Principles of Art
1. Proportion - relationships of parts to each other and to the whole work.
Our sense of proportion in art comes from the human body. Proportions are often
normal and expected. They can also be exaggerated and distorted. Sometimes
proportions are idealized – more perfect than you might see in nature.
Standard – describes a person or object that seems to have
appropriate height, width, and depth compared to its
Altered – describes objects or people whose proportions have been
changed or altered.
Monumental – much larger than life-size
Miniature – very small
Scale - the relative size of something compared with what you
expect. Scale can be created in two ways.
a. Realistic Scale – when an artist creates a work of art in
which various elements seem to fit together well and they
resemble size relations in real life.
b. Unrealistic scale – when an artist intentionally makes
size relationships that do not resemble real life.
Caricature – use of exaggerated proportions usually for
humor and satire.
Facial Proportions - guidelines used by an artist to correctly place
features on the human face.
2. Variety – “the spice of life” It is the use of different elements and interest
to a work of art. It works hand in hand with unity to add emphasis and
Principles of Art 2
3. Balance - a principle of art concerned with arranging the elements so that
no one part of the work overpowers, or sees heavier than, any other part.
a. Formal or symmetrical balance – occurs when equal or very similar
elements are place on opposite side of central line called an axis.
b. Radial Balance – occurs when the elements of design seem to radiate or
come out of a center point. It is often symmetrical.
c. Informal or asymmetrical balance - a balance of unlike objects. It is a
way of organizing part of a design so that unlike objects have equal visual weight.
It is not exactly the same on both sides.
4. Emphasis – making an element or an object in a work stand out. This is
the principle artists use to control what you first notice about a work. Emphasis
can be achieved in several ways.
a. Dominance - making one element the strongest or most important thing
in the work
b. Focal Point or Center of Interest - this is done by isolating an
important element from the space around it. It might be larger or brighter. It could
also be created be an arrangement of lines or paths that come together to flow
toward one main point in the work.
5. Unity – the quality of seeming whole, complete, or harmonious, a feeling of
oneness. The opposite of unity is disunity, a feeling of disorder.
-Repetition - In art, unity is often achieved by the repetition of shape,
color, or another visual element.
-Simplicity - Simplicity is the use of one major color, kind of shape, or
element to unify a work.
-Harmony – Harmony is related colors, textures, and materials that might be
- Theme and Variation - In this case, an artist might organize a work
around one major element like a circle, then include variations on the circle –
showing it in different sizes and colors, or including some half-circles.
- Proximity or Continuity
Proximity means that parts are grouped together, enclosed or clustered
Continuity means that edges of forms are lined up so your eye moves
from one part to another in a definite order.
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6. Pattern – a repeated use of lines, shapes, colors, forms, or textures. Artists
use pattern to express their ideas and feelings.
- Two-dimensional patterns are created by using a motif over and over again.
♣ Motif - one complete unit in a larger design. (shape or
- Three-dimensional art uses modules.
♣ Module - one complete unit (actual form)
All-over pattern - when the motifs or modules are arranged in a regular
7. Visual Rhythm and Movement – the principle of art that indicates
movement through the repetition of elements and objects. There are several types
of visual rhythms.
a. Regular rhythm - occurs when each motif is repeated with the same
amount of space between * * * * *
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b. Alternating rhythm – repeats motifs but changes positions of motifs or
adds a second motif * * * * * * $ * $ * $
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c. Random rhythm - occurs when the motif is repeated in no apparent
order * * ** *
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d. Progressive rhythm - a motif that changes each time it is repeated
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e. Flowing rhythm - rhythm that repeats wavy lines ( ( ( ( ( (
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