Core Ideas of Art: Elements, Principles, and Concepts

  • Aesthetics:  a set of principles concerned with the nature and appreciation of beauty, especially in art.  It is the branch of philosophy that deals with the principles of beauty and artistic taste.

Elements of Art

  • Line: A mark made by the artist to describe something. These marks can define the edges of an object, details on an item, or the texture of a surface. Line can be used as a tool to lead a viewer’s eye, and may be implied rather than depicted.
  • Shape: A two-dimensional (2-D) area defined in some way. Other Elements of Art may define shapes.
  • Form: A three-dimensional (3-D) volume defined in some way. Other Elements of Art may define forms.
  • Space: The emptiness between, within or around objects. In short, the gaps, holes, and expanses.
    • Positive Space: space occupied by an object.
    • Negative Space: empty space.
  • Value: The lightness or darkness of an object or color. Value is dependent upon the effects of lighting. Shading is a type of value.
  • Color: Derived from reflected light. Color has three properties:
    • Hue: the color, the name of the color.
    • Value: The lightness or darkness of the color.
    • Saturation: The purity of the color, also known as saturation.
  • Texture: Either how an object feels, or how an object looks like it would feel if it could be touched. Texture is perceived with both touch and sight. There are two types of texture:
    • Simulated Texture: the illusion of texture.
    • Actual Texture: a real texture that can be seen or touched.

Principles of Design

  • Balance: Equalizing visual forces (things) in a work of art.
    • Formal Balance: Using similar elements (shapes, colors, values) to balance the picture.  Left resembles right; the image is symmetrical.
    • Informal Balance: Using different elements (shapes, colors, values) to balance the picture. Left does not look like right; the image is asymmetrical.
    • Radial Balance: balance achieved by arranging the visual forces equally around a central axis.
  • Contrast:  A drastic difference between two elements.
  • Proportion: Size relationships. These relationships can be between one object and another, or parts of an object to the whole. When talking about scale, one is talking about proportion.
  • Emphasis: Making one thing more important than all the others. This may be done through contrasting colors, contrasting values, scale, etc.
  • Harmony: Making everything match. Harmony is created by related, similar, or repeated elements within an artwork.
  • Variety: Using lots of different elements (colors, shapes, etc.) or objects in order to make the picture more interesting.
  • Rhythm: The repetition of elements (shapes, colors, etc.) or objects.  A Rhythm may make a pattern. Rhythm can also imply movement.

 Four Components of any Work of Art

  • Form:  the shape of the work, to include materials, appearance, elements, principles, etc.
  • Function:  the purpose or use of the work (a temple, a book, a cooking vessel, etc.)
  • Content:  the story or message contained within or expressed by the work.
  • Context:  where and when the piece comes from, or where and when it was found (in a royal tomb, used within an ancient temple, decorating a middle class home, etc.)

How the World is Viewed

  • Illusionistic:  usually based upon models and observation, the artist strives for a true visual accounting of the natural world.
  • Idealized:  perfection>realism.  The artist strives to construct the most ideal forms, even when such forms are recognizably unobtainable.  Still often rooted in observation and models.
  • Stylized:  the artist works within a codified set of rules regarding how the world is to be depicted.  Cartoons and Egyptian art are both great examples of this.  Models tend to not be used as the artist is following a set standard.
  • Abstracted:  the artist begins with reference to the natural world, but then departs, following their own individual or cultural imperatives.  Abstraction is often seen when the artist needs to depict the supernatural, the fantastical, the spiritual, or some inner emotional content.

Here is a link to an external website that explains the Elements and Principles with the help of graphics.