Artistic Elements through the Eyes of Chris O'Brien: Line and Shape

at 49th and Broadway Photo: Chris O'Brien ©

In a recent post we examined and appreciated some of the alluring images captured by subscriber Chris O'Brien in New York and learnt a little more about the effect of colour on a work of art. Today we will explore more about the elements of line and shape .

Take a moment to study the image above and concentrate on the lines and shapes rather than the assortment of objects that circumstances combined randomly to symbolise discarded life by the gutter.

And now I want you to look at each of the images below by squinting your eyes up until they are nearly shut. This will allow you to just see the shapes in the compositions. Imagine running a pencil around the shape outlines to form a drawing. You might like to try this on paper. No colour but mainly rectangular shapes which is what our human-made world is largely comprised of. Even vehicles are predominantly rectangles with a few curves added.

Here is a perfect illustration (below) of the role rectangles play in our environments: not a curve in sight except for the text in the notices. One tiny advantage that the pandemic has brought is that photographers such as Chris O'Brien can capture these remarkable images free from the incumbrances of pedestrians!

at Hilton Times Square Photo: Chris O'Brien ©

What is also dominant in the above image and those below is the effect of dark vertical lines which in all examples play a domiant role in the composition. And on the left it is not only the stark whiteness of the letter E against the red background that catches the eye - it is the strength of the straight lines in the letter and arrow. Try imagining the effect if the lines were curved.

Now think about the effect of shape and line in these two images. On the left below without exception the rectangles dominate against the muted raw umber bricks. A couple of patches of colour - the blue and gold barely interrupt the geometrical nature of this image.

The image on the right is far more engaging and not only because the focus is closer to the view. I love this image with its juxtaposition of rectangular shapes of varying sizes clothed in brown shades. But the touch of class is the curved line above the tessellated window framing so delicately the muted reflection of the buildings opposite. And the dark glass doorway where hyou can see shapes inside make me want to enter to check out the Sunshine Hotel.

And these two images concentrate totally on line and shape where Chris has exploited the lack of colour to highlight the geometrical nature of the buildings. The exaggerated angle established from his view point enhances the congruous nature of the buildings.

To conclude - an image created by Chris that combines the elements of colour dominance, shape and line to establish the composition. The clever use of shadow not only highlights the significance of line and shape as see in the outline of the windows but symbolises a dichotomy between the darkness that can be present at the ground level of a cityscape rising to the bright light of the future engulfing the tops of the buildings. The cobalt sky caps the feeling of hope that this image conveys.

at Fifth Ave, New York City Photo: Chris O'Brien