we Use the principles of art to create successful paintings

  • Why do we need to know the principles of art?

Learning the basic art principles made me a better painter.

Painting takes practice, lots of practice. While we are practicing, it's good to learn the fundamentals of good art paintings.

Art elements and principles appear over and over in good paintings. The elements and principles work together to create successful paintings.

how many principles of art are there?

Artists have different opinions on how many art principles there are. Several of the principles are overlapping or may be used together.

We will look at about ten principles of art and how they are used in the barn painting below.

But first, what is the difference between art elements and art principles?

Successful paintings all use the principles of art.Make beautiful paintings with the principles of art.

art elements verses the principles of art

  • Art elements are the artist's tools. Some of the art elements are lines, color, values, etc.

  • We use the elements of art in our paintings according to the principles of art. The principles of movement, proportion, balance, etc. create interesting, pleasing paintings.

seven elements of art

Paintings are made with the art elements of line, shape, form, space, texture, values and color. We can speed up our art journey by learning and using these elements in our artwork.

Line is the basic and most common element of art. It is a mark that starts at one point and continues on. It may be a straight, curved, zigzag, etc. Artists may use actual lines or imply lines by movement.

Shape is a two-dimensional representation of an object. We see it as the height and width of an object.

Form is the three-dimensional representation of an object, height, width and depth.

Space can be defined as positive or negative space. An object takes up the positive space. The area around an object is called negative space.

Texture refers to the surface of items. Silk has a smooth texture and wool is rough textured. Artists may paint the textures using various values and colors. Or we may create an actual texture in the paint with brush marks or palette knives.

Values are the light and darkness of an item. Value ranges from white to black and all the variations in between. Colors also have values. Yellow is the lightest value and purple is the darkest color value.

Color is a most valuable element of art. It creates emotion in our paintings. We can paint love, peace or harmony all with the use of color.

Successful oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings all use the art elements.

ten principles of art

Let's look at the common art principles everyone agrees on; rhythm, movement, proportion, balance, emphasis, contrast, unity (harmony), pattern, repetition and variety.

Whew, that sounds like a lot! We will take them one step at a time.

rhythm and movement

A painting can flow like music.

The painting principles of rhythm and movementThe viewer moves through the painting.

Rhythm is created by the spaces between the elements in the painting.

The red line on the left indicates the rhythm created by the patches of sun and shadow.

Movement can be indicated movement like a bird flying or a man running.

Movement can also be the path of the viewer's eyes, as they move through the painting.

The road (indicated by the straight red line on the right) moves the viewer into the painting and up to the large barn.

balance and proportion

This is not the barn painting, but a photograph that beautifully demonstrates the principles of art proportion and balance.

Balance and proportion in paintingBalance the painting

Balance in paintings works just like a teeter-totter.

If there is a heavy person on one side of the teeter-totter, the lighter person must have a longer portion on their side. They sit out on the long side of the teeter-totter to balance with the heavy person.

That's the way it works in paintings. If we have a large object on one side of the painting, we need more space on the other side for balance. The rule of thirds creates perfect balance.

Proportion means the objects in a painting relate to each other's size naturally. An exception would be pop-art, but we use proportion when we want things to look natural.

Proportion is a principle that is easy to overlook when we are engrossed in painting. One time, I saw a raccoon in a lovely painting. But he was very large compared to the trees.

Don't concentrate so much on one item and paint it too big compared to the other items in the painting. All the objects in a painting need to be in their natural proportion to each other.

great gifts ezine

Stay up to date with the painting and gardening tips and book news.

SIGN UP

emphasis and contrast

Emphasis and contrast are the principles of art used to create focal points. Movement brought the viewers up the road to the large barn.

Emphasis and contrast are valuable art principles.Use emphasis and contrast in the focal point.

Emphasis brings attention to things in the painting, in this case the large barn.

The barn is emphasized because it is the biggest and lightest building.

Contrast also, brings attention to things in the painting. Notice that the front wall of the big barn is the lightest thing in the painting.

Squint our eyes and look at the things in the large red circle. We see everything in the large circle is a darker value than the barn wall.

In real life the sky would be the lightest thing, but the barn wall was painted lighter to emphasis it.

In addition to values, artists may use contrasting colors, texture and hard edges to create emphasis.

unity and harmony

Unity and Harmony are quite similar. They mean all the parts of the painting are working together. The items in the painting relate to each other.

