The Elements of Art

The seven components of art-making and design.
The elements of art are the basic components of art-marking. It is impossible to create a work of art without using at least one of the seven elements of art. In order to be successful in art creation, an artist must be able to intelligently use the elements of art. Artwork can also be analyzed according to the use of the elements in a work of art.

Click on the links below for detailed pages that explore each of the seven elements of art...

In terms of art, line is considered a moving dot or the path of a dot. Line can be used to define edges, add shading or value, and create the illusion of form.
The element of art - shape
Shape is considered a closed contour or the area confined within a contour line. Shapes fall into two categories: geometric or organic. They can be defined as positive or negative and are essential in compositional design.
The element of art - form
Form refers to three-dimensional objects. The illusion of form in a drawing or painting is heavily dependent on the use and placement of values.
The element of art - value
Value is also referred to as "tone". It is the darkness or lightness of a color and can be measured through the use of a value scale. Lighter values are referred to as "tints", while darker values are referred to as "shades". When it comes to drawing and painting, value is arguably the most important element of art.
The element of art - space
In terms of art, space is the area around, above, and within an object.  With consideration to drawings and paintings, our goal is to create the illusion of space. There are six ways that an artist can create the illusion of space in a drawing or painting.
The element of art - texture
Texture refers to the way an object feels to the touch or looks as it may feel if it were touched. Texture created in drawings or paintings can be "simulated" or "invented". The illusion of texture is heavily dependent on the use of value.
The element of art - color
Color is the element of art that refers to reflected light. Although complex, color theory can be broken down into three main components: the color wheel, color values, and color schemes.
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Teaching The Elements of Art...

Quality art starts with the elements and principles of art.  I like to explain to my students how the elements and principles of art work through the illustration of cooking.  (I even speak like I am Julia Childs when I am explaining this concept to them. ) 

The Elements of Art

Difference Between The Elements and Principles of Art

It's easy to get confused when discussing the elements and principles of art and group them all together as one big group of abstract terms.  It's much easier to understand when you compare them to cooking.

When you are cooking something, you have a list of ingredients that are organized by the recipe.  The elements of art are like the ingredients.   If you are a good cook, then you care about quality ingredients. The same is true if you are a good artist.  You care about the quality of elements that you chose to put in your artwork. 

The lines, shapes, forms, values, colors, textures, and spaces that are incorporated must all work to make your artwork great.  The elements must be used as quality ingredients in an artwork.

So you must spend some time exploring them, understanding them, and learning how to use them together effectively. The same is true of cooking - you cannot just throw a list of great ingredients together and expect to create a great dish.  You must follow the recipe. 

The recipe is the principles of art.  The principles of art are an organized way that the elements of art are arranged in a work of art. 

The elements can be arranged in a work to produce balance, harmony, unity, rhythm, proportion, variety, emphasis, and movement.  So the principles of art are dependent on the elements.  No elements - no principles.  No ingredients - no recipe.

So you must explore the principles as well.  Creating good artwork is not just skill.  It is definitely not luck or trial and error.  It is knowledge. 

Planning Solutions for Art Teachers

The Ultimate Lesson Plan for art teachers

The Ultimate Lesson Plan

“The Ultimate Lesson Plan” is a complete classroom solution for art teachers that includes lesson plans, videos, handouts, quizzes and more. Each lesson is designed to emphasize the fundamentals of art by providing students with a rich multimedia experience followed by an art production activity that reinforces concepts. Each lesson builds upon the last, following a logical progression. Students make connections on concepts learned in prior lessons and are provided with a complete understanding of art production and appreciation. 


The Principles of Art

The principles of art generally deal with the way the elements of art are composed within the work of art. So, the principles of art typically deal with composition. The principles tend to be more fluid than the elements meaning that opinions vary on what the principles really are.   I suggest that there are eight concrete principles of art, and few others that would be considered art fundamentals. 

The eight principles of art are balance, proportion, unity, harmony, variety, emphasis, rhythm,  and movement.  All of these principles clearly deal with the placement of elements within artwork.

Other Fundamentals of Art

Of course, there are other art fundamentals other than the elements and principles that every artist should understand and implement. These include, but are not limited to composition, contrast, dominance, content implementation, aesthetics, art criticism, and symbolism.

Composition - The way visual elements are positioned in a work of art.  Composition is highly dependent on the use of the principles of art.

Contrast- refers to difference between elements or subjects within a work of art.  Contrast can be created through variety within the elements of art. (i.e. value, color, texture)  Contrast can used to create a focal point or area of interest in an artwork.

Dominance - refers to one area of a work of art that is visually heavier demanding more attention.  Dominance is closely related to emphasis.

Content- refers to the message or meaning within an artwork.

Aesthetics - refers to the artwork's visual attraction or beauty.

Art Criticism - An organized approach to evaluating artwork.

Symbolism - Using visual objects or arrangements to represent an alternate meaning.