Lines Have Life



Straight, curved, and crumpling lines.
Peonies from my summer garden

Lines can express shape, motion, weight, energy, shadow, depth, and texture. They can depict all form, but what they lack is color.


I am acutely tuned in to color, however lately I've been wondering if it's the line that comes first in art.


On morning walks I take photos of all kinds of random things. I slow down and zoom in to capture moments not usually noticed as we move about our lives. In the images that I've taken this week I find an ant on a fading peony, an abandoned sweater beside the road, and the play of light and shadow on a stone wall. Here's an interesting exercise: squint your eyes or turn an image upside down. What do you see? You may no longer recognize the object but instead see a series of shapes and lines. Certain lines demand that the eye follow their movement about the space, while others fade away and are less defined, become less demanding of our attention. Turned upside down, an image becomes disassociated from its defined meaning and offers its bare essence.


When I paint, no matter the color palette, the importance of line is always present. If there's no clarity of line the piece can become muddy, or the opposite, bogged down in detail. While I thrill in the adventure of creating wild and unexpected pieces I also enjoy the simple lines often associated with Scandinavian design. Sometimes I tell myself less is more. Practice restraint. Leave some white space. But then I laugh, because once I begin painting I lose all sense of time and the ability to practice restraint, and what emerges on the canvas is a surprise, a gift, the result of a great adventure.


This is my ying and my yang. The fight for balance between wild abandon and simplicity; line and color. The paintings lead me down new paths as I direct my attention from color to line and back again.


The final question: how do I know when a painting is finished? Often what the piece just needs one more, perfectly placed, line. (In the right color, of course!)