Elements of Art
The Elements of Art are the basic building blocks of Art; they're what art is "made out of." Points, lines, shapes, and forms are all related.
A point is the most basic elements of art. It can be either stated or implied, but it is real and actualeven if it's implied.
- In visual art, a point can be a visible dot, or an invisible
location where lines converge such as a vanishing point, or it
can be a focus such as the focal point. A point can also an specific
place or part, such as a frame in a movie or a page in a picture book.
- In audible art, a point is a place in time marked by a note
or silence such as a quarter note 3 seconds into the piece, the
beginning of the tenth measure, or the silence at the end of
the second movement.
- In written art, a point is a place in the story where something
happens such as the climactic point, a turning point,
or the starting point.
A line is the space or time between
two points. Lines may be expressed or implied, but like points,
they are real.
- In visual art, a line is a shape that is longer than
it is wide. It may be thick or thin, straight or curved, solid or broken,
explicit or implied.
- In audible art, a line is a series of notes, phrases,
and/or measures. A line here is always explicit.
- In written art, a line is a phrase, a sentence,
a series of sentences, or a paragraph.
A shape is a larger group than a line. A shape may be
expressed or implied.
- In visual art, a shape may be 1-dimensional (a line),
2-dimensional (a shape), or 3-dimensional (a form).
A shape (2D) is defined by three points and has height and width. It
can be geometric or organic. It can be flat or curve up, but it has
no depth. We view the world as shapes even though it is made up of forms.
Drawings, paintings (unless the paints put on pretty thick), and computer
graphics are merely shapes that trick the eye into thinking they are
forms with actual depth. Positive shapes are the dominant shapes, the
identifiable "things" in a work. Negative shapes are the shapes
created in the space not occupied by positive shapes.
- In audible art, a shape is the overall pattern and movement
of the sound.
- In written art, a shape is the collection of the works elements
and their relation to one another.
Form is a larger more complete group. It may be expressed
- In visual art, a 3-Dimensional shape is form. It is
defined by four points. It can be geometric or organic.
It has height, width, and depth. All physical objects are forms. Two-dimensional
art such as drawings or computer graphics have only the illusion of
depth and form; only sculpture and ceramics have actual form.
- In audible art, a form is the physical manifestation of the
work such as a song, an instrumental piece, or a speech.
- In written art, the form is the physical manifestation of the
work such as a letter, a memo, or a book.
Space and time are the physical and temperal relation
between objects, also known as the "where" and "when"
- In visual art, space-time is expressed at 100% space.
It is flat and only an illusion in 2-D art such as drawing, painting,
and computer graphics. In 3-D art, space is the empty areas (sometimes
called negative space), and form is the areas that are filled with "stuff"
(sometimes called positve space). Visual art doesn't take up a certain
amount of time, but it does require a certain amount of space.
- In audible art, space-time is expressed as 100% time.
Time is the "space" between tones. It is expressed in before,
now, and after. Notes would be equivilent to positive space, and silence
equivilent to negative space. Sound doesn't really take up space, but
it requires a certain amount of time to experience.
- In written art, space-time is more ambiguous. The writing itself (be
a paper, a data file, or a stone tablet) does take up actual space,
but the space can vary—you could photocopy and shrink the paper,
compress the data file, or make smaller stone tablet, but write the
same information with smaller characters. Also, there is time; events,
words, ideas occur in a sequence with a before and after, but there
is no set time that a writing takes to enjoy—you could spend a
few hours or a few days reading the same book or reciting the same poem.
Motion is the change in space and time of an object.
- In visual art, motion is implied for 2-dimensional
work such as speed lines, motion bluring, or an object appearing to
move across the screen. In 3-dimensional art, the work can be still,
such as a vase or statue, or it can move—like a toy with a motor
or a car.
- In audible art, the motion is not from point A to
point B, but from one note to another note that may be higher or lower
in pitch. Motion is also the "quickness" or "slowness"
the work moves from one note to another.
- In written art, motion is implied and only exists
in the mind of the reader.
Texture is the "roughness" or "smoothness" of an object or sound.
- In visual art, texture can be implied—such
as a painting that looks like a smooth silk robe or a line drawing of
a rough rock—or actual such as a smooth, glossy finish on a pot
or the rough stone surface of a statue. Two-dimensional work can have
real texture created by the media such as rough watercolor paper or
thick brush strokes.
- In audible art, texture is created by the contrast
of quick notes to long notes, harmonious sound to dissonant sound, and
the difference in instruments used to create the sound.
- In written art, like audible art, the texture is
created by contrasts of characters, settings, themes, and plots as well as details of people, places, and actions. More detail and more contrast add more texture.
- In visual art, color is the only thing that is actually
seen. We don't actually see objects; we see the light reflected off
of the objects. Color is part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Photons
emitted from electrons moving up or down levels in the rings of an atom
are the substance of color. Differences in color that define a shape
are called value, and some people wrongly call this an element; value
is merely the color changes along a form.
- In audible art, color is the feelings, mood, and
emotions created by a work.
- In written art, color, like texture, comes from details of people, places, and events.
The arrangement of the Elements of Art is what we call the Principles of Design. But that's another lesson.
Click on a lesson below:
Elements of Art
Principles of Design
Essential Reading & Online Resources
Web Design & Development
Lettering & Typography