A critical overview of visual elements for artistic creation

Lines and shapes

Elements of design are the basic units of a work of art like painting, drawing or any other visual piece. They are the ingredients used in the creation of any artistic piece. The elements of design used in art include dot, line, shape, plane, colour, space, texture, weight, and value. They are line, form, shape, colour, space and texture. The artist puts the visual elements together to make a statement in art the same way we put words together to form a sentence. Every artist must know and understand them.

Line: It is the product of a moving point of a marking tool such as a pencil creates a path of connected dots on a paper. This path of connected dots or mark left by a moving point is referred to as a line. Line is defined as the path of a dot through space. This indicates that it takes movement to create a line. Examples of lines in the natural and manmade environment include leaves and branches of trees, rivers, the contours of a bird, outlines of electrical gadgets like Television set, speakers, computers etc. A skilled artist uses lines to control the movement of the viewer’s eyes. Lines lead the eye of the viewer into, around and out of visual images in an artwork.

Dot: It is a small round spot. It is usually created from the nibs of writing tools such as pencil, pen, crayon, etc. Pebbles, fruits, human heads are examples of dots in nature.

Shape: A shape is defined as an enclosed area. It is an area that stands out from the space next to or around it due to a defined or implied boundary. This area is clearly set off by one or more of the other five visual elements of art. It is the artist’s unique way of representing ideas in two dimensions. Shapes are flat. They are limited to only two dimensions: length and width. A shape may have an outline or boundary around it. Examples of shapes in the natural and manmade environment include shapes of human head, stones, fruits, rectangles, squares, circles etc.

Form: It is an object with three dimensions thus length, width (breadth) and depth (height). It is the shape of volume or mass. Forms can be grouped into two namely geometric forms and organic forms. Geometric forms include tables, pots, statues etc. while examples of organic forms are stones, trees etc. The only difference between form and shape is that shapes do not have depths but forms do.

Space: It is considered as a boundless area. It is the distance between, around, above, below and within shapes and masses. It is a measurable distance between pre-established points. A void or vacuum in which other elements are actualized or seen is space. Spaces can be seen in both two and three dimensional forms. There are two kinds of space thus positive space which is the space occupied by the objects in a picture and negative space that is the space around objects in a composition or picture.

Texture: This is the surface character or quality of materials. It refers to how things feel or look as though they might feel if touched. This may be smooth, rough, coarse, hard or soft. Texture can be experienced particularly through two of our senses thus the sense of sight and the sense of touch. However, texture can be perceived in the mind. Texture comes in four basic forms: actual, simulated, abstract and invented.

Mass: It is the implied or actual bulk, weight, size or magnitude of an object. In a two dimensional drawing or painting, mass refers to a large area or form of one colour.

Colour: It plays a major role in the elements of design. It is the reflection of white light on an object or sensations created on the eye by rays of decomposed light. Colour may vary in degrees of dullness or brightness and lightness or darkness. All natural and manmade objects that surround us have colours. Tomatoes, flowers, plants, cars, clothes etc display varieties of colours.

Value: This is the degree of lightness or darkness existing in colour. Value is determined by the amount of light reflected by a surface. Value is also referred to as tone.

These elements of artistic creation have their own distinctive features that must be known by artists especially amateurs in the art profession so that they can mature into creative giants in the art industry.

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