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Chapter 4 – The Visual Elements: Terminology and Vocabulary
* Visual Elements of art: are the basic vocabulary of art. They are the tools an artist uses to make a work of art.
They are: line, shape, form, volume, mass, light, value, color, texture, pattern, space, time, and motion.
I. Line: lines can show outline, imply a third dimension on a two-dimensional surface, and show direction or movement. There are different types of lines:
– Outline: the outermost line of an object or figure
– Contour lines: record the boundaries of where we perceive three-dimensional form; varying the thickness
(weight) and the dark/lightness of the line aids very much in the illusion of roundness; they suggest volume and
space by giving us clues about the changing character of a surface
– Directional line: an artist can use line to direct our attention to something he/she wants us to notice
– Communicative Line: the directions of lines (up, down, diagonally) both guide our attention and suggest
– Actual line: a continuous, uninterrupted line that is clearly seen
– Implied line: a line not actually drawn but suggested by elements in the work; gives the impression we are seeing
a line where there is no continuous line
– Regular lines: regular lines are lines that are planned, express control, and can be carefully measured; can express
deliberation and accuracy
– Irregular lines: irregular lines can reflect the wildness of nature, chaos, and accident
II. Shape and Form: Shape refers to two-dimensions. For example, a square is in two-dimensions (height and width). Forms refers to three-dimensions. For example, a cube is in three-dimensions (height, width, depth). Forms have volume and mass, whereas shapes do not.
– Organic shapes: are made up of unpredictable, irregular lines that suggest the natural world
– Geometric shapes: are mathematically regular and precise
– Actual shapes: shapes that are defined by a visible boundary
– Implied shapes: a shape that is not actually drawn but suggested by elements within the work
– Open volume form: a three-dimensional form that is predominantly open
– Solid volume form: a three-dimensional form that is predominantly solid
– Mass: refers to a three-dimensional form that not only has volume, but also has density or weight
III. Light: Light reveals or suggests form. Light and shadow are visual elements used to create the appearance of three-dimensional depth in a two-dimensional work of art. It helps to locate where the light source is in a work of art. Also, look for a range in lightness to darkness, known as value.
– Modeling is the representation of three-dimensional objects in two dimensions so that they appear solid.
– Value: refers to shades of lightness and darkness
– Implied light – giving the appearance that light and shadow are present when they are not. To do this, an artist
uses employ chiaroscuro, hatching, cross-hatching and stippling to achieve modeling;
– Chiaroscuro – Italian work for light and dark; method of applying value to a two-dimensional piece of art to create
the illusion of a three-dimensional solid form; technique created by the Italian Renaissance artists
IV. Color: How does the artist use color in their art? Did the artist use a specific color scheme or color harmony? If so, which one? Are the colors emotionally soothing or jarring? Do the colors communicate something to the viewer?
– Color Theory – the guidance of color combinations
Primary colors: red, yellow, and blue
Secondary colors: orange, green, and violet; each is made by combining two primary colors
Intermediate colors or tertiary colors: see color wheel
Warm colors: on the red-orange side of the color wheel
Cool colors: on the blue-green side of the color wheel
– Color Harmonies – color schemes that an artist might utilize
Monochromatic: variations of the same hue
Complementary: colors directly opposite each other in the color wheel
Analogous: combine colors adjacent one another on the color wheel
Triadic: the use of any three colors equidistant from each other on the color wheel
V. Texture and Pattern: Does the artwork have actual texture, meaning could you feel it? Or, does it have implied texture, suggesting that it is smooth or rough? Does the work of art have an overall pattern on the surface?
– Texture: refers to surface quality
– Actual texture: literally tactile, we could touch it
– Implied or Visual texture: a visual illusion expressing texture
– Pattern: any decorative, repetitive motif or design
VI. Space: If the art object is architectural or sculptural, it exists in three-dimensional space. In other words, it has actual height, width, and depth in space. If the art object is two-dimensional (having only height and width; flat surface), the artist can imply space with the following:
– Linear Perspective: a system using imaginary sight lines to create the illusion of depth
– Vanishing point: the point in a work of art at which imaginary sight lines appear to converge, suggesting depth
– Foreshortening: a perspective technique that depicts a form at a very oblique (often dramatic) angle to the
viewer in order to show depth in space
– Atmospheric Perspective: use of shades of color and clarity to create the illusion of depth. Closer objects have
warmer tones and clear outline, while objects set further away are cooler and become hazy
– Isometric Perspective: a system using diagonal parallel lines to communicate depth
VII. Time and Motion: Does the art object imply time, for instance, a particular time of day, a season, a period in one’s life, or a very particular moment in time that has been captured? Or does it imply movement within the piece? Or, does the piece itself move in any way?
– Actual motion: the artwork itself moves in some way or involved actual, physical motion. This is also called
kinetic art, which is art that contains actual moving parts.
– Implied motion: the artwork may incorporate the illusion of, or implied motion or movement.
Chapter 5 – The Principles of Design: Terminology and Vocabulary
* Principles of art: are the grammar applied to the visual elements. The principles refer to how the artist organizes
the composition or design of the art work.
They are: unity, variety, balance, emphasis, subordination, scale, proportion, pattern, rhythm, and contrast.
I. Unity and Variety
– Unity: Unity is a sense of oneness in the art, a sense of order and/or harmony in a design
– Compositional Unity: when all of the visual elements of a work are organized
– Conceptual Unity: refers to the cohesiveness expression of ideas within a work of art; what does it symbolize
– Variety: Variety is the opposing principle that creates uniqueness and diversity in a work of art to hold our interest
– Symmetrical Balance: occurs when both sides of the art object are similar (not necessarily identical) in size and
– Asymmetrical Balance: occurs when the two sides are quite different in the appearance of the objects in the art
– Radial Balance: also has symmetry; achieved when all elements in a work are equidistant from a central point and
repeat in symmetrical way from side to side and top to bottom
III. Emphasis and Subordination: How does the artist draw your eye and attention to a particular area in the work?
How does the artist make the rest of the work subordinate to the area of interest?
– Emphasis: the principle of drawing attention to particular content in a work
– Subordination: the opposite of emphasis; it draws our attention away from particular areas of a work
– Focal Point: is that specific part of an area of emphasis to which the artist draws our eye
IV. Scale and Proportion
– Scale: the size of an object or artwork relative to another object or artwork, or to a system of measurement
– Proportion: the relationships between sizes of different parts of a work make up its proportions
– Hierarchal Scale: the use of scale to indicate relative importance of figures or objects in a composition
V. Pattern and Rhythm
– Pattern: an arrangement of predictably repeated elements
– Motif: is a design repeated as a unit in a pattern
– Rhythm: the regular or ordered repetition of elements in the work
– When an artist uses two noticeable different states of an element; use of opposites