The Elements of Art (Education at the Getty) (2023)

This page provides definitions and examples of the elements of art that are used by artists working in various media. The elements of art are components or parts of a work of art that can be isolated and defined. They are the building blocks used to create a work of art.

Students who can identify the elements and evaluate their role in the composition of a work of art will be better able to understand an artist's choices. They will be equipped to address whether a work of art is successful, and why.

The arrangement of elements in a work of art. All works of art have an order determined by the artist. Composition creates a hierarchy within the work, which tells the viewer the relative importance of the imagery and elements included.

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Madonna, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Saint Paul, Bernardo Daddi, about 1330

Symmetrical compositions convey a sense of stability. In this example, a single large figure in the center is flanked by a smaller figure on either side. The shape of the artwork itself is also symmetrical—a vertical line bisecting the image would create two equal halves that are mirror images of one another.

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Wall Clock, French, 1735–1740

Asymmetrical compositions often convey a sense of movement since the elements of the composition are unbalanced. In this example, the artist used organic forms to create a composition that mimics the movement of vines growing in an unordered fashion around the clock face.

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Line

A line is an identifiable path created by a point moving in space. It is one-dimensional and can vary in width, direction, and length. Lines often define the edges of a form. Lines can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal, straight or curved, thick or thin. They lead your eye around the composition and can communicate information through their character and direction.

Examples:

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Landscape with a Calm, Nicholas Poussin, 1650–1651

Horizontal lines suggest a feeling of rest or repose because objects parallel to the earth are at rest. In this landscape, horizontal lines also help give a sense of space. The lines delineate sections of the landscape, which recede into space. They also imply continuation of the landscape beyond the picture plane to the left and right.

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Saint Bavo, Haarlem, Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, 1634

Vertical lines often communicate a sense of height because they are perpendicular to the earth, extending upwards toward the sky. In this church interior, vertical lines suggest spirituality, rising beyond human reach toward the heavens.

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Cabinet, French, about 1785

Horizontal and vertical lines used in combination communicate stability and solidity. Rectilinear forms with 90-degree angles are structurally stable. This stability suggests permanence and reliability.

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A Storm on the Mediterranean Coast, Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1767

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Fifth Avenue Looking South from Thirtieth Street, attributed to Silas A. Holmes, about 1855

Diagonal lines convey a feeling of movement. Objects in a diagonal position are unstable. Because they are neither vertical nor horizontal, they are either about to fall or are already in motion. The angles of the ship and the rocks on the shore convey a feeling of movement or speed in this stormy harbor scene.

In a two-dimensional composition, diagonal lines can also indicate depth through perspective. These diagonal lines pull the viewer visually into the image. For example, in this photograph the diagonal lines lead the eye into the space to the point where the lines converge.

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Pool, Saint-Cloud, Eugène Atget, 1915–1919

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Laocoön, Giovanni Battista Foggini, about 1720

The curve of a line can convey energy. Soft, shallow curves recall the curves of the human body and often have a pleasing, sensual quality and a softening effect on the composition. The edge of the pool in this photograph gently leads the eye to the sculptures on the horizon.

Sharply curved or twisted lines can convey turmoil, chaos, and even violence. In this sculpture, the lines of the contorting bodies and the serpent help convey the intensity of the struggle against the snake's stranglehold.

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Arles: View from the Wheatfields, Vincent van Gogh, 1888

When repeated, lines can create a pattern. In this example, the artist repeated different kinds of lines across the composition to create various patterns. Patterned lines also give the image rhythm.

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Shape and form

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Shape and form define objects in space. Shapes have two dimensions—height and width—and are usually defined by lines. Forms exist in three dimensions, with height, width, and depth.

Examples:

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Studies for a Ceiling Decoration, Charles de la Fosse, about 1680

Shape has only height and width. Shape is usually, though not always, defined by line, which can provide its contour. In this image, rectangles and ovals dominate the composition. They describe the architectural details for an illusionist ceiling fresco.

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Rearing Horse, Adriaen de Vries, 1610–1615

Form has depth as well as width and height. Three-dimensional form is the basis of sculpture, furniture, and decorative arts. Three-dimensional forms can be seen from more than one side, such as this sculpture of a rearing horse.

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Commode, Jean-François Oeben, about 1760

Geometric shapes and forms include mathematical, named shapes such as squares, rectangles, circles, cubes, spheres, and cones. Geometric shapes and forms are often man-made. However, many natural forms also have geometric shapes. This cabinet is decorated with designs of geometric shapes.

