What Are the Seven Elements of Art? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Defining the Elements
  • 0:58 Using the Elements
  • 3:59 Remembering the Elements
  • 4:31 Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Madden
The elements of art are the building blocks of all art. Every piece of art ever created includes one or more of these elements. Learn about line, color, shape, form, value, space, and texture.

Defining the Elements

Have you ever looked at an artwork and wondered how the artist decided to begin making it? All art, whether two-dimensional like a painting or three-dimensional like a sculpture, contains one or more of the seven elements of art. These elements are:

  • Line
  • Color
  • Shape
  • Form
  • Value
  • Space
  • Texture

They are the basic building blocks of making art.

So how exactly does an artist use the elements? Working as an artist and creating an artwork is similar to being a chef and cooking a meal. The chef uses a list of ingredients combined together in certain amounts to produce a unique recipe. The artist uses art elements and combines them in different ways to create a unique piece of art. The elements of art are like the ingredients in a recipe. Sometimes artworks contain only one or two elements. Sometimes they have all the elements of art. One thing is certain, however. There would be absolutely no art without the seven elements of art.

Using the Elements

Let's say you are the artist. You've decided to create a drawing using a pencil on a white piece of paper. You might use the pencil to create the drawing using lines. A line is an element of art. It is a mark made upon a surface. In order to be a line, the mark's length must be longer than its width. There are many different types of lines, including horizontal, vertical, wavy, diagonal, and more.

You might decide you want to continue working on your drawing and enclose some of those lines. The enclosed lines are then transformed into another element of art called shape. Shapes are areas of enclosed space that are two-dimensional. Shapes are flat, and can only have height and width. The two different categories of shapes are: geometric and organic. Geometric shapes are mathematical, like circles and squares. Organic shapes come from nature, like clouds and leaves. This collage by Henri Matisse uses a collection of organic shapes.

If you decide to vary the size and placement of your lines and shapes, you will use another element. This is the element called space. Space deals with the illusion of depth on a flat surface. You might overlap shapes to make some look closer, or make objects in the distance smaller to look like they are farther away. The element of space can be used in three-dimensional art as well.

The drawing you've created now uses three elements of art. You might consider using your pencil to darken some shapes or lines. Or you might use your eraser to make some areas very light like the white paper. Now you've used a fourth element of art. This is the one called value. Value refers to the lightness and darkness of areas in an artwork. White is the lightest value, while black is the darkest. A value scale shows a range of lights and darks.

What if, however, you've decided to create a sculpture instead of a drawing? Unlike a flat drawing, a sculpture can be seen from various viewpoints. In this case, you could use the element of form. Form is the three-dimensional version of a shape. An artwork that has the art element of form can be viewed from different angles, and is not flat. Forms have height and width, but they also have depth. Forms can be hard-edged like a cube or more free-flowing.

As you continue working on your drawing or sculpture, you decide to add some more flavor, much like the chef decides a certain recipe needs a bit more seasoning.

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