Click Play - Video by Jacob Stanko

Alexander the Great commissioned the artist Apelles to paint for him.  Apelles was acquainted with another artist of his time named Protogenes, whose studio was at Rhodes.  Apelles went to visit him but was greeted by an elderly female caretaker who informed Apelles that Protogenes was not home.  When she attempted to get the name of this foreign caller, Apelles entered the studio, and painted one line on a blank surface prepared for the master Protogenes.  

When Protogenes returned to his studio, he instantly identified the skillfully painted line as the work of Apelles.  Protogenes was challenged by the accomplishment of his contemporary and went about to paint a thinner line directly over the line painted by Apelles.  Apelles came a second time to the studio of his friend who again was not in and saw the newly painted line on top of his line.  Apelles proceeded to paint a third line, even thinner.  When Protogenes returned he conceded to the victory of his friend.  This painting of three lines was decidedly preserved and later hung in Rome for art students to admire.


Line is the most basic means of visual communication.  A purist might say that line has no dimensional quality, but that line is an abstract means of defining location.  For our purpose, a line is the resulting path of a traveling point.  A single line is capable of articulating everything from extreme emotion to precise dimensions.  It can be thick or thin, a tire track on a muddy road, a scratch on a windowpane, or a leafless tree against a gradient sky.  Simple lines help formulate thoughts when sketched on coffeehouse napkins, and germinate into the great plans of visionaries.  


An open camera shutter in busy downtown Beijing traffic produces a flurry of thick and thin lines.  The energy is even more electric in saturated color - it’s painting with light.  Try it.  

These squiggles result from moving the camera with an open shutter.  Experimenting with various camera settings spawns new ways of talking with light and lines.  You’ll also discover the creative limits of your camera while shooting the most exciting images ever.


Jon distorted his original photo of twirling Christmas lights with Photoshop’s liquify tool. 


Experiment with this open shutter effect.  Explore the possibilities of your camera to discover how you can maximize its potential.  What is the longest possible shutter speed?  You may have to adjust your shooting preferences in order to accomplish these lines of light.  Perhaps you’ll have to move your camera while holding down the shutter button.  Experiment!  Consider a variety of lighting situations as you paint with light.  Consider a couple of these great subjects: Christmas trees, night traffic, chandeliers, candles, fire, or city signage at night.  Perhaps you can shoot the city lights at night, or simulate the dark in a basement and the substitute moving Christmas lights for lit city signage.  Now those are some great ideas.  Run with it!

Candles photographed with a slow shutter speed and a moving camera create this illuminating effect. 

Experiment: Once while ministering at a youth camp on the topic of Christ being our personal light, I taped flashlights of various sizes all over myself.  Entering the auditorium in complete darkness accompanied with complimentary music made a memory. What a sight!  How can you take this experience to the next level of creativity?  The possibilities are limitless!

Shoot at least 100 experimental images wherein you create streaks of light, which photograph as lines of color.  Select your 10 best to be edited and included in your final portfolio.  It’s a good practice to delete all the other photos.  It saves disc space and limits your portfolio to only your very best works.

PERSPECTIVE AND LINE                                                                                            

As seen in this image, lines create the illusion of three-dimensional space.  The lines of the building convene on a horizon line beyond the picture frame, resulting in the illusion of form and depth.  The corner of the building is closest to the viewer’s eye; therefore, he can see two sides of the building.  The artist uses two vanishing points on the horizon to accurately depict this Mackinac Island home. The artist’s mastery of the visual elements helps his audience identify with his subject.


Explore the various ways in which you can transform a photo into a line illustration.  The Mackinac Island house above is an example.  Pick a favorite photo in Photoshop and reduce it to a black and white line image.  A purely black and white line image leaves no room for gradient grays.  Your final work may contain shapes of solid black and white but should be predominately linear illustration.  

This is a real-world assignment that graphic designers often encounter with their clients, especially when creating logos and images intended for spot color printing, such as silk-screen.  Have fun!

