Principles & Elements of Two- and Three-Dimensional Art

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  • 0:03 Elements and Principles
  • 0:33 Elements of Art
  • 2:12 Principles of Art
  • 4:16 Difference Between 2D and 3D
  • 4:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sunday Moulton

Sunday recently earned a PhD in Anthropology and has taught college courses in Anthropology, English, and high school ACT/SAT Prep.

This lesson familiarizes students with the elements and principles of art. We also discuss the different ways the elements apply to art in two-dimensional and in three-dimensional space.

Elements and Principles

Perhaps you've always enjoyed art, but you've just done it instinctively. Certainly that indicates a great deal of talent, but learning the terms and concepts of art will help you hone your skills.

Let's begin with a quick explanation of two important concepts. The first includes the elements of a composition; in other words, the basic components the artist uses. Principles of art are the qualities created through the way those elements interact with one another.

Elements of Art

There are seven basic components considered the elements of art. Let's get a little more familiar with them:

  • Line - this element is the most basic of all, consisting of a single mark possessing length and direction.

  • Shape - this is an enclosed area of space that is different from the space surrounding it. Sometimes it can be created by a line marking the outer edge of a shape, such as a circle created with a curved line. Alternatively, it can be enclosed by a boundary created by differences in element outside the shape. Think about a circle created by a circular red area surrounded by green.

  • Form - when we combine shapes to create the illusion of 3D objects in a 2D composition, it creates form. For 3D art, form will always be an inherent element because the composition has length, width, and depth without needing to simulate it.

  • Space - every part of a composition has space, but spaces are differentiated from one other by differences in their elements.

  • Color - color is created by the wavelength of light reflected by an object's surface. A red apple absorbs all the bandwidths of light except for the ones we see when we look at it.

  • Texture - this is how an object in an artistic composition feels if it is a 3D sculpture. In 2D art, like a drawing, we create the illusion of texture with other elements, like line, value, form, and even color.

  • Value - this is the degree of lightness or darkness in an area of the composition. A red apple under a spotlight will have bright, shiny areas where the light hits the surface and dark areas at the bottom where it has shadows.

Principles of Art

Principles in artistic compositions are qualities formed when the elements interact with one another. Just like the elements, there are seven principles of art:

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