Line is one of the essential “Elements of Art,” and one of every child’s first art experiences. Line precedes all other elements of art. If art is a child’s first language, then line is where the child’s self expression begins.
What does it mean to focus on LINE? It means breaking down the elements of art into their components, expressing those components individually, and then naming them so they become part of your verbal and visual vocabulary.
As we provide art experiences for children, we often forgot that breaking down the elements of art into line, shape and color – is a good way to begin. Teachers who like to inspire children with Paintings from the Masters often include the work of Miro, an artist who emphasized LINE in his work.
But you don’t have to focus on the Masters to emphasize line in your art program.
The Common Core Standards and Pre-K Foundations remind us that LINE and the other elements of art should be an important focus in early childhood education.
Visual Art: Analyze Art Elements and Principles of Design
1.3 Identify the elements of art (line, color, shape/form, texture, value, space) in the environment and in works of art, emphasizing line, color, and shape/form.
Visual Arts, Substrand: Notice, Respond & Engage:
1.1 Communicate about elements appearing in art (such as line, texture, or perspective), and describe how objects are positioned in the artwork.
As you organize your art area and make decisions about what types of materials to provide, keep in mind that line can be explored not just with crayons and markers, but with other exciting materials as well.
I love the idea of exploring line with mud painting, shown here from an Outdoor Classroom Conference in Pasadena.
You can take line into physically active learning by using these new paint rollers, which are also good with clay. Paint rollers let children explore line while engaging both sides of their brains in expansive large muscle movements and “crossing the midline.”
Here’s a video clip of Marble Magnet Painting, a fun science-oriented exploration of line art. The second photo shows the same painting turned into a monoprint.
The new colored tapes are easy for young fingers to tear and are perfect for exploring the quality of line.
Nature oriented art often includes branches as line. Here Master Teacher Kathy Walker shows off one of her student’s nature mobiles.
Pipe cleaners are bendable lines that can be combined with other materials in 3-D art.
Last but not least, don’t forget the art of scribbling, which we did at the BAEYC Conference (and many other conferences this year) – reminding us that scribbling with crayons is fun for children and adults alike.
Written language and art…..it all begins with a line. So go find new ways to look at lines and offer children a wide variety of materials to express themselves through line.
Go for a walk and look for cracks in the sidewalk, flower stalks, telephone poles, and other lines in your environment. And as you do, think of the amusing words of the famous artist Paul Klee – “A line is a dot out for a walk.”