In iPhoto, you’ll play with the various editing options to achieve a linear look.  On the Photoshop side of this challenge, you’ll de-saturate your photo, play with filters, adjust contrast, and levels adjustments.  You’ll discover several ways to accomplish this task by exploring the menus and palettes. 

The inverted colors and the inclusion of white planes oddly intrigues us.  What’s happening and why?

Visit and follow the first 6 steps of this tutorial to master converting photos to line images.  Go all the way with the tutorial and create an image like this one of Maddie.  


Image and tutorial by Joey

After following the first 6 steps of the tutorial, experiment with including a full color layer below the linear layer.  Employ various layer opacities and masks to achieve the look of the image below.  The contrived lines and fleshly reality of Max converge well.  

SHADING AND LINE                 


This pen and ink drawing illustrates the shading capability of lines.  Repeated lines of varying thickness provide the illusion of light and shadows gracing the subject.   The eye reads lines as gradients.  Lines drawn close together merge into dark tones, while lines drawn farther apart give a sense of lighter tones.


Doodle!  Yes, just have a good time with nothing but vertical lines using an ink pen.  In the drawing above we see boats that are outlined and then shaded with vertical lines, while the background trees are not outlined, but they too are shaded and defined by lines.  Try both techniques!  Keep it simple and fun.  

Draw or trace a circle and then shade it by drawing lines close together to create darker tones. Gradually draw your lines farther apart to create lighter tones.  Now repeat this exercise without first drawing the outline of the circle.  Wow, the illusion of a sphere appears.  No example of this doodle exercise appears on this page.  How intentional!  Your doodle is a personal discovery. 


The straight lines of this blueprint mathematically define building plans.  


In this painting of the Cloghaun Bed & Breakfast, on Makcinac Island, the angled lines of the pavement contrast the vertical lines of the houses.  The buildings stand straight while the street is slanted.  The topography is not level in real life.  The tilted road tickles curiosity, adding intrigue to the viewer’s experience.  These lines create impressions and meanings in our minds. 

Again, notice the two curb lines on both sides of the street.  If they extended upward on the picture plane, they’d converge at the vanishing point on the implied horizon.  These lines scream one-point perspective.  All of the lines, which define the three-dimensionality of the picture, meet at one point on the horizon.  


Another interesting thing about lines: we see them when they don’t exist.  Does the man in the foreground have an upper lip?  Our brains fill in the gaps.  It’s sort of like old folks when they begin to lose their hearing.  Mildred said, “Today is windy again.”  Ralph said, “No dear, it’s Thursday.”  Mildred replied, “Me too.  I’ll make us some tea.”  The point: our brains fill in the gaps by bringing previously stored data to present situations.  We make assumptions.  This truth applies to the arts and to everyday relationships as well.  We assume things that may or may not be true.  


Do you see all of the lines attached to these masts?


What if lines could actually talk?  Think about it.  Would meandering, swerving lines dare articulate specifications of an assembly line that produces computer chips?  Hardly!  Likewise, perfectly straight lines are the antithesis of passionate emotion.  The idea of “straight” embodies concepts of mathematics, measurements, and exactness.  We refer to a person of godly character as being straight, one who follows the narrow Christian way into an adventurous life.  The message of straight vertical lines can correlate to uprightness of character.  Pillars are upright.  Straight lines covey the concept of honesty and truth, and crooked lines can depict crooked character.  (See Rev. 3:12, Pr. 2:15.)

What is inferred by the quality of the lines in these two photos of arches?  Although the subjects are the same, the line qualities in both are dramatically different and leave the viewer with contrasting impressions.


Perhaps line is the most widely used visual element.  It flows from pens or pencils sketching little thoughts and seed concepts for grand plans of every sort.  Children, engineers and God create with line.  They move their ideas forward with representational lines that could morph into reality.  

