Elements and Principals of Design: Pattern

Pattern is one of the easier elements and principals of design to visually explain, even in abstract art.

Pattern and rhythm is showing consistency with colors or lines. Putting a red spiral at the bottom left and top right, for example, will cause the eye to move from one spiral, to the other, and everything in between. It is indicating movement by the repetition of elements. Rhythm can make an artwork seem active. source

So, how does that translate visually?

White stripes are the pattern, as are the three gold dots.

The pink tubes on each of the three corners give this piece consistency and pattern, while the grey ones in the middle ground the piece as a whole.

How do you make pattern and rhythm make sense to you?


Elements and Principles of Design...Proportion

Proportion is one of the more complex Principles of Art and Design to explain in abstract art as there are typically no recognizable forms to use for size reference. Our brains are so well trained to see a strawberry {for example} and know immediately whether it is the correct size, too small or too large.

Technically defined as

Proportion is a measurement of the size and quantity of elements within a composition. In ancient arts, proportions of forms were enlarged to show importance. This is why Egyptian gods and political figures appear so much larger than common people. The ancient Greeks found fame with their accurately-proportioned sculptures of the human form. Beginning with the Renaissance, artists recognized the connection between proportion and the illusion of 3-dimensional space. source

When it comes to abstract art, proportion is used more to explain the use of space and the illusion of created space.

This piece, for example, is fairly proportionate. The black lines flow throughout the entire space, while the white in the middle breaks up the green. There is a beginning, a middle and an end to the piece, which further illustrates the use of proportion.

In sculpted pieces like the wallflowers, we look to see if the stamen is proportionate to the petals, and if the petals are proportionate to the space where they will be hung.

Now, why does the wall where the will be hung matter? Well, it certainly would look funny to have a tiny little 4"x4" painting on a large 10'x8' wall. Likewise, it wouldn't make proportionate sense to hang an oversized wallflower on a small wall.

Proportion can make or break your interior design, so planning makes perfect!

Elements and Principles of Design...Balance

Balance can take on many different interpretations in visual art.

As the fifth art principle, balance means how the artist weighs their piece of work. Is it asymmetrical {balance all on one side, top or bottom of the piece}, symmetric or radial?

How would you say these pieces are balanced?

And what about this sculpted piece?

I tend to create more asymmetrical pieces than anything else. I really like having most of the weight in a painting on the top or bottom, one side or the other. I find that it creates a beginning, middle and end in a more harmonious way than typical symmetry.

What kind of balance do you like to see in a piece of art?


Principals and Elements of Design...Variety

Time for your monthly dose of art education here on Sweet Stella's! This month, we are talking about the art principle variety.

Defined as....Variety is the quality or state of having different forms or types, notable use of contrast, emphasis, difference in size and color. source 

And visually explained very easily in miniature pieces of art! The use of contrast, and the variations in the actual physical size of the canvases aid in giving the pieces variety.

While fairly monochromatic, this piece does a great job of showing variety. There is contrast in tone and the scale of the piece, as well as movement and variety in line.

I love how this piece embraces variety. There are five different southwest inspired colours in this painting, all of which flow together to create unity and harmony. Line and movement is important in this piece. When these five elements are used in one piece, variety is achieved!

How would you explain the design principle variety?


Elements and Principles of Art, Harmony

The principle of harmony is probably one of the harder ones to explain in writing. In its very rudimentary explanation, it means how uncomplicated a piece of work is.

Harmony is achieved in a body of work by using similar elements throughout the work, harmony gives an uncomplicated look to a piece of artwork or sculpture. Source

A cohesive design is something that all artists strive for. There is always a method to the madness, even in abstract art, and it is truly remarkable to see a finished piece achieve the element of harmony.


It doesn't always happen, but look at how magical it is when it does! Line, shape, form, contrast and color some together in both of these pieces to create a harmonious design!

How would you best describe a piece that has achieved harmony?


Elements and Principles of Art...Line

Line is one of the more easily explained Elements of Art. It has a true form, a starting and ending point. There is little to no confusion about where a line begins, and where it ends...the space that it creates between two points.

Technically defined as {source: Wikipedia}

Line is defined as a mark that spans a distance between two points (or the path of a moving point), taking any form along the way. As an art element, line pertains to the use of various marks, outlines and implied lines in artwork and design, most often used to define shape in two-dimensional work. Implied line is the path that the viewer's eye takes as it follows shapes, colors, and form along a path, but may not be continuous or physically connected, such as the line created by a dancer's arms, torso, and legs when performing an arabesque. Line is an element of art that is simplest, most ancient, and most universal means for creating visual arts.

How does line translate in my work?

I love playing with paint lines on my sculpted works. A line can star on one side, stop suddenly in the middle, but connect with another colour or tone to tie the entire piece together. It creates cavities of space within the bounds of one piece.

My lines aren't perfect...but they are simple, and they are strong.

Elements and Principals of Design....Value

As an art student, one of the most difficult elements of art and design to master is value. No, not how to price your art work accordingly, but the value of colour.