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Gold Wreath, Greek, 300–100 B.C.

Organic shapes and forms are typically irregular or asymmetrical. Organic shapes are often found in nature, but man-made shapes can also imitate organic forms. This wreath uses organic forms to simulate leaves and berries.

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Saint Mark, French, about 1410

Repeated shapes and forms also create patterns. On this manuscript page, the repeating organic floral shapes create a pattern.

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Foundations and Slabs, Lakewood, California, William A. Garnett, 1950
© Estate of William A. Garnett

In this photograph, geometric shapes and lines are repeated to create a pattern.

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Space

Real space is three-dimensional. Space in a work of art refers to a feeling of depth or three dimensions. It can also refer to the artist's use of the area within the picture plane. The area around the primary objects in a work of art is known as negative space, while the space occupied by the primary objects is known as positive space.

Examples:

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He Can No Longer at the Age of 98, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, 1819–1823

Positive and negative space
The relationship of positive to negative space can greatly affect the impact of a work of art. In this drawing, the man and his shadow occupy the positive space, while the white space surrounding him is the negative space. The disproportionate amount of negative space accentuates the figure's vulnerability and isolation.

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Saint Bavo, Haarlem, Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, 1634

Three-dimensional space
The perfect illusion of three-dimensional space in a two-dimensional work of art is something that many artists, such as Pieter Saenredam, labored to achieve. The illusion of space is achieved through perspective drawing techniques and shading.

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Color

Light reflected off objects. Color has three main characteristics: hue (red, green, blue, etc.), value (how light or dark it is), and intensity (how bright or dull it is). Colors can be described as warm (red, yellow) or cool (blue, gray), depending on which end of the color spectrum they fall.

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Examples:

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Christ Crowned with Thorns, Gerrit van Honthorst, about 1620

Value describes the brightness of color. Artists use color value to create different moods. Dark colors in a composition suggest a lack of light, as in a night or interior scene. Dark colors can often convey a sense of mystery or foreboding.

Light colors often describe a light source or light reflected within the composition. In this painting, the dark colors suggest a night or interior scene. The artist used light colors to describe the light created by the candle flame.

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The Annunciation, Dieric Bouts, 1450–1455

Intensity describes the purity or strength of a color. Bright colors are undiluted and are often associated with positive energy and heightened emotions. Dull colors have been diluted by mixing with other colors and create a sedate or serious mood. In this image the artist captured both the seriousness and the joy of the scene with the dull gray stone interior and the bright red drapery.

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Texture

The surface quality of an object that we sense through touch. All objects have a physical texture. Artists can also convey texture visually in two dimensions.

In a two-dimensional work of art, texture gives a visual sense of how an object depicted would feel in real life if touched: hard, soft, rough, smooth, hairy, leathery, sharp, etc. In three-dimensional works, artists use actual texture to add a tactile quality to the work.

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Examples:

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Portrait of Agostino Pallavicini, Anthony van Dyck, 1621–1623

Texture depicted in two-dimensions
Artists use color, line, and shading to imply textures. In this painting, the man's robe is painted to simulate silk. The ability to convincingly portray fabric of different types was one of the marks of a great painter during the 17th century.

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Desk, French, 1692–1700

Surface texture
The surface of this writing desk is metallic and hard. The hard surface is functional for an object that would have been used for writing. The smooth surface of the writing desk reflects light, adding sparkle to this piece of furniture.

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FAQs

What are the elements of the art program? ›

There are seven elements of art that are considered the building blocks of art as a whole. The seven elements are line, color, value, shape, form, space, and texture.

What are the 7 major elements of art? ›

ELEMENTS OF ART: The visual components of color, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value.

What are the 5 main elements of art? ›

The goal of this unit is to introduce students to the basic elements of art (color, line, shape, form, and texture) and to show students how artists use these elements in different ways in their work.

What are the 7 elements of art & why are they important to learn? ›

They are color, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value. Mastery of these seven basic elements of art are important if you want to achieve some level of mastery in your art. It is an understanding of these elements of art that makes your artwork interesting, and creates an impact on your viewers.

What are the 4 most important elements in art? ›

The Elements of Art that we have discussed are all important in what makes a work of art interesting. Line, Color, Shape, and Texture can be used individually, or combined together to create more impact.

