Kentucky Art Speaks

Artist: Present & Past

In Artist: Present & Past on October 8, 2010 at 10:23 am

Proper use of the Principles of Art are essential to the success of any work. What is meant by the “Principles of Art?” The Principles of Art are the first set of rules or guidelines that make deciding the impact of a work of art easier. The second  set of rules are the Elements of Art; I’ll talk about those next week. I’ve decided to explain The Principles of Art using The Starry Night, by Vincent van Gogh:

Emphasis in a composition refers to  the points of interest that pull the viewer’s eye to important parts of the work. The emphasis in The Starry Night is the bright yellow moon.

Balance is a sense of stability in the work. Balance can be created by repeating the same shapes and by creating a feeling of equal weight. In the above painting, the large dark tree helps to balance the bright moon in the opposite corner.

Harmony is achieved in a body of work by using similar elements throughout the work to ensure it doesn’t look too complicated. The consistency of the lines throughout The Starry Night give it a feeling of harmony.

Variety refers to the differences in the work. Variety is achieved by using different shapes, textures, colors and values in your work. You can find variety in the bright and dark colors as well as the cool and warm colors, and in the swirls and curves of the hills next to the angularity of the houses.

Movement adds excitement to your work by showing action and directing the viewers eye throughout the picture plane. Above, the dark tree moves your eye up, the swirls carry your eye to the moon, the color in the moon leads your eye to the light yellow streak beneath it, which in turn leads your eye back to the dark tree.

Rhythm is a type of movement in drawing and painting. It is seen in repeating of shapes and colors. Alternating lights and darks also give a sense of rhythm. The lines and color pattern seen throughout the work are a great example of rhythm.

Proportion refers to the relationships of the size of objects in a body of work. The painting above has perfect proportion; nothing looks distracting or out of place.

Unity is seen in a painting or drawing when all the parts equal a whole. When looking at The Starry Night, you see that it is not disjointed or confusing, but uniform and consistent.

Some principles may be more obvious than others. For example, in the above painting, Emphasis is more obvious than Variety. The most important thing to remember about the Principles is that a successful work of art that does not utilize most or all of them does not exist. In the future, instead of saying, “I like The Starry Night,” I hope you’ll now be able to say: “The Starry Night is so celebrated because there is an incredible sense of movement throughtout.”

What do you think?


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