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What’s in a line? A line is a continuous path through points with a beginning, middle, and endpoint. Lines can be: thick or thin, solid or dashed or dotted, straight or wavy. Lines act alone or in relationships with other lines. Vertical lines run up or down. Horizontal lines run from left to right or across. Diagonal lines run at an angle. Parallel lines are lines that never meet. Intersecting lines are lines that cross each other. Perpendicular lines are lines that meet at a right angle (90 degrees). Lines can also be expressive and can show feelings as well as communicate properties. Look around you. Jets leave lines in the sky. Straws in sodas are an example of lines. Toothpicks are short straight lines. Your shoelace is an undulating line! You have lines on your fingertips. Highways and roads and rivers are lines on a map. Lines communicate ideas without words. Lines are suggestive. Lines can speak! Lines can measure! Be a LINE watcher!

Lines are everywhere!

Activity 1 – Lines of Feeling

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Take a piece of paper and draw a line for each of the following: happy, free, sad, angry, surprised, agitated, young, old, strong, feeble, ragged, curly, spiky, sinister, tranquil, triumphant, monumental, timid, flamboyant, frightened, spooky, silly, speedy, springing, exploding, stuck. Draw your lines with marker and label them with small print in pencil. On another piece of paper, draw lines in the following relationships: symmetrical, bowing, attacking, growing, jumping, circling, in love, quarreling, on a walk, running, going up stairs, settling in, barking, singing, nurturing, booming, sinking, floating, moving, sitting, competitive, static, active, energetic. On a third piece of paper, draw the lines that come to your imagination. Label them. Congratulations.

You are communicating emotions with lines!!!!

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Activity 2 – Geometric Line Drawings

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Take a blank piece of paper and a drawing tool of your choice. Draw a line from left to right that is parallel to the top of the page at a distance of 1”. Keep your connection with the paper confident from left to right. Now drop a second line ¼” from the first. Draw 10 more lines practicing your parallel skill. Next, do the same parallel line drawing with another drawing tool. Notice the difference in pressure and drag or pull on the pen to keep control of line weight and parallel measure. Now draw perpendicular lines. Copy the perpendicular lines until they come easily. Next, draw intersecting lines. Draw several intersections at different angles, oblique and acute. Now, look at something close at hand. Draw the outside edge or silhouette of the form with short straight line segments and angular lines. Try a second object using this same technique. The edges of objects are points, connecting two points is a line. Lines outline shapes and forms.

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Activity 3 – Contour Lines

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Find several small objects such as coins, buttons, rubber bands, erasers, etc. Drop them randomly on an 8 ½“ x 11” piece of paper. Starting at the top lefthand side, draw a line parallel to the top of the paper. Continue to repeat until you approach the first object. Continue to draw, but draw around the object following its shape. The next contour should echo the changed line. Continue to draw parallel lines until a second object is approached. Draw lines that deflect and show the changes caused by the objects. Fill the page with lines, then remove the objects. You have created a contour drawing! Another way to draw with contours is to ‘wrap’ the object with parallel lines. Select a three dimensional series of objects such as fruit, school supplies, or furniture. Try starting at the top of the object and draw parallel line segments whose beginning and endpoints edge the shape of the object. After practicing on several objects, try ‘wrapping’ your hands, or another person’s face or figure. Challenge: Never look at your paper!! Use your eyes and concentrate on connecting what you see to your hand. Try drawing other objects and people’s faces. Give yourself 30 seconds first, then a minute, then 30 seconds.

Connect with the paper!

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Activity 4 – Lines in the landscape

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Human beings have marked the earth with lines to record temporary or permanent ideas. It took flying in airplanes to discover the Nasca Lines south of Lima, Peru. More than 2,000 years ago people created large geoglyph drawings of a person, a hummingbird, a monkey, and other shapes and figures. These lines in the landscape are known as the NASCA Lines.

The Parisien Urban Planner, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, used lines to connect large urban boulevards to civic destinations; this technique was also used in Washington, D.C. by L'Enfant to connect key points in our capital. The Architect, Daniel Burnham, created the 1909 Chicago Plan to connect key intersections on the lakefront, an emerald ring pf parks, ancient roads, and new civic boulevards.

Today architects use lines to create social and cultural paths to gathering places on the earth. Take a look at the landscapes of Carme Pinos, Spanish architect, who uses the gesture of line to choreograph human interaction with places. Check out Copenhagen’s Superkilen Park that uses colored paths and white striping as lines to gather and draw people outside. Detroit fashioned the longest hopscotch game one summer to get people out and playing!

Think about your city. Where could you connect the dots and make lines? Where could you make a mark that would be a destination for people? Using Google Maps, select a location and try your hand at drawing lines in the landscape at any scale, small like the Hopscotch in Detroit, or large like the NASCA LINES!


Now you understand lines as part of a larger toolkit with which to document and and understand communication of emotions, edges, surfaces, textures, topographies, landscape, etc. Lines are a valuable part of research> artists, scientists, environmentalists, Biologists and many other fields make use of lines. The Father of Neuroscience, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, and explore his beautiful drawings of neural connections. Read about Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s Mysterious Fluttering of our Souls. Never underestimate the power of communicating with lines!


  • Perpendicular lines are lines that meet at a right angle (90 degrees).
  • Lines have a beginning point, a middle point and an end point.
  • Lines are always straight.
  • Lines can never intersect.
  • Lines are at different scales.
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