Line
and Shape Problems
Objectives
Developing eye and hand skills, using the pencil as a tool,
learning design process, criteria and terminology. Being the
first class in Graphic Design, it is important to establish
good work habits, discipline and an introduction to critical
analysis of work. These are refinement problems and selfpaced
as it is meaning less to advance students who do not understand
or can not do the exercises. By allowing students to progress
according to abilities, those with more experience or talent
do not become bored, and good but slow students do not feel
undue pressure. Deadlines come later in the program. Students
should keep a progress book beginning with line studies from
the first day of class. The sequence of problems works best
spread over two semesters. However, by reducing the lines
to three, I have done the problem in one semester. I have
worked with only one line in a three hour workshop and had
reasonable success.
Materials
HB
or B pencils and pencil sharpener
14 x 17 tracing paper pad
Fine line marker or black ballpoint pen with a fine point
Wide nib marking pen
Soft eraser
Colored pencils or color markers
Plaka
Illustration board for 16 inch square presentations
10inch square railroad or poster boards.
Lines
1
Using
tracing paper pads, students rule two horizontal lines 10inches
a part. Beginning at the left, they design 10inch lines of
varying activity ranging from 1 (nearly static) to 4 (extremely
active). The lines must flow without points or breaks, running
from top to bottom; lines must enter and exit vertically.
Number 1 line is almost static, number 4 is the most active
with increments of increased activity between the two extremes
for the 2 and 3 lines. Lines are composed of curves and straight
lines. The curves are not repeated in the same line but rather
some combination of flat, pointed, small, large, symmetrical
and asymmetrical curves combined with straight lines of different
lengths. Symmetrical and asymmetrical curves are determined
by dropping a vertical line from the peak of the curve and
comparing what happens on one side to what happens on the
other in terms of symmetry.
2
Lines
are done by hand without rulers, straight edges or flexible
rules. Lines are constructed with short pencil strokes and
a sharp pencil. It is impossible to control lines drawn as
a single stroke. Students are encouraged to erase parts of
lines and explore alternative solutions. The erasing and exploration
of other solutions represent a reining process which is also
the learning process.
3
The
lines should not parallel side edges, curved lines should
not parallel top or bottom edges. To keep tension, the bottom
of curves do not sag, and all transitions are smooth.
4
The
most active line usually involves closure and implied shapes.
The implied shapes are designed as diligently as the lines.
If the 4 line is active from top to bottom, it does not appear
active. Activity is confined to a segment of the line and
contrasted above and below the activity with relatively static
lines. The activity needs to be on both sides of the line
axis in order to achieve balance. If students are having difficulty
grasping the concept, I have them draw simple, static lines
and construct the activity into a segment of that line paying
particular attention to working out transitions. Implied shapes
must vary in size and definition.
5
While
closure is a consideration in the most active line, it should
not occur in the other lines. Closure on the less active lines
is a fairly common mistake by students. I am demanding in
terms of line quality, transitions and that all curves are
filled out without flat spots in curves; there is line tension
and that the line is visually interesting. There is no sense
advancing students until these conditions are consistently
met by students. To reach this point usually takes four to
eight weeks. After a student has done a page of lines, they
are asked to indicate the number for each line (1 to 4), and
to put a small x under the lines that they think are good
ones. When the student and I are in agreement on a good line,
they transfer it to a save sheet. It is carefully pointed
out to them that it is impossible to trace the line, but putting
the line under the save sheet provides a guide for redrawing
the line.
Most
students have success with the two and three lines first.
With these lines on the save sheet, students can focus on
the one and four lines. Students might have several different
lines for each number giving them more options when they begin
working on the composition. It is absolutely necessary for
students to demonstrate sensitivity for both the line and
pencil. Students should not move forward with the problem
until they consistently meet these conditions.
Criteria
Line
quality
Sensitivity using the pencil. I do not accept lines pressed
into the paper or done with a blunt pencil point. Students
must show sensitivity in the use of the pencil and line quality.
Line
intent
Regardless of whether the line is somewhat ragged because
of its construction with short pencil strokes, all the transitions
should be perfect and curves filled out. It also refers to
what a student does on one part of the line dictating what
happens in another part of the line. All lines must flow smoothly.
Line
tension
Line reflects tension; I explain and demonstrate tension with
a flexible steel ruler. By compressing the ruler, it bends
into curves which reflect tension because of the force used
to compress it.
Line
activity
Seeing and understanding the concept of line activity. The
amount of curves, fullness of curves, and implied shapes dictate
activity. As a line become more active, the lateral space
filled by the line usually becomes wider. I try to be careful
to point out to students that criteria given is established
for this problem, and it does not necessarily apply to every
problem, i.e., in this problem, elements are not repeated,
but in another situation, repetition might be an ideal solution.
