Test Your Knowledge of Fine Art: Elements and Principles of Design

an introduction to the principles of good design.Test your knowledge of the elements and principles of good design. Take this simple test by writing your answers on paper, then check your answers at the end of the test. Don’t peek!

1. The principles of good design are _______.

A.    color, depth, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value
B.    balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, proportion, repetition, simplicity, space, and unity
C.    all of the above
D.    none of the above

2. The elements of design are _______.

A.    color, depth, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value
B.    balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, proportion, repetition, simplicity, space, and unity
C.    all of the above
D.    none of the above


Jerusalem painting“The Garden Tomb at Sunset”
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
12″ x 9″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


3. A type of balance in which both sides of a composition are balanced yet different is called _______.

A.    asymmetrical
B.    radial
C.    symmetrical
D.    geometric

4. Formal balance is another word for _______ balance.

A.    asymmetrical
B.    radial
C.    symmetrical
D.    geometric

5. Another word for “center of interest” is _______.

A.    focal point
B.    emphasis
C.    dominance
D.    all of the above

6. The choice of colors used in a design plan is called a _______.

A.    color spectrum
B.    color wheel
C.    color scheme
D.    color mix

7. A circular chart used to show color relationships is called a _______.

A.    color scheme
B.    color wheel
C.    color ray
D.    color circle

8. Colors that are different in lightness and darkness are said to be _______.

A.    contrasting
B.    light in value
C.    dark in value
D.    bright and intense

9. Which of the following can be used to create contrast in a composition?

A.    Smooth and rough textures
B.    Large and small shapes
C.    Plain areas against areas of patterns
D.   All of the above

10. _______ is another word for the brightness of a color.

A.    Value
B.    Intensity
C.    Hue
D.    Complementary

11. _______ is an element of art that refers to the sense of touch.

A.    Value
B.    Pattern
C.    Texture
D.    Shape

12. Negative space is the background or area surrounding an object in a composition.

True | False

13. Rhythm is created when various visual elements are repeated.

True | False

14. Variation is the use of the same lines, shapes, textures, and colors within an artwork.

True | False

15. Unity is obtained when all parts of a design are working together as a team.

True | False

16. Blue and orange are _______ colors.

A.    primary
B.    related or analogous
C.    secondary
D.    complementary


church painting“Van Gogh’s Church at Auvers, France”
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
20″ x 24″
Oils on gallery wrap stretched canvas

>> More info


17. Red, yellow, and blue are _______ colors.

A.    primary
B.    related or analogous colors
C.    secondary colors
D.    complementary colors

18. Visual _______ is achieved when all parts of a composition have equal weight and appear to be stable.

A.    focal point
B.    unity
C.    balance
D.    pattern

19. _______ is a three-dimensional geometrical figure showing height, width and depth.

A.    Space
B.    Form
C.    Balance
D.    Line

20. Various art elements, like lines, colors, or shapes, that are repeated over and over in a planned way creates a _______.

A.    focal point
B.    unity
C.    balance
D.    pattern

21. The lightness or darkness of a color is referred to as the _______.

A.    shape
B.    value
C.    intensity
D.   texture

22. _______ may be geometric or organic.

A.    Shape
B.    Value
C.    Intensity
D.   Texture

23. _______ is the suggestion of action or direction, the path our eyes follow when we look at a work of art.

A.    Proportion
B.    Simplicity or visual economy
C.    Rhythm
D.    Movement

24. _______ is the relation of two things in size, number, amount, or degree within a design.

A.    Proportion
B.    Simplicity or visual economy
C.    Rhythm
D.    Movement

25. _______ is the elimination of all non-essential elements or details to reveal the essence of a form.

A.    Proportion
B.    Simplicity or visual economy
C.    Rhythm
D.    Movement

26. Symmetry, asymmetry and radial are all types of _______.

A.    Texture
B.    Balance
C.    Patterns
D.    Form

27. Creating a sense of visual oneness in a work of art is called _______.

A.    Form
B.    Value
C.    Unity
D.    Texture

28. _______ is a mark with greater length than width. They can be horizontal, vertical, diagonal, sraight, curved, thick, or thin.