Technically defined....

Value, or tone, refers to the use of light and dark, shade and highlight, in an artwork. Some people also refer the lightness and darkness in an artwork as tints(light) and shades(dark). Black-and-white photography depends entirely on value to define its subjects. Value is directly related to contrast. Value is the relative degree of lightness in the graphic work of art or painting. Wikipedia

Teminology that you might be more familiar with is monochromatic.

Tinting with white, and shading with a complimentary color {you thought I was going to say black...didn't you?? A tutorial for another day!} is very important to an artist. It changes the depth, contrast and form of a painting and can take a piece from being flat to being amazing.

Visually speaking...

This cream and navy miniture diptych explains value very well. The two tones blend well in areas to create different grades of navy, while the are used in their true tones in other areas to provide the lightest tints and darkest shades.

To not blend the two colors together would make for a very flat painting. Here, there are pockets on the right that seem to fade into the background, whereas on the left the dark shades jump right into the foreground.

While difficult to explain in writing yet easy to show on a canvas, value is one of the most important elements of art and design, as it creates depth, and defines background, middle ground and foreground in a piece of art.


Element and Principals of Art...Shape

One of the more difficult elements of art to define within the bounds of abstract art is that of shape.

Clasically defined as the area in two dimensional space that is defined by hard edges and lines, shape They can be geometric, or in the instances of abstract art, they can be organic.

Organic shapes are those that you will find in abstract art {more often than not}. Lines, drips, splatter, blobs, puddles and pools. Whatever the shape that the paint takes on in its truest form, perfectly imperfect.

What shapes do you see above?

Elements and Principals of Art: Space

The Verve once wrote in a song that there is no space and time, that we have existence and that's all we share.

In the terms of art, the element of space is probably one of the most important things that makes a piece complete. It is the space within the time...the space in which the piece exists.

The physical footprint of the painting above is 20"x16"...or 320 square inches. The paint exists within the bounds of the stretcher bars but there is space created within that aid in making this piece complete.

Follow the yellow arrows. Do you see all of the little pockets of space created within this piece?

Space can do wonderful things within a painting, especially with abstract work. While you may think that the drips and paint is just thrown haphazardly on a canvas, there is a method to the madness. That method is to create space.

Achieving Balance through Art and Design

A couple of months ago, I was asked to create a leaflet for the Argyle Art in the Park with something informative.

I got thinking about the elements and principals of art. Way back in highschool, these were things that our studio teacher Mr. Flink would drill into our brains, and little did I know how much I would use them later in life in my professional career.

Every day in my studio, I think about contrast, line, movement, space and form.

I strive to use these principals to create a balanced design, albeit a less traditional form of balance. You'll see that many of my paintings are weighted to one side, be it the top, left, right or bottom. I use contrasting colours to offset the weight, dry brushing with drips and am conscious of the space within the painting itself {ie: background, middle ground, foreground...creating layers for depth}.

Feel free to use the leaflet to become educated in the elements and principals of art...hopefully it will help you understand what an abstract artist does and that it not just all haphazard design.

Elements and Principals of Art: Form

Form is probably one of the more difficult elements of art to explain, and visually represent, especially in a painting.

In technical terms, form pertains to the actual physical form of objects within a body of work.

Form may be created by the forming of two or more shapes or as three-dimensional shape (cube, pyramid, sphere, cylinder, etc.). It may be enhanced by tone, texture and color. Form is considered three-dimensional showing height, width and depth. Examples of these are sculpture, theatre play and figurines. Form is the external appearance of a clearly defined area. {wikipedia}

How does form translate in my work? In my paintings, it really doesn't unless you consider the skyscapes

Torrent - skyscape painting, acrylic on canvas

And it most definitely translates in the sculpted work that I do. From pansies and rosettes, to stones and bubbles, clay takes on a wonderful form like no other medium

Double rosette sculpted statement ring

Principals and Elements of Art: Texture

A new monthly series here at Sweet Stella's - Principals and Elements of Art.

What can you expect? Well, I'll take these design principals {aka rules} and, using some pieces of my art, hopefully teach you about what goes into creating a balanced composition.

In a few weeks, there will even be a hand out of sorts!

First up is Texture

Technically defined as: The texture is the quality of a surface or the way any work of art is represented. Lines and shading can be used to create different textures as well. For example, if one is portraying certain fabrics, one needs to give the feeling of the right texture so that it closely resembles what the artist is trying to convey. It can be implied or real. What you can feel with your sense of touch. Texture is the surface treatment of an artistic work in order to give variety and beauty to any work of art. {wikipedia}

So, how do I use texture in my paintings? Well, I use both real and implied texture.

Real Texture using plaster on wood, further enhanced with acrylic paint

Implied texture using various levels of dry brushing, and cross hatching

It's a sense of touch, but one that you can visually see with your eyes. It's an element of art that I take very seriously with my paintings as it gives so much depth to a piece.