The Elements of Art and Design
Progress in an endeavour is only possible when its roots are known; this rings true for Art and Design. It is also true for a lot of professions, from Medicine to Hairstyling, Aeronautics to TapDancing.
This is why we will be treating the basics today : The Elements of Art and Design.
The Elements of Art and Design are the A,B,Cs of Art and Design. Together with the Principles of Art and Design, they are the building blocks of understanding and creating Art that expresses and moves us. As M.C Gills put it, “Just as the letters of any alphabet are fundamental to understanding that language, the elements and principles of Art are fundamental to understanding the language of Art”.
1) Line : This is arguably the most important element of all. This is because lines are key to giving your drawings/ illustrations structure. Lines are the tools we use to depict the outer edge of an object or image, to show movement (or the absence of movement) , to show emotions etc. Whether they be straight lines, bold lines, broken lines, rigid lines, whatever the kind of line, it can be used to provide clarity at the initial and latter stages of a work of art.
2) Shape and Form : Simply put, a shape is formed by a closed line. This means that when a line touches itself, a shape is born. Shapes we are familiar with include Triangles, Squares, Rectangles and Circles. A shape is a two-dimensional entity with length and width, but no depth. As such, it cannot exist in our reality, outside of the paper it is depicted on. Forms, on the other hand, have the added dimension of depth. This makes it three-dimensional.
Ever seen a cylinder in real life? Chances are that you have. Ever seen a square? I would hope not!
3) Colour : This element appeals particularly to painters and illustrators. Colours add spice to art and design. They are a source of joy, wonder and inspiration. They have the power to evoke emotions within us, in a consistent and reproducible manner.
There are several ways to classify colours :
a) Warm and Cool colours :The warm colours are said to create the sensation of heat/warmth while the cool colours are, well…cool. Warm colours are Red, Yellow and Orange. Cool colours are Blue, Green and Purple.
b) Primary and Secondary colours : Primary colours are colours that cannot be derived but are necessary to derive other colours. They are Red, Blue and Yellow. Secondary colours are derived by mixing two primary colours.
Red + Blue = Purple
Red + Yellow = Orange
Blue + Yellow = Green
c) Complimentary and Analogous colours : Complimentary colours are opposites on the color wheel. Analogous colours are close neighbours on the colour wheel.
4) Texture : Whatever it is that you have decided to draw/paint/illustrate, there is a way you want its surface qualities to appear. That is what we call Texture. Texture is, as Wikipedia put it, the perceived surface quality of a work of Art. It is an element of two-dimensional and three-dimensional designs and is distinguished by its perceived visual & physical properties. Texture refers to the way something feels to touch or looks to the eye. Words like smooth, rough, hard, soft, woven, bumpy, silky, shiny all attempt to describe the texture of various depictions of Art.
5) Space : How shapes and forms are arranged in an artwork creates a sense of space. There are two methods through which space can be classified.
a) Positive and Negative space : Positive space is composed of the subject or objects in the work of Art, not the space around them. Negative space is the empty space around the subject or objects.
b) Foreground, Midground and Background : Foreground is the area occupied by the subject that appears closest to you, the observer. Midground is the space in-between the foreground and the background while the background is the area that appears farthest in the work of Art.
6) Value : Simply put, Value is the degree of “lightness” or “darkness” of a surface. It is the range of light to dark. A proper understanding of Value helps the pencil artist to shade properly and helps the painter tint/shade with colours appropriately.
The ability to identify value and contrast in everyday objects and people around us, and depict them accurately in Art, is the hallmark of a well-rounded artist.
Thank you for your time, fam!
(All picture excerpts were gotten from “ABCs of Art” by M.C Gills)