEHANCE. (You will have made a portfolio in this app as an assignment in this class prior to this project.) Include descriptions of your work and process on the project page. Refer to your notes for this and be sure to employ the vocabulary of design in your descriptions. Be sure to review the rubric!

Upload a link to your project page in BEHANCE to the assignment in your learning management system by the due date.

Student Examples

Javid Edwards

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