Throughout Scripture we read about the lines or boundaries that God sets for the oceans and nations.  Winding rivers, lakes, oceans, gorges, and mountain ranges are His super-sized lines.  He sets spiritual boundaries as well.  These are His guidelines for life, like the yellow and white lines on the highway.  Even Santa Claus draws a line between the naughty and nice.  Right!  Lines define, organize, separate, and unify.

Blueprints!  Does God have blueprints?  Does He have a blueprint for your life?  According to Jeremiah 29:11, God has a future of good things all drawn out for you.  Scripture is like a blueprint. It lays out the lines of truth that will transform our lives from the inside out. Let’s imagine that our lives are like a giant sheet of drawing paper, and God is ready with his drawing pencils.  What’s He up to?  He picks up a number 2 pencil and begins to layout a few sketchy lines.  There you are appearing on the paper.  You’re becoming His picture, His visual message.  After all, you are His child, and therefore you’re becoming more and more like Him.  Excellent!  

We’re still imagining.  Now God’s picking up a large black pencil, like the ones you used in kindergarten.  It’s actually a very soft lead, number 8, and He lays down some heavy dark lines and gently smudges them.  Ouch!  The Bible is replete with our heroes, all of who walked in darkness with the Lord (the valleys of life).  Embrace His darker tones.  These experiences bring a deep richness of character into our souls.   

There are other times, when God’s best is a 4H pencil, harder graphite that lays down very subtle gradations to visually articulate the most sensitive nuances of change.  Embrace His soft touch; the choice is yours.  Isaiah tells us of His attentiveness in Isaiah 50:4-5: “… He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.”  Isaiah willingly allowed God to pencil His word into his life.  Sometimes God thunders (Ps. 29:3) in rich, deep tones and bold lines, at other times He whispers to us in His “still small voice” (1Kin. 19:12).  He can speak with subtle thin lines of dialogue.  He constantly speaks.  Are we listening?

In all honesty, there are times when we, the paper, don’t exactly make ourselves available to the creative drawing of the Lord.  We wiggle and squirm.  Those heavy dark lines and His razor sharp 3mm pen challenge the human comfort zone.  Sometimes the unintended smudges and extraneous lines of our misbehavior obscure the Master’s work.  Guess what!  God has an eraser.  Yeah for us!  He gently removes the results of our self-life and redraws.  He restores.  Once again we should hold steady during the creative working of our Creator.  We are His workmanship being created in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10).  Amen!   May the Lord continues drawing lines of truth in our lives 
to keep us organized, 
to separate us from wrong choices,
to show us His blueprint for our lives and 
to erase our old nature. 
His lines of truth illustrate Christ’s character in the place of our old nature.  How perfect!


-  Line is the most basic means of visual communication.
- A line is the resulting path of a traveling point. 
- When drawn or photographed lines converge on a horizon they produce the illusion of perspective.
- Closely drawn lines actually create a gray scale. 
- We make assumptions about what we see based on what we what we’ve seen in the past.  Our brains fill in the blanks when lines are missing.
- God is a God of many lines.  He has set geographical boundaries for the nations, rivers and mountains. 
- Scripture provides guidelines for right living. 
- Santa Claus draws a line between the naughty and nice.
- Lines illustrate character.  A straight line gives an upright impression, while a crooked line radiates corruptness of character.  Squiggly lines seem energetic.
- Scripture is like a blueprint.  It lays out the lines of truth that will transform our lives from the inside out. 
- God has not finished His graphic work in our lives.  He is drawing lines of truth in our lives to teach us right from wrong and to layout His blueprint for building us into images, graphics of His character.  
- God will lead us through all kinds of experiences in life, some extremely exhilarating and others exhausting.
- Our Master Artist builds truth in us with light and delicate lines of truth as well as bold and heavy lines of truth.  
- God has set spiritual lines in our lives.  These lines are like boundaries that keep us safe and open to growing our relationship with Him.


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