ELEMENTS AND PRINCIPLES OF VISUAL ART
Triveni Goswami Vernal
Registered Special Educator (A64010)
Visual arts refer to all forms of art that are primarily visual in nature. It includes painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, architecture, printmaking, photography, design and crafts. There are certain building blocks in the creation of an art piece, and these building blocks are called the Elements.
ELEMENTS OF VISUAL ART: Elements lend character to the art piece and make the art unique. There are 7 main elements of art—Line, Colour, Texture, Value, Shape, Form and Space.
1) LINE: The element of Line is considered to have an identifiable path, a moving dot in space. It can be horizontal, vertical or curved and its size may vary. “It is one-dimensional and can vary in width, direction, and length. Lines often define the edges of a form They lead your eye around the composition and can communicate information through their character and direction” (https://www.getty.edu/education/for_teachers/building_lessons/elements.html#).
2) COLOUR: The element of Colour refers to reflected light in art. The colour element in art includes several aspects such as Hue, Tones, Tints, Shades, Value, Saturation, Temperature and the Colour Wheel (https://artincontext.org/color-in-art/).
• Hue refers to the dominant colour family.
• Tones refer to the lightness or darkness of a given colour.
• Tints refer to a lighter version of colour, by adding white to it.
• Shades refer to a darker version of a colour, by adding black to it.
• Value refers to how dark or light a colour can be.
• Saturation refers to the intensity of a colour.
• Temperature refers to how warm or cool a colour is depending on its location in the Colour Wheel.
• The Colour Wheel shows the placement of colours on a spectrum and the relationship they share with each other on the spectrum.
According to the website Art in Context, the Colour Wheel was invented by Sir Issac Newton in the 1600s (https://artincontext.org/color-in-art/). According to the Colour Wheel, the
• Primary Colours are Red, Blue and Yellow
• Secondary Colours are Green, Orange and Purple
• Tertiary Colours are Red-Orange, Red-Purple, Yellow-Orange, Yellow-Green, Blue-Green, Blue-Purple
3) TEXTURE: It refers to how the art piece looks and feels to touch. It can be two-dimensional or three-dimensional.
4) VALUE: It refers to the brightness of colours. It can help in expressing various emotions or creating moods through the art piece. White has the lightest value, whereas Black is the darkest.
5) SHAPE: It refers to two dimensions—height and width, of the art piece. Shape can be defined by line, providing it with a contour (https://www.getty.edu/education/for_teachers/building_lessons/elements.htm).
6) FORM: It refers to three dimensions—height, width and length, of an art piece.
7) SPACE: “An element of art by which positive and negative areas are defined or a sense of depth achieved in a work of art.” (https://massart.edu/sites/default/files/Principles%20and%20Elements.pdf)
WORKSHEETS TO EXPLORE AND LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ELEMENTS OF ART:
PRINCIPLES OF VISUAL ARTS: The Principles of Visual Arts are “balance, emphasis, movement, proportion, rhythm, unity, pattern, repetition and variety. They are used by artists as guidelines to control the use of the ‘Elements of Art’. They determine how the elements are used, the way they are combined, and their overall effect.” (https://www.turners.act.edu.au/our_curriculum/the_arts/elements_and_principles_of_art)
1) BALANCE: It refers to “the distribution of the visual weight of objects, colors, texture, and space. If the design was a scale, these elements should be balanced to make a design feel stable. In symmetrical balance, the elements used on one side of the design are similar to those on the other side; in asymmetrical balance, the sides are different but still look balanced. In radial balance, the elements are arranged around a central point and may be similar” (https://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/building_lessons/principles_design.pdf).
2) EMPHASIS: It refers to the principle of creating interest in the art piece…a point where the eye is drawn to.
3) MOVEMENT: It refers to the excitement, drama and the “creation of the impression of action in a work of art” (https://thevirtualinstructor.com/blog/movement-a-principle-of-art).
4) PROPORTION: It refers to the dimensions of the composition and the relationships that exist between the height, width and depth of the art piece.
5) RHYTHM: It refers to the “visual or auditory pattern create by repeated shapes, elements, colours, sounds, and movements. It is used to create a sense of flow and connection within a work of art, as well as draw attention to certain areas of the composition” (https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/what-is-rhythm-in-art-definition/).
6) UNITY: Unity refers to certain strategies in composition adopted by the artist to create a balance amongst all the elements in the art piece, such that it looks like a cohesive piece.
7) PATTERN: It refers to the “repeating of an object or symbol all over the work of art” (https://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/building_lessons/principles_design.pdf).
8) REPETITION: It refers to reusing certain elements, like colour, texture, line, value, throughout a piece of work.
9) VARIETY: “Variety adds interest by using juxtaposition and contrasting elements within the composition. When an artist places different visual elements next to one another, he/she is using variety: Straight lines next to curvy lines. Organic shapes among geometric shapes. Bright colors next to dull colors” (https://www.purchase.edu/live/files/3467-activity-principles-of-art-unity-and-variety#).
WORKSHEETS TO EXPLORE THE PRINCIPLES OF VISUAL ART
Thus, we see that to truly appreciate art, an understanding (however rudimentary), of the elements and the principles of art, can go a long way. It is important that we provide exposure to various forms of art as well as the building blocks of art, to the children, so that they can develop a keen eye for art, in all its forms.
Author Triveni Goswami Vernal
Triveni Goswami Vernal is an Autism advocate, registered Special Educator (CRR A64010) and an Independent Researcher. Her areas of interest include Autism, Disability Rights, Gender, Art and Northeast studies. She is a mum to an 11 year old on the Autism Spectrum.
The author is Certified in Art & Ideas: Teaching with Themes, The Museum of Modern Art, 2022
Creative representation for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Kabir Vernal