What do you think about when you hear the word “art”? Most people will simply state that it is a drawing of something, whether it be an everyday object, person, environment, or whatever something completely original that the artist thought up. They may even bring up sculptures. But what most people fail to realize is all of these beautiful, mesmerizing pieces of art all rely on is one of the simplest things you could ever draw; a line. When the vast majority of people observe art, they view the image only as a whole and nothing more; ignoring the most basic of features. If it were not for lines, fantastic art work such as the “Mona Lisa” or “Starry Night” could not exist. In Mario Prisco’s exhibit titled Observed & Imagined: Works on Paper, Mario does a fantastic job at displaying how important the smallest and largest details in a piece of work would not be possible if not for something as simple as a line.
In one of Mario’s many study pieces of the human body, “Untitled 11” is by far one of the most basic pieces of the human form in the exhibit, but at the same time seems to successfully capture every contour and natural shape of the human body. By using different line weights (boldness/thickness of the line), different parts of the body are able to display important details in a region that has smaller lines surrounding it to create shading. In the case of “Untitled 11”, face is the best example of this. Along the bridge of the nose, mouth, chin and all the way to back behind the ear, many small lines are used to create the appearance of a shadow. This is all well and good, but what about the actual details of the face? Well, through the use of thicker lines (heavier weight), Mario is able to use basic strokes to create small features on the front of the face. In the case of this person’s face, these are two straight and three curvy lines. That is all! Through the use of five simple lines, Mario has been able to assist the view in knowing not only where the features of the face are, but also what direction the person’s head is turned. If not for the small addition of simple lines, we would just see a mound with some shading on it lying next to a body. But lines can be used for much more intricate details if the artist so chooses to do so.
In another one of Mario’s human body pieces, this one being titled “Untitled 17”, Mario not only had to pay attention to detail when it came to the human figure, but to the object the woman was resting on as well. When you first look at the image, you’ll notice that there are heavy jagged lines along the right side of the woman’s torso as well as across her arms. These heavier lines help the viewer to differentiate between the woman’s body and the object she was resting on. If the line weight had stayed consistent all throughout the model’s outline, it would have been a bit more difficult to make out where the edge of the model’s body is in relation to the material she is laying on. Who would have thought that just by changing the thickness of a line in a certain region in a piece of art would make it so much more appealing and easier on the eyes to view? As for a more advanced use of lines on the woman, the shading of the knees is much more complex than the previously discussed piece. Through the use of a method called cross hatching as well as yet again varying the line weight, Mario is able to create the appearance of darker shadows on the surface of the woman’s knees. In lighter shaded areas, the woman’s legs seem lighter; not as darkened out by heavy shadows. But as we move up to her knee, the lines become packed closer together as well as slightly heavier. The combination of these two events is what makes various usage of line so important; it is a simple thing to draw but when used correctly and with different methods it can give a completely new look to an illustration. Even at the knee cap, there are still individual lines composing the heavy shadow. Lines aren’t only for creating outlines, shadows or filling in basic features. They are also helpful when it comes to putting motion into artwork.
In Mario’s piece, “Imagined Landscape 3”, which is created using watercolor, Mario creates a variety of basic shapes. These shapes include things such as triangles, rectangles, circles, squares and trapezoids. But it is not the shapes themselves we are interested in this time, but rather the way in which lines are used to help give the objects a sense of direction; as if moving across the page. In the bottom right corner is a rainbow coming out of a cloud. Rather than being drawn completely straight, the lines used to create the rainbow have an arch shape to them. The reason for this is to cause the observer’s eye to be drawn to the rainbow as well as follow the direction of the rainbow. In this case, the rainbow fades off not too far from going off the edge of the page, but still, the way it is drawn makes your eyes follow its path. A second example is the chimney with the smoke and shapes coming out of it. Rather than having the shapes and smoke come straight up out of the chimney, Mario chose to have them come out in a direction traveling diagonally. Drawing something in a diagonal direction causes the user’s eye to be attracted to that part of the work easier because it creates a sense of motion; unlike horizontal and vertical lines which appear static rather than dynamic. To make the smoke more interesting, Prisco includes the various colorful shapes to increase the contrast of that region of the image; drawing our eyes even more.
These three examples based off of Mario Prisco’s work are just a few examples as to how important lines are in any piece of art. Without lines there would be no shapes. Without shapes there would be no objects with depth to draw. Our world is full of lines and are what make up everything we see, but with art we must use them in different ways to include details. Without them, things would appear flat and would not be that interesting. So next time you go to a gallery or see an image someone made online, try to notice the smaller details that aided them in composing it rather than just the single image itself.