Courses Perceptual Studies page 5


This involves playing one line against another. I stress the dynamics of opposition; lines working against lines, pointed curves against flat curves or straight lines, activity against static, large to small, etc. Curves should not repeat within the line, and scale and line elements must vary. One curve should not butt against another creating a bottleneck. A sharp pointed curve works against a flat curve. Activity in one line plays against a static area in another line, generally it is best to not play activity against activity as it tends to result in unstable shapes.

Avoid parallels such as a flat curve against another flat curve or straight line creating nearly parallel shapes. In these instances, modify the curve to a sharp pointed curve so that the shape between the lines is continually decreasing or increasing.

Students must examine each line in relationship to all lines in terms of shape, not just the shape created between two lines but the various shapes made between one line and all other lines.

It seems to work best if the number 1 line is not used next to either side edge because in effect it is putting two inactive lines together creating a relatively static and dull shape.

Activity in the composition should be somewhat balanced so that all the activity is not on one side or limited to bottom or top of the composition. The most active line with implied shapes creates the focus. Consider carefully where in the composition you want to put the focal point.

Students should do a number of trial compositions in pencil lines,numbering each one sequentially, and they mark the three they think are best in a 1,2,3 order with 1 being the best. When I concur with the student assessment of the composition, the student moves to the next step.


Typical Criticisms
) Now that you are working on compositions, you are getting sloppy and line quality is terrible! I don’t care if you are sketching everytime you draw a line, take the time to do it right and as well as you possibly can. Believe me, you need all the practice you can get!
) These two lines are parallel. The shape between lines must always be changing by either expanding or decreasing but never parallel, creating a static shape.
) The activity in this line against the activity in that line is making a very unstable shape. Perhaps you should either turned one line upside down or redrew part of one line. Try sliding one line up or down and adding to the length of the static element.
) The triangular shape with a neck at the bottom (or top) is too symmetrical and not particularly interesting. Try playing a curved line against the straight line. Why not try containing the activity of the line 4 by playing it against an edge line.
) This line is too parallel with the edge line. Try tilting the line.
) This combination of lines does not seem compatible. Put in the three lines that work and design an entirely new line in relationship to the three lines.
) Not enough distinction between major and minor shapes. Make the difference more pronounced.
) Maybe it would work better if you eliminated some of the activity in this line. Play around with it.


Shape Composition
On tracing paper working at the 10-inch size using a fine line marker and a broad nib marker, students explore all the black and white possibilities. They can have a combination of black/white shapes and black/white lines. It is absolutely essential that all lines be very fine and sensitively rendered. A heavy, poorly drawn line destroys the entire composition. Fine, sensitive lines work much better! Exploration of black and white possibilities usually involves eight to ten compositions.Students should be made aware of the figure-ground qualities of the compositions, the ambiguity of spatial readings, which are most interesting. Also, tensions between lines and shapes are noted and become part of the student evaluation criteria. When compositions are filled in, there are a variety of shapes, and students make comparative evaluations of these shapes from one composition to another. Spend time with students discussing the various shapes as to which are visually most interesting and how the ones that are not can be improved. Point out to them not only shapes between two lines but the shapes between one line and each of the other three lines. Try and get the student to articulate their evaluations and objectives for improving the composition. Students periodically pin-up and study their compositions. At the end, they mark those they believe are the best with a 1, 2, and 3 priority with 1 being the best. These are discussed with me and when agreement is reached on which is the best, the student moves to the next step. I do not permit students to reduce the size or to make photo copies of the composition to fill in during the exploration stage. Students need the practice of drawing, and they tend to get sloppy at this stage with both the drawing and filling in with marker. I stay demanding of craftsmanship in every respect.


Typical Criticisms
) You are really sloppy! Use the marker carefully so not to lose line quality.
) That line is terrible. For a line to work in the composition, it must be done as a thin, sensitive line. You cannot do it with a broad tip marker!
) Don’t outline the square with a marker. Use the pencil.
) Now that you have filled this in, the shape is ugly. You might try redesigning that line.
) Study the compositions you have made and figure out how they might be improved or make new ones.
) I don’t think you have found one that works well. Try some more.



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•)Student example
•)Step 3
•)Line Shape composition
•)Black and white

•)Line Shape Composition
•)(more examples)

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