The Elements of Art
This competency tests your knowledge of the elements of art, including color, texture, shape, form, line, space, and value.
Line is the most basic element of art. It is the path that connects two points in a plane. Line can have weight, movement, and direction, and can communicate two and three dimensions.
Shape is defined as lines that are connected to create a closed area. Triangles, circles, and squares are all shapes.
Form is similar to shape in that it represents an enclosed area, but it exists in a three-dimensional space. For example, a circle is a shape, while a sphere has form.
Space refers to the area in and around a piece of art. Space can be positive (the area that an object fills) or negative (the absence of an object within a piece). Space communicates energy, emotion, and tension between subjects within a piece of art.
Color is produced when light hits an object or surface and the light waves are reflected into the eye.
Hue is used to describe the specific color; for example, blue, yellow, and green are hues.
Artists use color to express emotion to the audience. A monochromatic piece that uses one hue in a variety of intensities communicates a different message than one that uses many hues.
Value defines how light or dark a certain hue is, like navy blue or sky blue.
Texture engages the sense of touch that is inherent in a piece of art. Texture is used to describe both two- and three- dimensional pieces. When an artist evokes this element of art, that piece can be described as smooth, jagged, rough, etc.
Texture can be real or perceived. A mixed-media work might include fabrics and materials with differing textures, or a drawing of an object might represent varied textures.
Example Activities to Promote Understanding
Based on student age and ability, teachers can review multiple elements of art and allow students to create pieces with a focus on those elements.
- Creating a collage is an activity that can be made more or less advanced for a range of student age, ability, and safety levels.
- Students can gather items with different shapes, colors, and textures, like cotton balls, yarn, sand paper, crumpled tissue, and aluminum foil.
- Students can recreate a familiar painting using their gathered objects. If the students are more experienced, the materials and equipment can be more complex or difficult to use.
- Once the pieces are complete, students can take a gallery walk around the room and discuss how different choices of color, shape, and texture impacted the works.
The Principles of Art
This competency tests your knowledge of the principles of art, including emphasis, contrast, pattern, rhythm, balance, proportion, and unity.
Emphasis is defined as attracting the viewer’s attention to a specific focal point.
Contrast is the use of different elements to create a cohesive piece. In the image above (The Birth of Venus) there are dark and light spaces that work together to focus the audience on the subject of the painting.
Pattern employs the repetition of color, line, or other elements. In the painting above (The Birth of Venus), color and line are used to create a pattern in the water in the background.
Rhythm, like pattern, uses repetition of an element of art to create the perception of movement. The angel in the top left of the painting is wearing fabric that expresses movement using this principle.
Balance in a piece of art creates equilibrium. In the image above, the figure in the center is the focus and the figures on either side take up about the same amount of space, giving this piece even balance.
Proportion utilizes the relationship of one element to another within a piece of art. For example, Botticelli (the artist who created The Birth of Venus) elongates the proportions of a typical human figure in this image to exaggerate the divine qualities of the goddess at the center of the painting.
Unity is the principal that enlists all elements and principles to create a complete piece of art. In The Birth of Venus, all of the aspects discussed are working together to create a unified painting.
Promote Understanding of the Principles of Art
Based on student age and ability, teachers can use direct instruction to demonstrate the principles of art.
Many of these concepts are related and complex, so defining and identifying principles should be mastered before other levels of understanding are attempted.
Once the definitions are clear, students can break into small groups and analyze a piece of art for which principles are present, and then share out to the class.