The Seven Elements of Art

Subject, Form and Content have been the basic components of any work of Art. These are inter-twined in a way that all these points complete each other.

  1. Subject: This is the ‘what’ of any Art form. It could be a topic, image, object or an idea. There can be many and varied ways of presenting the subject.
    • There are objective images that represent people or object and they look close to their real-world counterpart. These can also be called representational images.
    • In abstract form, the subject does not refer to any physical object and this is non-representational or non-objective image. This involves around an idea or theme. The subject here is based on the elements of art rather than real-life people or objects.

Regardless of the type of Art, the most important consideration is what is done with the subject. If one can recognize the subject in a work then one can understand the motivation and elements used by the artist.

2. Form –This is the ‘how’ of any Art form. It refers to the development of work, composition, arrangement or substantiation. It results from using the elements of art, giving them order and meaning. By studying a work’s form, we are analyzing how the piece was created, more specifically why the artist made certain choices and how those choices interact to form the artwork’s final appearance.

3. Content – This is the ‘why’of any Art form. It shows the artist’s intention, communication, or meaning behind the work. It could be an emotional or intellectual message– a statement, expression, or mood developed by the artist and interpreted by the observer.

Of the three components of art, content may be the most difficult to identify, because the audience, without direct communication with the artist, must decipher the artist’s thoughts by observing the work’s subject and form.

The Seven Elements of Art

The elements of art include line, texture, shape, form, space, color and value. These are the most basic, indispensable, and immediate building blocks for expression. Their characteristics, determined by the artist’s choice of media and techniques, can communicate a wide range of complex feelings. All artists must deal with the elements singularly or in combination, and their organization contributes to the aesthetic success or failure of a work.

Based on the intended expression, each artist can arrange the elements in any manner that builds the desired character into the piece. However, the elements are given order and meaningful structure when arranged according to the principles of organization, which help integrate and organize the elements.

The Seven Principles of Organization

These principles of organization are rhythm, variety, balance, proportion, emphasis, movement, and unity. They help create spatial relationships and effectively convey the artist’s intent. The principles of organization are flexible, not dogmatic, and can be combined and applied in numerous ways. Some artists arrange intuitively, and others are more calculating, but with experience, all of them develop an instinctive feeling for organizing their work.

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