Elements of Art

  • Line
  • Shape
  • Value
  • Form
  • Color
  • Texture
  • Space

Principles of Art

  • Emphasis
  • Balance
  • Harmony
  • Variety
  • Movement
  • Rhythm
  • Proportion
  • Unity

Art Terms

Abstract Art: Art that does not look realistic.  Abstract art may show either distorted objects or no real objects at all.

Aerial perspective
: Showing distance on a flat surface. It is achieved by using bluer, lighter, and duller hues for distant objects in a picture.

Analogous Colors: Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel and are closely related, such as red. red-orange and orange.

Archaic: This name is given to the early stage of development of an art style.

Artist: A person who makes art.

Artwork:  A work of art, such as a drawing, painting or sculpture.

Assemblage: A sculpture made of different kinds of materials.

: A kind of balance in which different lines, shapes and colors are used on each side of an artwork to make both sides seem equal.

Background:  The part of an artwork that seems farthest away from the viewer.

: a principal of art, the art elements are arranged to create a sense of stability in a work of art.

Center of Interest: The part of an artwork that the viewer notices first.

: The art of pottery making. Objects are made of clay and fired at high temperatures in a kiln (oven).

Cityscape:  An artwork that shows a view of a city.

: An artwork created by gluing bits of paper, fabric, scraps, photographs, or other materials to a flat surface. 

Complementary colors:  Pairs of colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel.

Composition:  The way the parts of an artwork are put together.

Contour Line
: An outline drawn around a shape or an object.

Contrast: A difference between two parts of an artwork that makes one or both stand out.

Cool Colors: Green, blue, and violet colors are often associated with water and the sky and suggest coolness. These colors appear on the opposite side of the warm colors on the color wheel.

Cubism: A 20th Century art movement developed by Picasso and Braque in which the subject matter in  broken up. analyzed and reassembled in an abstract forms often times offering many views of the subject simultaneously.

Dada: An early 20th Century art movement which ridiculed contemporary and traditional art  forms. it was born as a consequence of the collapse of social and moral values which developed during World War 1. Many artists associated with this movement later went on to be surrealists.

Design; The organization, plan or composition of a wok of art.  An effective design is one in which the elements and principles have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity.

Elements: The basic components used by the artist when producing works of art. The elements are color, value, line, shape, form, texture and space.

Emotionalism:  Theory  of art which places emphasis on the expressive qualities. Avoiding to this theory, the most important thing about a work of art is the vivid communication of moods, feelings and ideas.

Emphasis: A principle of art, it refers to a way of combining elements to stress the difference between those elements t create one or more centers of interests in the work

Expressionism: A 20th Century art movement in which artists tried to communicate their strong emotional feelings through artworks.

Expressive qualities: The feeling, moods and ideas communicated to the viewer through a work of art.  This aesthetic quality is favored by emotionalism.

Foreground: The area of a picture, usually at the bottom, that appears to be closest to the viewer.

Foreshortening; A way of drawing or painting an object or person so that it seems to go back in space. Ucello used foreshortening when paining figures, horses, and broken spears in his Battle of San Romano

Form: An elementof art that is 3-D and encloses volume. Cubes, spheres,pyramid andcylinders are examples of various forms.

Fresco: A  method of painting in which pigments are applied to a thin layer of wet plaster so that they will be absorbed and the painting becomes part of the wall.Giotto painting of lamentation was done in this manner.

Frieze: A decorative horizontal band usually placed along the upper end of a wall.

Genre: The representation of subjects and scenes from everyday life. Genre painting achieved its greatest popularity in 17th Century Holland with the works of Vermeer and Steen.

Gradation: A principle of art,it refers tot he way of combining art elements by using a series of gradual changes in those elements

Hard-edge: Refers to the 20th Century movement in painting in which the edges of shapes are crisp and precise rather than blurred.

Harmony: A principle of art, it refers to a way of combining elements to accent their similarities and bind the picture parts into a whole. It is often achieved through the use of repetition and simplicity.

Highlight: The area on any surface which reflects the most light.

Impressionism: A style of painting that started in France during the 1860's. Impressionist artists tried to paint candid glimpses of their subjects an d emphasized a momentary instant and the effects of sunlight.

Intermediate ( preferred:Tertiary) colors: Colors produced by mixing 2 to 1 amounts of two primary colors for example 2 parts red mixed to 1 part yellow will produce the tertiary hue of red-orange.

Line: An element of art which refers to the continuous mark made on some surface by a moving point.

Linear: A painting or drawing technique in which importance is placed on contours or outlines.

