Elements of Art and Principles of Design

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Elements and principles of design describe ways that artists construct works of art.  Here are the basic terms and definitions:

Composition refers to the overall arrangement of elements (lines, shapes, colors) using the principles of design (balance, movement, variety).

Elements of Art

Line is a continuous mark made on a surface.  The variety of lines is almost endless; angular, curved, thick, thin, broken, dotted, and so on.  Lines often suggest movement in a work of art.

Hue refers to the name of a color.  Primary hues are red, blue, and yellow.  Secondary hues are orange, violet, and green.  Intermediate (or Tertiary) hues are yellow-orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, and yellow-green.

Value refers to dark and light.  Value contrasts help us see and understand a two-dimensional work of art.

Shape is an area that is contained within an implied line or is seen and identified because of color or value changes.  Shapes have two dimensions, length and width, and can be geometric or organic.

Form describes volume and mass, or the three-dimensional aspect of objects that take up space.  When you hold an object, you notice its edges, curves, angles, and indentations its forms.

Texture refers to the surface quality of an artwork.  Texture can be simulated or it can be actual, whether through the method of paint application or through the use of clay or other tactile materials.

Space is a three-dimensional volume that has width, height, and depth.  Space in a painting is an illusion that can be created with various techniques including overlapping and size relationships.

These elements are used to create the Principles of Design. Principles are the results of using the Elements.  When you are working in a particular format (size and shape of the work surface) the principles are used to create interest, harmony and unity to the elements that you are using.  You can use the Principles of design to check your composition to see if it has good structure.

Principles of Design
The principles of design are the recipe for a good work of art. The principles combine the elements to create an aesthetic placement of things that will produce a good design.

Balance refers to the distribution of visual weight in a work of art.  It can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical.

Movement directs viewers through a work of art.  It can be directed along lines, shapes, values, or colors.

Rhythm is the repetition of visual movement color, shapes, or lines.  Variety is essential to keep rhythms exciting and active and to avoid monotony.

Contrast refers to difference in the elements of a work of art.

Pattern uses repeated art elements to enhance surfaces or paintings or sculptures.  Pattern can be regular or random.

Artist can use color, value, shapes, or other art element to create emphasis in an artwork.

Unity provides the cohesive quality that makes an artwork feel complete.  When all the element in a work look as though they belong together, the artist has achieved harmony and unity.


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