What is the most important element of art? ›

Lines can also describe texture or define the separation of light and dark through shading. Line is the most fundamental and most essential element. everything else builds on top of line even if your art does not use actual drawn lines.

What are the 9 artistic elements? ›

The elements of art are the building blocks of an artwork: color, line, shape, form, value, texture, and space. They are the tools artists use when creating an artwork. The principles of design are how those building blocks are arranged: contrast, rhythm, proportion, balance, unity, emphasis, movement, and variety.

What are the 10 common principles of art? ›

The ten common principles of art are balance, emphasis, harmony, movement, pattern, proportion, repetition, rhythm, unity, and variety. Many of these concepts are not only related to one another but also overlap to create an artistic vision.

Why is the elements of art important? ›

They are the building blocks used to create a work of art. Students who can identify the elements and evaluate their role in the composition of a work of art will be better able to understand an artist's choices. They will be equipped to address whether a work of art is successful, and why.

What is the 14 elements of art? ›

The elements of art are color, form, line, shape, space, and texture. The principles of art are scale, proportion, unity, variety, rhythm, mass, shape, space, balance, volume, perspective, and depth.

What are the 8 formal elements of art? ›

The Formal Elements are the parts used to make a piece of artwork. The art elements are line, shape, space, form, tone, texture, pattern, colour and composition. They are often used together, and how they are organised in a piece of art determines what the finished piece will look like.

What can the 7 elements of art help an artist do? ›

Remember ​line, shape, form, space, texture, value and color. Knowing these elements will allow you to analyze, appreciate, write and chat about art, as well as being of help should you create art yourself.

What are the 7 elements of visual arts explain each? ›

The 7 basic elements of visual art are SHAPE, LINE, SPACE, FORM, TEXTURE, VALUE, AND COLOUR. These elements are the building blocks of art that help the artist communicate. These elements help us in understanding the piece of art more clearly.

What is the best order to teach elements of art? ›

The order I Teach the Elements of Art is: Line, Value, Color, Shape, Form, Space, and Texture. In my opinion, this order is easiest for children to understand and provides a natural progression of building blocks.

What is value in the 7 elements of art? ›

Value defines how light or dark a given color or hue can be. Values are best understood when visualized as a scale or gradient, from dark to light. The more tonal variants in an image, the lower the contrast. When shades of similar value are used together, they also create a low contrast image.

What are the 3 main elements of art? ›

Components of Art. Subject, form, and content have always been the three basic components of a work of art, and they are wed in a way that is inseparable.

What are the 3 common elements of art? ›

The traditional way of looking at art, namely the visual arts, suggests that there are five basic elements of an artwork – line, shape, color, texture and space. You might find form singled out as a separate category, defined as a three-dimensional alternative to shape.

What is the 7 elements of design? ›

The elements of design are the fundamental aspects of any visual design which include shape, color, space, form, line, value, and texture.

What element of art is value? ›

Value - The Element of Shadow

Value is one of the seven elements of art. Value deals with the lightness or darkness of a color. Since we see objects and understand objects because of how dark or light they are, value is incredible important to art. (I'll remind you that drawing and painting is about seeing.)

What are the 12 principles of design in art? ›

Understanding the basics

There are twelve basic principles of design: contrast, balance, emphasis, proportion, hierarchy, repetition, rhythm, pattern, white space, movement, variety, and unity.

How do you explain the elements and principles of art? ›

The elements of art are the visual tools that the artist uses to create a composition. These are line, shape, color, value, form, texture, and space. The principles of art represent how the artist uses the elements of art to create an effect and to help convey the artist's intent.

What are the 7 elements and principles of contemporary art? ›

* Principles of Art & Design: pattern, repetition, rhythm, balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, and unity /harmony.

What is the main purpose of art? ›

Art can uplift, provoke, soothe, entertain and educate us and is an important part of our lives. At its most profound level, it takes us from the everyday to a place of introspection and contemplation, to see the bigger picture of the human condition.

How can you apply the elements of arts in your daily life? ›

Art in daily life is used to change our perspective and enhance our imaginative power. Arts helps to express a person's internal feelings and thoughts. Through art, people can convey their points of view and sentiments in diverse ways. Art enables man to have enriched life experiences and adds to the meaning of life.

What are the 8 elements and principles of design? ›

All visual designs are composed of eight elements (Point, Line, Shape, Form, Tone, Texture, Color, and/or Text). These elements are combined and arranged to create a desired visual appearance.