A.    Color
B.    Shape
C.    Texture
D.    Line

29. Shapes and/or forms similar to those found in nature are _______.

A.    geometric
B.    pattern
C.    organic
D.    texture

30. The element of art referring to the emptiness or area between, around, above, below or within objects:

A.    color
B.    shape
C.    form
D.    space

31. Space is the element of art that helps create the illusion of a foreground, middle ground and background.

True | False

Additional Reading

For more information on this subject see:


Answers: 1B 2A 3A 4C 5D 6C 7B 8A 9D 10B 11C 12T 13T 14F 15T 16D 17A 18C 19B 20D 21B 22A 23D 24A 25B 26B 27C 28D 29C 30D 31T

Basic Art Element — Texture

Anything that has a surface has some type of texture. Texture is the way a surface looks and feels. It is experienced in two ways — with touch (tactile) and with our eyes (visually). Fine artists often use texture in the following ways to:

  • create a focal point
  • add interest
  • provide contrast
  • visually balance their compositions

tractor tire oil paintingTractor Tire
Still life by Teresa Bernard
12″ x 16″
Oils on gallery wrap stretched canvas

>> More info


Texture is essential in paintings to make objects appear to be real. Even in abstract paintings texture can serve to enhance the viewers experience by suggesting certain feelings or mood regarding the artwork. Texture can also serve to organize and unify various areas of a composition.

Texture can either add to or take away from the overall effect of the composition. When it is used haphazardly or in the wrong way, it can confuse or clutter the painting. However, when used with deliberate skill, texture will bring a composition together creating the illusion of realism and adding unity.

There are two types of texture — tactile and visual.

Tactile texture is the real thing. It is the actual way a surface feels when it is felt or touched, such as rough, smooth, soft, hard, silky, slimy, sticky, etc. 3-D art such as sculpture and architectural structures are tactile in nature because they can be felt. An example of real texture would be wood, sandpaper, canvas, rocks, glass, granite, metal, etc.

Even the brush strokes used in a painting can create a textured surface that can be felt and seen. The building up of paint on the surface of a canvas or board, so that it creates actual texture, is called impasto. Painters may choose to apply their paints thickly or thinly depending on overall effect that is wished to be achieved.

Visual texture is not real texture. All textures you observe in photographs are visual textures. No matter how rough objects may seem to appear in a photograph, the surface of the photograph is always going to be smooth and flat to the touch.

Artists can create the illusion of texture in their paintings by simulation or implying it through the use of various art elements such as line, shading and color. It is created by repeating lines, dot or other shapes to create a pattern. Varying the size, density, and orientation of these marks will produce other desired effects as well.


boat fenders canvas artStill Life with Boat Fenders
Marine life by Teresa Bernard
9″ x 12″
Oils on canvas panel board

>> More info


Common Textures

Although there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of different types of texture, nonetheless, all texture will fall under two broad categories — rough and smooth. For example:

Rough Smooth
Course Fine
Bumpy Slick
Dry Wet
Flat Wrinkled
Scaly Silky
Glossy Matte
Sandy Slimy
Hairy Bald
Hard Soft
Prickly Velvety
Sharp Dull
Sticky Slippery

What other textures can you think of? Comment below.

Your Next Art Lesson

If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.

The Basic Elements of Art (Introduction)

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 1

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 2

Basic Art Element — Form

Basic Art Element — Line

Basic Art Element — Shape

Basic Art Element — Space

Basic Art Element — Texture

Basic Art Element — Value


Basic Art Element — Value

Value is a basic element of art that refers to the gradual change of lightness or darkness of a color. It is created when a light source shines upon an object creating highlights, form shadows and cast shadows.

basic art element valueValue is most evident on the gray scale where black is represented as lowest or darkest and white is represented as the highest or lightest value. Or more simply said, they are the various shades of grey between white and black. Artists us them to create highlights and shadows (shading) in objects and create depth in their paintings or drawings.

