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The Elements of Art: Line

Grade Level: 1-2

Students will be introduced to one of the basic elements of art—line—by analyzing types of lines used in various works of art to help students understand how artists use line to convey movement and mood. They will then create an abstract line art piece based on an activity they enjoy to do or watch.


Frank Stella
American, born 1936
Jarama II, 1982
mixed media on etched magnesium, 319.9 x 253.9 x 62.8 cm (125 15/16 x 99 15/16 x 24 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Gift of Lila Acheson Wallace



Curriculum Connections

  • Performing Arts


  • Smart Board or computer with ability to project images from slideshow
  • Variety of art media for students to choose from (suggestions: markers, watercolors, colored pencils, colored paper for collage, oil pastel, tempera paint, yarn, etc.)
  • A long cardboard box
  • Small balls in a variety of sizes

Warm-up Questions

If this painting could move, would it move quickly or slowly? Is there something about the lines that make you think so?


Line is a mark made using a drawing tool or brush. There are many types of lines: thick, thin, horizontal, vertical, zigzag, diagonal, curly, curved, spiral, etc. and are often very expressive. Lines are basic tools for artists—though some artists show their lines more than others. Some lines in paintings are invisible—you don't actually see the dark mark of the line. But they are there, shown in the way the artist arranges the objects in the painting.

Artist Frank Stella is a racing fan. This metal relief painting, Jarama II, is named after an automobile racetrack outside Madrid, Spain. Here, Stella used winding, curving strips of metal painted in bright, dynamic colors to forcefully carry the motion and excitement of professional racing.

Guided Practice

Lines in art express different things. View the slideshow below and have students answer the questions beneath each image:

Slideshow: Exploring Lines in Works of Art


Students will select an activity they enjoy watching or participating in that involves movement such as playing a sport, dancing, climbing a tree, biking, jumping rope, etc. They will list adjectives that describe both the activity and feelings they have while doing or viewing this activity. Then, students will write next to each adjective what type of line and color would reflect this activity best. For example, watching a ballet may be soft, thin, wavy lines in pastel colors, while jumping rope may be thick, zigzag lines in bold hues. Using Stella’s Jarama II as their inspiration, students will create an abstract line art piece in a medium of their choice that evokes the feeling of their activity. Remind students that selection of media is very important; markers create a much bolder impression than watercolors so they should think about the whole picture they wish to depict.

To accommodate visual impairments, students can use yarn and glue to create their abstract line drawings. Students can draw with glue onto a piece of paper, and then lay different types and lengths of yarn to create a raised surface drawing.

An alternative to accommodate motor control differences would be to create an abstract line drawing using a box, balls, and tempera paint. Students would place a piece of paper inside a long box, and squeeze 3-4 quarter-size amounts of tempera paint in different colors onto the paper. Students would then use balls of varying sizes and roll the balls through the paint, trying different speeds, to create lines. 


Students will then post their finished works of art for class discussion. First, their fellow classmates should guess what activity is being depicted and give their reasons for their answer: What is it about the shape of the line? the thickness? the number of lines included? the color? choice of media? Then the student artist will justify their decisions to the class.

The Elements of Art is supported by the Robert Lehman Foundation

National Core Arts Standards

VA:Cr1.1.2 Brainstorm collaboratively multiple approaches to an art or design problem.

VA:Cr1.2.2 Make art or design with various materials and tools to explore personal interests, questions, and curiosity.

VA:Cr2.1.2 Experiment with various materials and tools to explore personal interests in a work of art or design.

VA:Cr2.2.1 Demonstrate safe and proper procedures for using materials, tools, and equipment while making art.

VA:Cr3.1.2 Discuss and reflect with peers about choices made in creating artwork.

VA:Re7.2.2 Perceive and describe aesthetic characteristics of one’s natural world and constructed environments.

VA:Re8.1.2 Interpret art by identifying the mood suggested by a work of art and describing relevant subject matter and characteristics of form.

Borrow the DVD Making Art

Use the Drawn From Nature sketching worksheet

Use the Sketching and Sculpture activity guide