Linear perspective: A system of drawing or painting in which the artist attempts to create the illusion of depth on a flat surface. The lines of buildings and other objects in a picture are slanted inward making them appear to extend back into space. if lengthened, the lines will meet at a point of on an imaginary horizon line in which it seem to disappear. The point at which the lines meet is called the vanishing point.

Literal qualities: The realistic presentation of subject matter in a work of art, This aesthetic quality is favored by imatationalism.

Medium: The material used by the artist to produce a work of art. It may also refer to the liquid with which powdered pigments are mixed with to create paint.

Monochromatic: Consisting of only a single color of hue and the shades and tints of that hue.

Movement: A principle of art, it is a way of combining elements to produce the look of action or to cause the viewer's eye to sweep over the work in a certain manner.

Mural: A large design or picture, generally created on the wall of a public building.

Neoclassicism: A 19th Century French art style that originated as a reaction to the Baroque. It sought to revive the ideals of the ancient Greek and Roman art. Neoclassic artists used classical forms to express their ideas about courage, sacrifice, and love of country. one of the first artist to work in this style was Jacques Louis David

Nonobjective art: Artworks that have no recognizable subject matter such as houses, trees or people.Also known a non-representational art.

Painterly: A painting technique in which forms are created with patches of color rather than with hard, precise edges.

Pop Art: An art style that had its origins in England in the 1950's and made its way to the United States during the 1960's. Pop artists focused attention upon familiar things of the popular culture such as billboards, comic strips, magazine ads and supermarket products.

Post-Impressionism: A French art movement that immediately followed Impressionism. The artists involved showed a greater concern for structure and form than did the impressionist artist.

Proportion: A principle of art, it refers to the relationship of elements to the whole and to each other. Often proportion is allied with another  principle of art, emphasis. For example. if there greater proportion of intense hues than dull hues in a work, emphasis is suggested. proportion may refer to the relationship of size. For example, if one figure is made to look larger compared to other figures in a composition, it is said to be out of proportion and is given greater importance.

Realism: A mid-19th century style of art in which artists discarded the formulas of Neoclassicism and the theatrical drama of Romanticism to paint familiar scenes and events as they actually looked.

Regionalism: A style of art that was popular in the United States during the 1930's. The artists who worked in this style wanted to paint the American scene in a clear simple way that could be understood and enjoyed by everyone. See Grant Wood's American Gothic

Renaissance: A revival or rebirth of cultural awareness and learning that took place during the 14th and 15th centuries, particularly in Italy. It reached its peak in the visual arts with the works of Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael.

Rococo: An 18th century art style which placed emphasis on portraying the carefree life of the aristocracy rather than on grand heroes or pious martyrs. Love and Romance were to be considered better subjects for art   than historical or religious subjects.  The style was characterized by free, graceful, movement; a playful use of line; and delicate colors. Watteau is seen as the greatest of Rococo painters.

Romanticism: A style of art that flourished in the early 19th Century. It emphasized the emotions painted in a bold, dramatic manner. Romantic artists rejected the established art of the times to paint pictures filled with dramatic action or showed exotic settings.

Secondary colors: The colors obtained by mixing equal amounts of two primary colors. They are Orange, Green and Violet. For example violet is made by mixing one part red to one part blue.

Still life: A painting of inanimate objects. Chardin, for example, painted may pictures of everyday items, including kettles, vegetables, and earthenware containers, in which he showed sight changes in color, light, and texture.

Subject: That which is represented in a work of art. For example, a hay wagon crossing a shallow stream near a quaint cottage is the subject matter in Constable's The Haywain.

Surrealism: A 20th Century art style in which dreams, fantasy, and the sub-conscious served as the inspiration for artists. Often the images found in the surrealists works are confusing and even starling. Works could be representational as in the works of Dali or more abstract as in the works of Miro.

Symbol: A form, image or subject representing a meaning other than the one with which it is usually associated. Van Eyck used several symbols in his painting Givanni Arnolfini and His Bride.

Symmetrical Balance: A way of organizing the parts of a design so that one side duplicates, or mirrors, the other. Also known as "formal balance", it can be observed in Albers' paining entitled Homage to the Square".

Unity: The quality of oneness that is achieved through the effective use of the elements and principle of art. Often it is realized through a deliberate or intuitive balancing of harmony and variety. However, this balance does not have to be equal proportions-harmony might outweigh variety, or variety might outweigh harmony. Harmony aids efforts to blend picture parts together to form a whole work. Variety adds interest to this unified whole.

Value: An element of art that describes the lightness or darkness of a color.

Visual qualities: The careful organization of the elements and principles of design in a work of art. This aesthetic quality is favored by formalism.

Warm colors: Colors often associated with fire and sun and suggest warmth. These are colors which contain red and yellow and appear on one side of the color wheel opposite the cool colors.