Colors can have value too. In painting, value changes can be achieved by adding either black or white to the chosen color. Some colors, like yellow and orange, are naturally light in value.


rose flower painting“Yellow Rose of Texas”
Flower Art by Teresa Bernard
18″ x 18″
Oils on stretch canvas

>> More info


The Benefits of Values in an Oil Painting

Successful paintings have a full range of value. This means that there are ample amounts of both light values and dark values. Paintings which possess a full range of values tend to stand out more and are more pleasing to the eye.

emphasis in artValue creates contrast and adds emphasis. The human eye tends to be drawn to areas of high contrast. High contrast occurs when lighter elements are placed directly next to much darker ones thereby creating a dramatic effect. This is a technique that is used to draw attention to specific areas of a painting that the artist wants to emphasize thus creating a focal point. For example, a light figure on a dark background will become the center of attention, and a dark figure on a mostly white background will command the eye’s attention as well.

shading graphicValue creates the illusion of depth. Value is an important tool to suggest roundness or depth. It helps to create depth within by making an object look three-dimensional or a landscape to appear to recede into the distance. Light values make elements feel like they are further away and dark values make them seem closer.

Value creates opportunity to set the mood.

  • Low Key — These are paintings that exhibit mostly dark values and very few lights. Low key paintings have very little contrast and seem to communicate a depressing, sad, or mysterious mood. Paintings with predominantly dark values often conveys a sense of the nocturnal and secretive, of things hidden just beyond sight.
  • High Key — These are paintings that feature mostly light values and very few darks. There isn’t much contrast in a high key painting. Usually these paintings possess a light, happy mood. Female portraits are often high key as they can convey delicacy, innocence and dreaminess.

Using both high and low key colors in a painting can create contrast which often feels dramatic or exciting.

Additional Reading

Creating Depth in Your Paintings via Atmospheric Perspective

Your Next Art Lesson

If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.

The Basic Elements of Art (Introduction)

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 1

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 2

Basic Art Element — Form

Basic Art Element — Line

Basic Art Element — Shape

Basic Art Element — Space

Basic Art Element — Texture

Basic Art Element — Value

Principles of Good Design: An Introduction

an introduction to the principles of good design.An introduction to the principles of good design. Learning more about what it takes to create a good composition.

What exactly are the principles of good design?

Simply put, the principles of good design are the tools every artist uses to create an effective composition. These tools are: balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, proportion, repetition, simplicity, space and unity. How well an artist understands and uses these tools will determine if the composition is a weak or strong one. The desired outcome should be a work of art that is both unified and esthetically pleasing to look at. In a series of discussions we’ll take a look at each one of these principles.


Red Rose paintingTyler Rose
Flower Art by Teresa Bernard
16″ x 12″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Anyone who studies design will soon discover there is no longer a clear-cut line between fine art and applied art anymore. All art, whether it is web or graphic design, architectural or industrial design, commercial or fine art, is subject to the same principles that make up all good design. Just as a fine artist arranges various elements within a painting to create a pleasing composition, so it is with the graphic artist. For example, the fine artist may use objects such as a vase of flowers, bowl of fruit, or a figurine to design a lovely still life composition in a painting, while the graphic artist will use headlines, bodies of text, photos, illustrations and clip-art images to compose a page for print or a webpage for the Internet. It’s not the objects in and of themselves that determine if the design is a good composition or not, it is their arrangement as governed by the principles.

Defining the principles

  • Balance – a feeling of equality of weight, attention, or attraction of the various elements within the composition as a means of accomplishing unity.
  • Contrast – the difference between elements or the opposition to various elements.
  • Emphasis – the stress placed on a single area of a work or unifying visual theme.
  • Movement – the suggestion of action or direction, the path our eyes follow when we look at a work of art.
  • Proportion – the relation of two things in size, number, amount, or degree.
  • Repetition and rhythm – the act of repeating an element either regularly or irregularly resulting in a rhythm of the repeating elements.
  • Simplicity (a.k.a. visual economy) – the elimination of all non-essential elements or details to reveal the essence of a form.
  • Space – the interval or measurable distance between objects or forms (two dimensional or three dimensional).
  • Unity – the relationship between the individual parts and the whole of a composition. This is the desired result in all great art.

