Elements of Art – Nuts and Bolts Make You A Strong Artist!

by Neadeen Masters on July 4, 2011

Artists use elements of art to create mood, perspective and emotion in much the same way writers use the parts of speech. They may be trying to tell a story or make you feel a certain way. Some use the elements consciously to set up the layout of a painting; others may use them unconsciously. Nevertheless, these elements of art are the ‘nuts and bolts’ of what makes up a composition. Coupled with the principles of design, the elements of art are the building blocks used to create art. Every artist needs to know them.

What are the Elements of Art and the Principle of Design?
Every work of art contains some, if not all of the elements of art. The principles of design are how we use the elements of art. They will determine whether our finished work is pleasing or not. Learning to use them all together will help the artist create a piece that is not only pleasing, but has the potential to be visually powerful. Learning how these elements and principles are used will allow you to evaluate a work and see why the artist made the choices they did. You will be able to see why a work of art is successful or not. This will help you do the same with your own work.

Elements of Art - Art Apprentice Online

Turtle Reef,  by Neadeen Masters – art instructor at the Art Apprentice Online Art School

In the painting above, the artist has used several of the important artistic principles to direct the viewer’s eye into and around the composition. Placement of the focal area, the use of color contrasts and the positioning of each element creates a unified composition. Objects are placed in such a way that they point into the composition rather than outwards…observe the swimming direction of the fish compared to that of the turtle.  Movement  is also created by the vertical growth patterns of the corals, moving the viewer’s eye upwards. Each element is placed  for a purpose. These are the basic nuts and bolts of basic design principles  that artist can learn to use in their own work.

The elements of art include line, shape, space, color, texture, value and form. Shape and form are similar, with shape being two dimensional and form being three dimensional. Color can be used to direct the eye to the focal point of the piece. It can also help things recede into the background, especially when color is combined with light and shadow. Some artists develop a signature style of working with these elements. People can look at their work and know who did it. Van Gogh was such an artist. His use of line, color and texture is distinctive and original. You can’t look at one of his paintings without recognizing the work as his.
Adding the principles of design (scale, proportion, variety, pattern, unity, movement, emphasis, contrast and balance) helps the artist use the elements to their greatest potential. Picasso is known best for his cubist phase. He played with proportion, scale and pattern to create a unique style all his own.

Learning these aspects and applying them to your own art will help you become a knowledgeable, well rounded artist. Your work will reflect what you have learned. Your composition will improve, as will your use of color, shape and line. With practice, you will develop your own signature style that others will appreciate.
It will be easier to design the composition you want when you know the elements of art and can use line, color, shape, texture, space, etc. instead of using trial and error. you’ll be able to get every composition right the first time. Being able to produce your art with confidence will bring the best out in your art. Grasping the basics will make you a better artist. Just like a musician can never truly shine until they master the basics of music theory, an artist can never reach their full potential until they understand how they do what they do.

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