Art Lesson: Elements of Art

What makes for a good image, pleasing to the eye, appreciated by the viewer?  Some of the tools of the trade that an artist uses include:

  1. Line
  2. Shape
  3. Color
  4. Texture
  5. Values/tones
  6. Space
  7. Depth
  8. Form

Now for a deeper discussion of these Elements of Art:

  1. Line.  Think of the expressive quality of a line:  thick or thin, straight or curved, and that line moves in some direction: horizontal, vertical, or diagonal.   It could be an outline or an implied line that moves the eye around the picture plane.
  2. Shape.  Geometric (circle, square, rectangle, triangle) or organic (shape of a puddle, leaf, cloud, etc.)
  3. Color.  There are many theories about color but the basics include the three primary colors of red, yellow and blue; the secondary colors of orange, green, and violet; and the many tertiary mixtures.  Then there are the tints (add white) and shades (add black).
    TO DO:  A very simple color palette could include a red, a yellow, a blue, white, and black and from these five colors experiment and see how many color mixtures you can make.
  4. Texture.  Think sense of touch, tactile illusions, patterns.  Texture refers to the surface qualities of paint, or in a line drawing texture is the variations of shading to create patterns.
  5. Tone or Value.  Shading is used to emphasize form;  shadow and highlights; use of lights (tints) and use of darks (shades).
  6. Space.   Both the positive space (the object) and all the negative space (the space around and in between the object).  Space includes distances around, between or within.
  7. Depth.  Perceived distance from the observer, separated into foreground, middle ground, and background.
  8. Form.  This takes into consideration the dimensions of height, width and depth.  Usually one thinks of form with sculpture.  However, form exists within a two-dimensional picture plane also (think cube, pyramid, sphere, cylinder).  Form can also be enhanced by tone, texture and color.

These are the basic elements but art usually begins with choosing a subject, deciding on a composition, picking a medium.   Or, art can be an act of playing  with colors or doodles.

I’ve experimented in all kinds of different directions with all kinds of subjects.  Some paintings were spontaneous but most were planned out with decision-making on the elements of art as the painting progressed.  My earliest passion was to draw and paint the human figure.    Here’s the last portrait I painted:

Girl with cloak


About Wings of Wonder

Linda Ruddy is a creative with a diverse range of interests in writing and painting. She currently is revising a middle grade novel, and author and illustrating a picture story book. She is an active member of SCBWI, Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators. Linda has a body of paintings, which form the foundation of her artistic development. This work can be viewed on her website: Her recent illustrations are an outgrowth of the style she developed in these paintings. Another passion is sculpture. Linda often uses her figures as models for her art. Linda's blog is eclectic and journeys wherever her muse guides her attention. Her blog address is: Following the muse, Linda Ruddy
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13 Responses to Art Lesson: Elements of Art

  1. marilynscottwaters says:

    Lovely folds and shadow colors. And thank you for all the well thought out information. Makes me want to haul out my paints! Hugs, M

  2. tbnranch says:

    Geez, you amaze me.

  3. You have no idea how happy I am for this post. I’ve been pegged to teach Art History next year and this is really going to help me set up the introductory unit! Thank you!!! 🙂

    • How exciting! Are you starting with ancient….prehistoric man cave paintings or one of the “ism” closer to our time. Enjoy learning along with your students.


  4. catherine says:

    You are vessel of creative knowledge!

  5. JSD says:

    Wonderful! Thanks for the breakdown. 🙂

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