Good art always starts with an idea.

Before beginning any work of art every artist needs to keep in mind that every composition starts with an idea. To use the design principles effectively it is necessary that the artist have an idea to express or an objective in mind. This is vital to the success of any art work. Without a clear objective, even the most conscientious attention to the principles of good design, will result in uninteresting work. However, with an idea clearly in mind a beautiful composition can emerge. Every artist’s goal should be to create a composition in their work that is both unified and interesting to look at.

Questions

  1. In its simplest term, what are the principles of good design?
  2. What is the end result when the good design principles are effectively applied?

Your Next Art Lesson

If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.

Good Design Principles: An Introduction

Good Design Principles: Balance

Good Design Principles: Contrast

Good Design Principles: Emphasis

Good Design Principles: Movement

Good Design Principles: Proportion

Good Design Principles: Space

Good Design Principles: Visual Economy

Good Design Principles: Unity


Principles of Good Design: Balance

design principle balanceThe first basic principle of good design is balance. It is a significant design element because without it a composition will look off. In two dimensional art, balance is all about the visual weightiness of a composition and not the physical weight.

Defining Balance

Balance in art can be defined as a sense of equilibrium and is achieved when the visual weight of objects are distributed equally within a composition. When no single part of the design can overpower or appear heavier than another part in the same design, a sense of visual balance is created.


close up rose flower painting“Yellow Rose of Texas”
Flower Art by Teresa Bernard
18″ x 18″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Some elements within a painting that effect the degree of visual balance are:

  • Lights and darks — light colors will appear lighter in weight than dark colors
  • Brightness — brilliant colors appear to weigh more than neutral colors
  • Warmth and coolness — warm colors, such as yellow tend to enlarge or expand an area in size, while cool colors like blue tend to contract or shrink an area
  • Transparency — Transparent areas seem to visually weigh less than opaque areas

Horizontal, Vertical and Radial Balance

Balancing the components within a painting is best illustrated by visualizing weighing scales or a playground see-saw. As you can see, balance is not achieved through an actual physical weighing process, but through visual judgment on the part of the observer. In this respect, to balance a 2D composition requires a skillful distribution of its components in such a way that the viewer is satisfied the piece is not about to topple over.

horizontal balance

 

 

 

 

When components are balanced left and right of a central axis they are balanced horizontally. When they are balanced above and below they are said to be balanced vertically. And when components are distributed around the center point, or spring out from a central line, this is referred to as radial balance.

vertical balanceradial balance

 

 

 

 

 

Types of Balance

There are two types of balance — symmetrical or asymmetrical. Symmetrical balance is also referred to as symmetry or formal balance. And asymmetrical balance is also called asymmetry or informal balance. Of these two types, symmetrical balance is the most stable visually.

Symmetrical Balance

symmetrical balanceSymmetrical balance is when the weight is equally distributed on both sides of the central axis. Symmetry is the simplest and most obvious type of balance. It creates a secure, safe feeling and a sense of solidity. Symmetrical balance can be achieved in two ways. One way is by “pure symmetry,” and the other way is by “approximate symmetry.”

In pure symmetry identical parts are equally distributed on either side of the central axis in mirror-like repetition. A good example of pure symmetry is the human face. It is the same on both the right side and the left side of the nose. Pure symmetry has its place in certain art works, however, because of its identical repetition, pure symmetry for a composition can easily become too monotonous and uninteresting to look at.

Approximate symmetry on the other hand has greater appeal and interest for the viewer. The two sides of a composition are varied and are more interesting to view. Even though they are varied somewhat, they are still similar enough to make their repetitious relationship symmetrically balanced.

