In this lesson, learn about 2-dimensional shapes as an element of art and learn their basic use and function in art and design. Also, learn to distinguish between geometric shapes and free-form or organic shapes.
What Does 2-Dimensional Mean?
Remember when you drew your first circle? How about the times you drew trees, flowers, animals, or skeletons on motorcycles in the margins of your notebook? Whether you knew it or not, you were creating 2-dimensional areas known as shapes. Shapes are one of the building blocks of art and design.
When a work of art is classified as being 2-dimensional, it means that the composition possesses the dimensions of length and width but does not possess depth. All 2-dimensional pieces of art, such as drawings, paintings, and prints, are made up of shapes.
A shape is a 2-dimensional area that is defined in some way. It could be by a line, space, color, texture or a variety of other ways. There are two types of shapes: geometric and free-form. Free form shapes are also referred to as organic.
Some shapes are geometric. Geometric shapes are defined by name, through the contours that make up that shape. These shapes are classified by name like circle, square, rectangle, triangle, and so on. What makes geometric shapes unique is that their contours can be described mathematically.
Shapes that defy the classification of a geometric shape are considered to be free-form or organic shapes. Free-form shapes are generally irregular and uneven. One of the reasons free-form shapes are considered organic is because these types of shapes can be found in nature. Plant life, rock formations, clouds, animals, and the human body are all considered to be free-form shapes.
Positive and Negative Shapes
When looking at a 2-dimensional work, there are both positive and negative shapes that are incorporated into it. A positive shape is usually defined as the figures or subject matter of a composition. A positive shape is explicitly defined by a line, color, value, or texture. A negative shape, however, is defined by space, or more accurately, what is known as negative space. Negative space is best thought of as empty space or a space that is not occupied by a defined object.
In this image, when looking at the design of the black leaf, the leaf is the positive shape.
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As mentioned before, shapes are used in all manners of 2-dimensional art. All works of art are made up of interlocking shapes defined through different means. An artist will use different types of shapes for a visual purpose. For example, if an artist is painting a landscape, expect the usage of free-form shapes throughout. In comparison, if an artist was to compose a cityscape, it's likely that more geometric shapes will be used. The mixture of geometric and free-form shapes in a composition can provide a lot of visual contrast. The contrast can also be visually communicative as geometric shapes tend to be more static in visual activity than the more active and irregular free-form shape.
When something is described as 2-dimensional, it has measurable length and width but no depth. A shape is a defined 2-dimensional area. The two types of shapes are geometric and free-form, which differ in the contours they are characterized by. Geometric shapes are classified by name like circle, square, rectangle, and triangle. Free-from shapes are generally irregular, uneven, and often found in nature. Shapes can also be classified as positive or negative shapes depending on if they are explicitly defined or not. A negative shape is also known as negative space, and it lacks characteristics like line, color, and texture. Artists will use a combination of shapes in 2-dimensional art to create visual contrasts.
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