How do you teach elements of art to students? ›

The Elements of Art: LINE
  1. Older students need to control the use of line to show shadow and texture and the development of three-dimensional forms.
  2. Practice drawing lines as an expression to music being played. ...
  3. Practice drawing varied lines- straight, curved, ripples, cross-hatching.
  4. Practice "blind contour" drawing.

How important are the elements of visual arts for an artist? ›

The visual elements of art are the building blocks of an artwork and the principles of art are the framework for how you arrange these elements. Understanding the visual elements of art is of key importance to see like an artist.

What are the 7 arts in order? ›

The traditional subdivision of the arts, being Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Literature, Music, Performing, and Film.

What are the 7 major art forms in order? ›

The seven different art forms are Painting, Sculpture, Literature, Architecture, Theater, Film, and Music.

What is a Programme of art? ›

Arts Programming means programming on culture and the arts, including, but not limited to the performing arts, visual arts, literature, fine arts, craft arts, creative writing, architecture and music but excluding programmes that exclusively feature music videos; Sample 1Sample 2.

What is the purpose of art program? ›

Art instruction helps children with the development of motor skills, language skills, social skills, decision-making, risk-taking, and inventiveness. Visual arts teach learners about color, layout, perspective, and balance: all techniques that are necessary in presentations (visual, digital) of academic work.

What is the main objective of art program? ›

ART PROGRAM OBJECTIVES

To provide curricular and co-curricular opportunities for productive collaboration and teamwork. To facilitate the outstanding achievement of every student, to help each to attain their goals, and to aid them in their development.

What is the importance of art based programs? ›

Arts-based programs for youths can be preventive or rehabilitative in nature. Programs usually target problem behaviors and behavioral health issues, including delinquency, anger, depression, anxiety, ADHD, and suicidal thoughts or ideations (Rapp-Paglicci, Stewart, and Rowe 2008; Ross 2016).

What are the three types of Programme? ›

There are different types of software that can run on a computer: system software, utility software, and application software.

How do art programs benefit students? ›

Students that take a combination of arts programs demonstrate improved verbal, reading, and math skills, and also show a greater capacity for higher-ordered thinking skills such as analyzing and problem-solving.

What are the types of art education? ›

In this context, the arts can include Performing arts education (dance, drama, music), literature and poetry, storytelling, Visual arts education in film, craft, design, digital arts, media and photography.

What are the 10 benefits of art education? ›

10 Reasons Why Art Education is Beneficial to Childhood...
  • Creativity. Through arts, children can express themselves in whichever way they want! ...
  • Cultural Awareness. ...
  • Improved Academic Performance. ...
  • Motor Skills. ...
  • Visual Learning. ...
  • Problem Solving. ...
  • Decision Making. ...
  • Perseverance.

What are the aims and objectives of art education? ›

Overall Aims of Arts Curriculum

develop arts skills, construct knowledge, and cultivate positive values and attitudes; gain delight, enjoyment and satisfaction through participating in arts activities; and. pursue a lifelong interest in the arts.

What is the concept of art education? ›

1. OBJECTIVES AND CONCEPT OF ART EDUCATION. The primary goal of degrees awarded in Art Education is to train students as artists/art teachers. The emphasis here is to develop and enhance both the skills as well as the creativity of the art students to engage with both 'teaching' art as well as 'making' art.

What is art education all about? ›

Art education is defined as the involvement in artistic and creative activities, such as dance, theater, music, painting, or sculpture. It can be part of both the curriculum and extra-curricular activity.

What are the 3 main reasons we should study art? ›

Why?
  • Allows creative expression difficult to find in many traditional college courses.
  • Teaches problem solving and critical thinking.
  • Builds essential skills such as analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and critical judgment.
  • Helps you tolerate ambiguity.
  • Puts you in touch with other forms of cultural expression.

What are the values of art education? ›

In sum, training in the arts can help create a society more grounded in things that lead us to greater meaningful creativity, clearer understanding of self and other, and the skills to put those understandings into useful action.

What are the 10 importance of arts? ›

It helps to develop motor skills, eye-hand coordination and has a large impact on their social and emotional growth. It also enhances their cognitive development which can have a positive effect on math skills and other related subjects. Promote creativity in your child's life in as many ways as you can.

What are the 5 benefits of studying art? ›

Art enhances fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, problem solving skills, lateral thinking, complex analysis and critical thinking skills.

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