Asymmetrical Balance

asymmetrical balanceAsymmetrical balance is when both sides of the central axis are not identical, yet appear to have balance. The way to use asymmetry is by balancing two or more unequal components on either side of the fulcrum by varying their size, value or distance from the center. If the artist can skillfully feel, judge or estimate the various elements and visual weight, this should allow him/her to balance them as a whole, and as a result, achieve a more interesting composition.

The artist will quickly discover the use of asymmetry allows for more freedom of creativity because there are unlimited arrangements that may be devised by using asymmetrical balance.

Some Examples of the Effective Use of Balance

Radial Balance

example of radial balanceradial balance sample

 

 

 

 

Horizontal Balance

horizontal balance, sample ofexample of horizontal balance

 

 

 

Vertical Balance

example of vertical balancevertical balance, sample of

 

 

 

 

 

Do you see the vertical balance suggested in the painting on the left? Look at where the foreground ends and you will quickly see how balance is implied by the visual weightiness of the building in the background.

The painting on the right is a little more obvious in it’s vertical balance. Notice how the three objects in the top part of the painting balance the apparent heaviness of the one object (the plate of pancakes) in the lower part of the painting.

Questions

  1. Why is balance so important in a good composition?
  2. In what way is asymmetry beneficial to the artist?

Your Next Art Lesson

If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.

Good Design Principle: An Introduction

Good Design Principle: Balance

Good Design Principle: Contrast

Good Design Principle: Emphasis

Good Design Principle: Movement

Good Design Principle: Proportion

Good Design Principle: Space

Good Design Principle: Visual Economy

Good Design Principle: Unity

Principles of Good Design: Contrast

contrast design elementAnother important principle of good design is contrast. This is principle that is often applied when an artist wants to add visual interest, excitement and drama to an art piece.

Defining Contrast

Contrast in art refers to the positioning of opposing components in a work of art. It occurs when two or more related elements are strikingly different. The greater the difference the greater the contrast.


oils canvas art“Bunratty Ireland”
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
12″ x 9″
Oils on canvas panel board

>> More info


Opposing Elements in Art

The key to working with contrast is to make sure the differences are obvious. The most common ways of creating contrast are by creating differences in:

  • Color — complimentary colors on the color wheel, i.e. red vs. green, blue vs. orange, yellow vs. violet
  • Hue — saturated vs. muted colors
  • Movement — fast vs. slow
  • Shape — organic vs. geometric shapes
  • Size — large vs. small shapes
  • Space — positive vs. negative
  • Temperature — warm vs. cool
  • Texture — rough vs. smooth
  • Value — light vs. dark

The Significance of Contrast

Contrast is significant because it adds variety to the total design and creates unity. It draws the viewer’s eye into the painting and helps to guide the viewer around the art piece.

Contrast also adds visual interest. Most designs require a certain amount of contrast, if there is too much similarity of the components in any design, it will become monotonous. Too little contrast results in a design that is bland and uninteresting to view. However, don’t over do it as too much contract can cause the design to be confusing. It takes just the right amount of contrast to engage the viewer’s participation in comparing various components of the work. For instance, the viewer will compare light and dark areas of a painting, wide lines and thin lines, light-weight forms and heavy forms, filled spaces and unfilled spaces, etc.

Some Examples of the Effective Use of Contrast

contrast in artThe contrast in the illustration coffee pot and cups is quite obvious. Notice the contrast of the light background (wall) with dark foreground (table cloth) and the contrast of the dark shadows on the tea pot and cup against the wall and with the lights of the same objects against a dark window.

There is also a contrast of thin and thick lines in the napkin, straight and curved lines, and don’t miss the contrast created by the use of geometric shapes (coffee pot and cups) with organic shapes (steam and clouds). The dark steam is also contrasted with the light clouds off in the distance.

design elementIn the illustration of the lady and parrot is a good example of contrast between lights and darks. A contrast of color exists between the red parrot and white dress. Also notice the contrast in the roundness of shapes in the foreground against the flatness of the dark background. Contrast of texture is also implied by the softness of the silk dress and soft feathers of the bird against the hard, flat background.

