Principles of Art

Principles of Art
Creative Arts
Visual Art Unit
Principles of Art
So when we discuss
and analyze
principles, we must
talk in terms of
For example, this
painting is balanced
Richard Diebenkorn. Woman by a Large Window.
1957. Acrylic on canvas, 180 x 165 cm.
Principles of Art
The Eight
Principles of Art
Principle # 1 – Balance
One can literally fold
this in two and each
side is equal.
Both sides are different
but equal. How is this
Principle # 1 – Balance
Sand painting by Tibetan
Buddhist monk. Radial balance.
Radial balance means lines
or shapes grow from a
center point.
Principle # 1 – Balance
Yin-yang symbol from
ancient China.
Well-known example of
perfect balance, meaning
a correct life. All
opposites in a perfect
balance, suggesting a
universal harmony.
Principle # 1 – Balance
Unlike symmetry which
is basically fixed and
static, asymmetry is
active and much more
dependent on the
intuitive balance of
visual weights. In
compositions the
equilibrium is much
more challenging and
dynamic than in
symmetrical or radial
Pablo Picasso. Girl Before a
Mirror. 1932. Oil on canvas,
64 x 51"
Principle #2 - Emphasis
Artists use high contrast to make objects stand out show up.
In Wheatfields with Ravens, Van Gogh used high contrast
colors to make the yellow wheat fields stand out against the
dark blue sky.
Principle # 2 - Emphasis
How does Frida
Kahlo achieve
emphasis in this
Think in terms
of elements.
Principle # 2 - Emphasis
de Goya, the great Spanish
artist, achieves emphasis by
manipulating which
Francisco de Goya. Saturn Devouring One of
His Sons. Mural transferred to canvas. 146 x
83 cm.
Principle # 2 - Emphasis
chiaroscuro a method for applying value to a
two-dimensional piece of artwork to
create the illusion of a threedimensional solid form. Devised
during the Italian Renaissance,
chiaroscuro was used by artists such
as da Vinci and Raphael. In this
system, if light is coming in from
one predetermined direction, then
light and shadow will conform to a
set of rules.
Georges de La Tour. The Repentent
Magdalene. (c.1640) 113 x 93 cm.
Principle # 2 - Emphasis
Notice the bright light from the reflection and the gradation or change
in value until the shadow is reached.
Principle # 2 - Emphasis
Chiaroscuro (and all of the
elements and principles)
remains evident in
contemporary art. For
example, this piece by Luis
Royo, Bifid Chiaroscuro,
shows the dramatic effect this
technique produces in
fantasy/surreal art.
Principle # 3 - Gradation
The Gradation of Fire. Rene Magritte
Principle # 3 - Gradation
A gradual step-by-step change
from dark to light values or
from large to small shapes, or
rough to smooth textures, or
one color to another.
Gradation refers to any way
of combining elements of art
by using a series of gradual
changes in those elements.
Gradation is unlike contrast
which stresses sudden
changes in elements.
gradation of color
gradation of size
Principle # 3 - Gradation
Principle # 3 - Gradation
Georges Seurat.
"Sunday Afternoon of the Island of La Grande Jatte"
Principle # 3 - Gradation
Principle # 4 – Harmony/Unity
Harmony is achieved by using
similar elements throughout the
work; harmony gives an
uncomplicated look to the work .
Unity is the underlying
principle summarizing all of the
principles and elements. It refers
to the coherence of the whole,
the sense that all of the parts are
working together to achieve a
common result; a harmony of all
the parts.
Fruit Displayed on a Stand.
Gustave Caillebotte. 1881-1882.
How does Caillebotte achieve
harmony? Think in terms of elements!
Principle # 4 – Harmony/Unity
Unity also exists in variety. Elements do
not need to be identical in form
providing they have a common quality
of meaning or style. For example,
fashions from a specific period share
common features of silhouette,
materials, and color that identify the
style of the day, or the look of a
particular designer.
Principle # 4 – Harmony/Unity
Lake Thun. Ferdinand Hodler. 1905.
Principle # 5 - Movement
Movement shows
action; it may also
be used to direct the
eye throughout the
picture plane.
What elements does Kiefer use to
create movement in his painting
about the human and cultural
catastrophe of WWII?
To the Unknown Painter.
Anselm Kiefer. 1983.
Principle # 5 - Movement
Starry Night. Vincent Van Gogh. 1889
Principle # 5 - Movement
The Scream.
Edvard Munch. 1893.
Principle #6 - Proportion
describes the
size, location or
amount of one
thing (object)
compared to
Based on the proportions
of the human body as
described by Vitruvius, an
ancient Roman architect.
The rediscovery of the
mathematical proportions
of the human body is
considered one of the
greatest achievements of
the Italian Renaissance.
Vitruvian Man. Da Vinci. 1490.
Principle #6 – Proportion
The Last Supper. Leonardo da Vinci. 1498.
Principle #6 – Proportion
Cristo Morto. Andrea Mantegna. 1591
Principle #7 – Rhythm
Artists create visual
rhythm by
repeating art
elements and
creating patterns.
Rhythm is a type
of movement in
painting 
repetition of
shapes and colors
or alternating
lights and darks.
Principle #7 – Rhythm
Nude Descending Staircase No. 2.
Marcel Duchamp. 1912
Principle #7 – Rhythm
Autumn Rhythm: Number 30. Jackson Pollack. 1950.
Oil on cavas, 8’8’ x 17’ 3”.
Principle #7 – Rhythm
Guernica. Pablo Picasso. 1937.
Oil on canvas, 11’6” x 25’8”.
Principle #8 – Variety
By using
different shapes,
textures, colors,
etc., the artist
can achieve
variety creating visual
differences or
highlighting a
part of the work
or adding more
interest to the
work overall.
Harlequin’s Carnival. Joan Miro. 1925
Principle #8 – Variety
Son of Man. Rene Magritte.
Principle #8 – Variety
Time Transfixed. Rene Magritte. 1938.
Theories of Art - Imitationalism
Imitationalism –
features a realistic
representation of
subject matter. Focus
on literal qualities.
Hunters in the Snow. Pieter Bruegel. 1565
Theories of Art - Imitationalism
American Gothic. Grant Wood. 1930.
Theories of Art - Imitationalism
Triple Self Portrait. Norman Rockwell.
1960. Oil on canvas, 44.5” x 34.75”.
Theories of Art - Formalism
Formalism –
emphasizes the
organization of
elements through
the use of
principles. Focus
on visual qualities.
Composition X. Vassily Kandinsky. 1939.
Oil, watercolor, ink, and pencil.
Theories of Art - Formalism
Diamond Painting in Red, Yellow, Blue. Piet Mondrian.
c. 1921-1925. oil on canvas, 56.25” x 56”.
Theories of Art - Formalism
Three Musicians. Pablo Picasso. 1921.
Oil on canvas, 6’7” x 7’3 ¾”.
Theories of Art - Emotionalism
Emotionalism – the
artist focuses on the
vivid communication of
moods, feelings, and
ideas. Expressive
qualities are
The Old Guitarist. Pablo Picasso.
1903/4. Oil on panel.
Theories of Art - Emotionalism
Modern Migration of the Spirit.
Jose Clemente Orozco. 1933.
Theories of Art - Emotionalism
Sunrise with Sea Monsters. J.M.W. Turner. 1845
Theories of Art
Raft of the Medusa. Theodore Gericault. 1819.