Different parts of the painting are not competing with each other. The painting emits a feeling of oneness. It feels complete and at peace.

patterns and repetition

Patterns and repetition give the viewers more to see. It keeps them in the painting longer.

Using the principles of patterns and repetitionPatterns and repetition provide interest.

Patterns are things repeated over and over to create a design. That's great on fabric, but in paintings we can vary our patterns.

Notice the pattern of shadows on the front barn. Each shadow is a different shape. There is a variation in their colors. Some of the shadows go up on the roof for more variation.

Repetition of objects, colors or lines can be useful. There is a repetition of rocks in the right foreground. A single, lone rock would detract from the focal point. Multiple rocks added interest without detracting from the barn.

The leaves of the large tree on the right are another repetition. They are painted with a variety of shape, color and values to keep them from being boring.

variety

Variety keeps our paintings interesting.

Notice in the barn painting there three separate buildings. Each building is a different size. Each building is a different color, a different shape and different values.

That's variety! It keeps the viewers interested.

There is a variety of colors, even in the same object. Variety keeps our paintings from being boring.


what have we learned?

We just went through a bunch of technical stuff, so let's review. We use art elements according to the art principles.

What are the elements of art?

  • Lines, we all made them the first time we picked up a pencil.
  • Shape is the two dimensions of an object.
  • Form is a three-dimensional object.
  • Space can be positive or negative space.
  • Texture is how rough or smooth it is.
  • Values are how light or dark something is.
  • Color is red, yellow, blue, etc.

What are the principles or art?

  • Rhythm is made by repeating shapes, colors or values.
  • Movement pulls the viewer in and thru the painting.
  • Balance in painting works just like a teeter-totter.
  • Proportion means the size of each object is true to reality.
  • Emphasis makes things stand out in the painting.
  • Contrast is created by opposing colors, values or edges.
  • Unity and harmony are when everything is working together.
  • Patterns and repetition are repeating things in the painting.
  • Variety resists boredom.

what is composition in painting?

  • Composition uses the principles of art to arrange the art elements (color, values, etc.) in a pleasing manner.

Was I thinking about the art principles when I was doing the barn painting? No, not at all, when I was learning to paint, I only thought about 4 things.

It's best to keep it simple, especially when we are learning. The four most important things are composition, values, color and a focal point.

  • When we concentrate on - a good composition, using a variety of values, good use of color and creating a focal point - we will have a good painting.

When I was learning to paint, I didn't learn all this technical stuff until way down the road.

Forget about all the other technical stuff.

just paint and have fun!



painting fundamentals

  • Do you ever wonder what a painting artist was saying? This art glossary of art terms explains what they said about techniques, color, painting, supplies and more.

    Glossary of Art Terms for Painting Artists

    Do you ever wonder what a painting artist was saying? This art glossary of art terms explains what they said about techniques, color, painting, supplies and more.

  • MY FIRST TWO ORCHIDS CROAKED! Why? I didn’t know how to water orchids, after learning I had a whole greenhouse full of orchids and won blue ribbons at the shows.

    How to Water Orchids

    MY FIRST TWO ORCHIDS CROAKED! Why? I didn’t know how to water orchids, after learning I had a whole greenhouse full of orchids and won blue ribbons at the shows.

  • Artists use the rule of thirds to create dynamic compositions. It is the shortcut for easy composition. It creates balanced paintings that attract the viewers.

    Rule of Thirds makes dynamic compositions

    Artists use the rule of thirds to create dynamic compositions. It is the shortcut for easy composition. It creates balanced paintings that attract the viewers.

  • Can painting daily really make you a better artist?  Regular painting will put your art into overdrive! You don’t have to paint perfect. Just paint more often.

    Painting Daily

    Can painting daily really make you a better artist? Regular painting will put your art into overdrive! You don’t have to paint perfect. Just paint more often.

  • How to survive an artists block. All artists can have blocks or delays, but we get over it. What is an artist’s block? How do we get started painting again?

    Artists Block

    How to survive an artists block. All artists can have blocks or delays, but we get over it. What is an artist’s block? How do we get started painting again?

  • What’s the real secret of why do we paint? We paint for many reasons, it’s healthy to relax, relieve stress. We express ourselves and share what we see around us.

    Why Do We Paint?

    What’s the real secret of why do we paint? We paint for many reasons, it’s healthy to relax, relieve stress. We express ourselves and share what we see around us.