Contrast in this painting is much more subtle. There is contrast in texture. Notice the hard texture of the fence in the background as contrasted with the softness of the butterflies and kittens. Also a contrast exists between the soil and the foliage. The kittens themselves have a contrast depicted in their colors verses the color of the fence in the background and even with each other. And the red flowers verses green grass promotes a contrast of complimentary colors.

Questions

  1. Why is it important to include contrast in a composition?
  2. How can contrast be used to create unity in a design?

Your Next Art Lesson

If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.

Good Design Principle: An Introduction

Good Design Principle: Balance

Good Design Principle: Contrast

Good Design Principle: Emphasis

Good Design Principle: Movement

Good Design Principle: Proportion

Good Design Principle: Space

Good Design Principle: Visual Economy

Good Design Principle: Unity

Principles of Good Design: Emphasis

design principle emphasisThe principle of emphasis is another important design element. It is applied when an artist wants to attract more attention to a certain element or area within a painting by giving it dominance that makes it stand out.


sunset oil painting“Calvary at Sunset”
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
20″ x 16″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Defining Emphasis

Emphasis in art is when the artist gives dominance to or stresses a particular area or element of focus in a painting. Without it a composition is nothing more than a presentation of a group of details with equal importance. When a composition has no emphasis nothing stands out as demonstrated in the illustration below. However the effective use of this design principle calls attention to the important areas of the painting. Thereby creating elements of interest causing the eye to return to again and again.

emphasis added
no emphasis added

 

 

 

Adding Emphasis

The way of achieving emphasis is by creating a center of interest, also called a focal point. A focal point is an area where the eye tends to center and is the focus of the viewer’s attention. It is created by making one area or element in the painting standout or most important visually while all other elements are contributing but subordinate. Subordinates are other compositional elements that have been minimized or toned down in order to bring attention to the center of interest. The focal point may be the largest, brightest, darkest, or most complex part of the whole, or it may get special attention because it stands out for some other reason. No more than one component should vie for primary attention. When more than one component gets equal billing, emphasis is canceled out.

Some ways to create emphasis might include:

  • Contrast — the more strongly an element contrasts with its surroundings, the more it stands out and draws attention it to itself. See the discussion on Contrast for information about how to use this design principle.
  • Isolation — similar to placement, isolating an element from a group of other elements will make it stand out.
  • Line — an arrow, line, or other similar objects can be used to indicate movement or direction and lead the eye towards an element. Where lines converge also creates a focal point. See discussion on Movement for about this good design principle.
  • Placement  — elements centered on the canvas will command the viewer’s attention, however, artists tend to avoid putting the focal point in the center of the canvas. It is best to off center it a bit and still achieve the same effect. Off center placement is much more pleasing to the eye.
  • Size or Scale — this refers to how something seems in scale or size as it is compared to the objects around it. The larger the scale the more it will stand out and attract the eye. Smaller elements tend to recede into the background.

No matter what element is chosen for emphasis it should never demand all the attention. It is important to note that emphasis is necessary, but a good composition is one in which all the elements work together for a unifying effect.

Examples of the Effective Use of Emphasis

emphasis in artIn this painting it is easy to see how the artist used light to put emphasis on the chef. He stands out as the main focal point of the entire the painting.

 

 

design element

The artist creates emphasis in this painting through the use of color. By painting the cowboy’s shirt red he was able to create a center of interest. Your eye is drawn right to his shirt.

 

 

Questions

  1. What are some ways emphasis can be added to a painting?
  2. What happens when too many elements are emphasized?

Your Next Art Lesson

If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.

Good Design Principle: An Introduction

Good Design Principle: Balance

Good Design Principle: Contrast

Good Design Principle: Emphasis

Good Design Principle: Movement

Good Design Principle: Proportion

Good Design Principle: Space

Good Design Principles: Visual Economy

Good Design Principle: Unity

Principles of Good Design: Movement

movement in artMovement is the principle of good design which gives the artist control over what the viewer sees next. Using this principle, the artist can create the path our eyes will travel as we look at a work of art. For example, our attention is first captured by the main focal point and then it proceeds to move around the composition as one element after another catches our attention.


