What is composition and design?
Composition: The plan, placement or arrangement of the elements of art in a work. It is often useful to discuss these in reference to the principles of design, as well as to the relative weight of the composition's parts.OK - so what are the elements and what are the principles?
A useful analogy is to think of the 'elements' as being the ingredients part of a recipe for success and the 'principles' as being the method part. Miss out either and you can't bake a cake or make a picture which fulfils coventional western ideals of what a picture should look like. Some of the ingredients affect the 'flavour' of the piece while others are intrinsic to the structure and body of the work.
elements of art or elements of design - The basic components used by the artist when producing works of art. Those elements are color, value, line, shape, form, texture, and space. The elements of art are among the literal qualities found in any artwork.I'm going to split this introduction into two parts - one for elements and one for principles. Some of the elements and principles will then be the subject of future posts during this project while others - such as colour - will be the subject of future projects.
principles of design or principles of art - Certain qualities inherent in the choice and arrangement of elements of art in the production of a work of art. Artists "design" their works to varying degrees by controlling and ordering the elements of art. Considering the principles is especially useful in analyzing ways in which a work is pleasing in formal ways. How any work exhibits applications of these principles can further or modify other characteristics of a work as well. (See definition for further details of the principles)
Interestingly, I've come across different lists in different places on the Internet and in books. Some include 'composition' as an element while other don't. Some seem to mix items up between elements and principles. Personally, I take the view that composition is what you do when you work with both elements and principles.
No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and composition.I'll be quoting from ArtLex extensively because (a) it's a very good resource and (b) it tends to be comprehenive while other sites can sometimes be rather partial.
I also recommend that you take a look at the links I'm collecting in Composition and Design - Resources for Artists - which now contains a section devoted to elements and principles. I'll be developing other modules for the different components.
Bsides the books listed at the end, other good resources include:
- Associate Professor Charlotte Jirousek's website on the Cornell Website which provides a very good introduction to elements and principles as part of her online interactive textbook Cornell University - Art, Design and Visual Thinking - it also has an excellent set of images to accompany the text
- Graphic Design Basics - which cover both Elements of Design and Principles of Design - no images but very succinct and easy to print off for educaitonal purposes
- Nancy Doyle's series of lessons on composition - which you can find links to either at the end of this post or in Composition and Design - Resources for Artists
The elements of design are the building blocks - they provide the structure for a design or an artwork.
Value - An element of art that refers to luminance or luminosity — the lightness or darkness of a color. Value is an especially important element in works of art when color is absent. This is particularly likely with drawings, woodcuts, lithographs, and photographs. It is also true with most sculpture and architecture.Values in two dimensional artwork create gradations in light and contrast - and without these everything would be flat. Values can be created in different ways - by line and by colour.
To my mind, value is the most important element in the design of a painting. Without values there is no design. It's more important than colour because there are great works of art which have no colour and value can be a component of colour but colour isn't a component of value per se.
"The first things to study are form and values. For me, these are the things that are the basics of what is serious in art. Color and finish put charm in one's work."There will be more about value in subsequent posts. Aids to composition include greyscales or value scales.
Jean Baptiste Corot (1796-1875), French painter. Keith Roberts, Corot, 1965.
An element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the color name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a color, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a color.Colour will be the subject of another of my projects later this year. You can see links to information on the Internet which has already been collected in Colour - Resources for Artists
Shape - An element of art, it is an enclosed space defined and determined by other art elements such as line, color, value, and texture. In painting and drawing, shapes may take on the appearance of solid three-dimensional object even though they are limited to two dimensions — length and width. This two-dimensional character of shape distinguishes it from form, which has depth as well as length and width.Both form and shape require space (see below) to exist - shape needs at least two dimensions while form requires three. Two dimensional shapes can be defined by lines alone or values alone.
Notan defines three dimensional forms in terms of two dimensional shapes and values.
Form - In its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it.Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms.Forms can be organic and natural or constructed. Either can be geometric in form. Artists often talk about finding the 'big shapes' when starting a composition - but the shapes might be three dimensional forms. You can 'abstract' from a natural object to find its geometric equivalent - eg an apple is a sphere.
An element of art that refers to the distance or area between, around, above, below, or within things. It can be described as two-dimensional or three-dimensional; as flat, shallow, or deep; as open or closed; as positive or negative; and as actual, ambiguous, or illusory.Positive space is the space taken up by objects. Negative space is the space inbetween objects. Focusing on the latter often enables us to see the true relationship between different objects. Empty space can be highly regarded in some art forms and cultures and is exemplified above in this sculpture by Henry Moore currently on display as part of an exhibition of his work at Kew Gardens.
line - A mark with length and direction(-s). An element of art which refers to the continuous mark made on some surface by a moving point. Types of line include: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, straight or ruled, curved, bent, angular, thin, thick or wide, interrupted (dotted, dashed, broken, etc.), blurred or fuzzy, controlled, freehand, parallel, hatching, meandering, and spiraling. Often it defines a space, and may create an outline or contour, define a silhouette; create patterns, or movement, and the illusion of mass or volume. It may be two-dimensional (as with pencil on paper) three-dimensional (as with wire) or implied (the edge of a shape or form).Lines in visual art do not have to be on canvas or paper. They can be marks made within the environment.
texture- An element of art, texture is the surface quality or "feel" of an object, its smoothness, roughness, softness, etc. Textures may be actual or simulated. Actual textures can be felt with the fingers, while simulated textures are suggested by an artist in the painting of different areas of a pictureTexture can be represented in visual artworks in either two or three dimensional ways. It's often a pictorial illusion - which is dependent on line and value.
ArtLex - Texture
Books with a good explanation of the elements of design
- "The Elements of Drawing" John Ruskin (1857) and never out of print!
- You can search the text for specific terms on this Ruskin College Oxford website
- Letter 1 concerns the basics of drawing which involve the elements
- Letter 3 concerns itself with "On Colour and Composition" and Ruskin's 9 laws
- scroll down to see all the information that is available on the Internet.
- It appears you can download a complete copy from the Canadian Libraries.
- If you want to buy a copy, then I recommend that you get this edition with editing and annotations by Bernard Dunstan.
- "The Simple Secret to Better Painting" Greg Albert (Paperback 2003)- if you buy one book for this project, make it this one.
- Composition and Design - Resources for Artists - includes a section of the elements and principles of composition and design
- Cornell University - Art, Design and Visual Thinking an online interactive textbook created by Associate Professor Charlotte Jirousek
- Navigate to the Elements of Design and Principles of Design (and see the rest of the textbook) using the menu in the left hand column
- Graphic Design Basics
- Nancy Doyle: Design Lesson IV: Elements of Design
- Wikipedia - Design Elements and Principles This Wikipedia article is rather limited in its explanation and seems to confuse elements and principles. NOT recommended. The folowing articles are also very basic - the subject matter is covered better on other websites