African art “Camelthorn Trees of Africa”
Landscape painting by Teresa Bernard
24″ x 24″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Defining Movement in Art

Movement shows action and creates a feeling of motion within a composition. It also serves as a guide to direct the eye from one element to the next. An artist controls and forces the progression of the viewer’s eyes in and around the composition of the painting using eye travel. For instance, the eye will travel along an actual path such as solid or dotted line, or it will move along more subtle paths such as from large to smaller elements, from dark to lighter elements, from color to non-color, from unusual to usual shapes, etc.

Repetition and Rhythm

Movement also contributes to the overall unity in a piece by creating a relationship between the various components of a work. There are various ways to create this relationship, it can be done by using repetition and  rhythm.

rhythm in artThe use of repetition to create movement occurs when elements which have something in common are repeated regularly or irregularly thereby creating a visual rhythm. Repetition doesn’t always have to mean exact duplication either, however, it does require similarity or near-likeness. Slight variations to a simple repetition are good, as this will add interest. Repetition tends to relate elements together whether they are touching or not.

Rhythm is the result of repetition which leads the eye from one area to another in direct, flowing, or staccato movement. It can be produced by continuous repetition, by periodic repetition, or by regular alternation of one of more forms or lines. A single form may be slightly changed with each repetition or be repeated with periodic changes in size, color, texture, or value. A line may regularly very in length, weight, or direction. Color may also be repeated in various parts of the composition in order to unify the various areas of the painting.

Movement Through Action

implied movement in artMovement can also be created by action. In two-dimensional works of art, action must be implied. Implied action in a painting creates life and activity. This is best illustrated by the direction the eye takes along an invisible path created by an arrow, a gaze, or a pointing finger. Action can also be indicated by the “freeze frame” effect of an object in motion, such as a bouncing ball suspended in mid air, a jogger about to take that next step, or a swimmer taking a dive, etc. You get the idea.

Examples of the Effective Use of Movement

Movement in this painting is created in several ways. You see it as your eye travels from the little girl on the blanket and moves up the stairs. You will also see repetition in color. The color of the building is very similar to the blanket the child is sitting on. In addition, the stairs create a repetition effect.

 

 

repetition in designRepetition creates the movement in this painting. The color of the gowns is repeated leading the eye into the painting. The pattern on the floor also creates repetition. You also get the feeling of movement created by implied action.

 

 

Questions

  1. What are some specific ways movement can be created in a composition?
  2. In what way does movement create unity in a work of art?

Your Next Art Lesson

If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.

Good Design Principle: An Introduction

Good Design Principle: Balance

Good Design Principle: Contrast

Good Design Principle: Emphasis

Good Design Principle: Movement

Good Design Principle: Proportion

Good Design Principle: Space

Good Design Principle: Visual Economy

Good Design Principle: Unity

Principles of Good Design: Proportion

proportion1

Proportion in art is the relationship of two or more elements in a composition and how they compare to one another with respect to size, color, quantity, degree, setting, etc.; i.e. ratio.

When two or more elements are put together in a painting a relationship is created. This relationship is said to be harmonious when a correct or desirable association exists between the elements. This refers to the correct sizing and distribution of an element which then creates good proportion. Good proportion adds harmony and symmetry or balance among the parts of a design as a whole.


painting with covered wagon“Covered Wagon on the Prairie”
Western landscape by Teresa Bernard
20″ x 16″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


When the principle of proportion is applied to a work of art it is usually in the relationship of size. That is, the size of one element as compared to the size of another related element within the same composition. In this instance, a comparison of size is made between the:

  • Height, width and depth of one element to that of another
  • Size of one area to the size of another area
  • Size of one element to the size of another element
  • Amount of space between two or more elements

bad-proportionProportion is usually not even noticed until something is out of proportion. When the relative size of two elements being compared seems wrong or out of balance it is said to be “out of proportion”. For example if a person has a head larger than their entire body, then we would say that they were out of proportion.

 

good-proportionThere are several ways for achieving good proportion:

  1. Place like elements together which are similar in character or have a common feature.
  2. Create major and minor areas in the design, as equal parts can quickly become monotonous and boring. However, the differences in size must not be so great as to make the parts appear unrelated and therefore, out of harmony with each other.
  3. Arrangement of space should be in such a way that the eye does not perceive a standard mathematical relationship. Dividing up the composition in halves, quarters and thirds should be avoided. A subtle relationship creates a more dynamic design.
  4. Create harmony in the art work. Harmony is an agreement between the shapes that stresses the similarities of all parts. In other words, the shape of one part should “fit” the shape of the adjoining elements. Shapes should “fit” properly in their positions and spaces.

harmony

Examples of the effective use of Proportion

proportion2There is a real sense of proportion in the painting left. Without the effective use of the principle of proportion you would not experience the majesty of the mountain in the background.

 

 

 

proportion5 In this painting right proportion is instrumental in emphasizing the distance of the ship in the background.

 

 

 

Examples of the effective use of Harmony

harmony1It is easy to observe harmony in action in nature. Notice how the individual wedges “fit” the orange painting.

 

 

 

harmony2

 

In the coat of arms we observe how the different elements “fit” together perfectly inside each other to create harmony.

 

 

Questions

  1. How is good proportion created?
  2. What does good proportion bring to a painting?

Your Next Art Lesson

If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.

Good Design Principle: An Introduction

Good Design Principle: Balance

Good Design Principles: Contrast

Good Design Principle: Emphasis

Good Design Principle: Movement

Good Design Principle: Proportion

Good Design Principle: Space

Good Design Principle: Visual Economy

Good Design Principle: Unity

Principles of Good Design: Visual Economy

simplicity in artVisual Economy in art, also known as simplicity, is the omitting of all non-essential or unimportant elements and details which don’t really contribute to the essence of the overall composition in order to emphasize what is important. Simplicity suggests that a good composition is the most simple solution to the design problem. Much of the beauty and skill in good design focuses on what is left out, rather than trying to include everything you can. The secret to a great composition is in knowing when to stop; when to put the brush down, stand back and say “that’s just about right”.


Hay bales oil on canvas“Life in Texas — Round Hay Bales”
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
16″ x 20″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Keeping it Simple is a Key to Good Design

Good design means as little design as possible. It involves a paring down to only the essential elements required to achieve the desired effect. Restraint and simplicity are key in the creation of good design. There are no rules for using economy, if an element works in the composition with respect to the whole design, it should be kept. If it distracts from the desired effect, it should be re-evaluated for its purpose. Never use anything for its own sake, always consider and justify its inclusion for the contribution it makes to achieve the overall design effect.

Examples of the effective use of Simplicity

visual economySimplicity is suggested in the painting of the cowboy by zooming in thus eliminating the extra surrounding elements that would otherwise detract from the main focus of the painting.

 

 

There is simplicity in the design of the buildings in the painting right. Detail has been left out to call your attention to the unique architecture.

 

 

In the painting of Egypt detail has been deliberately left out so the shapes rather than the features become the areas of interest.

 

 

 

minimal designIn the painting on the right the background and clothing are done in a very simplistic manner so that the viewer’s attention is drawn to the face of Mary and that of baby Jesus. More detail would have been a distraction.

 

 

Questions

  1.  Why is visual economy in art so important to a great composition?
  2. In what situations would an artist want to use this principle of good design?

Your Next Art Lesson

If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.

Good Design Principle: An Introduction

Good Design Principle: Balance

Good Design Principle: Contrast

Good Design Principle: Emphasis

Good Design Principle: Movement

Good Design Principle: Proportion

Good Design Principle: Space

Good Design Principle: Visual Economy

Good Design Principle: Unity