In the previous article I briefly introduced you to the concept of design elements. I showed you that there is 7 of them and explained that they are the artist’s alphabet. But, of course, the elements by themselves are not going to cut it. They are only half of the picture. The logical question therefore is, what is the next step? More specifically, how do we use these elements properly and intelligently to make a good painting?
The way we manipulate these elements is governed by the Principles of Design. Principles and elements of design are two sides of one coin. Frank Webb aptly compares them to nouns and verbs. It is a wonderful analogy. Elements, or the tools we use, are nouns, which are activated by verbs, or principles of design.
There are 8 principles of design:
Design principles are just what the name suggests, principles that we try to follow in order for our painting to make sense. According to Edgar Whitney there are 8 principles of design, while Frank Webb only lists 7, leaving out “Alternation”. It can be left out but from my point of view it is important enough to be included on its own. Alternation is a principle that helps us understand that we need to achieve a rhythm in our paintings.
Following is a diagram illustrating the elements and principles of design (feel free to download and share the diagram so you can refer to it in the future, but please consider crediting and linking it back to my website if you share it online).
The diagram shows the elements on its outside edge and principles on the inside. This is to suggest that the governing principles can be observed with an intelligent eye, while the elements, being on the fringe of the diagram, are out in the open for anyone to see. We as creators, however, have to not only know about these underlying principles, we have to understand them and master them.
Hopefully this introduction was motivating enough so you will stick around for my discussion of the individual principles in their respective articles, all of which are going to be linked in this overview.
Available articles on the elements of design:
- 3. Principles of Design – An Overview
- 3.1 Unity – coming soon!
- 3.2 Contrast – coming soon!
- 3.3 Dominance – coming soon!
- 3.4 Repetition – coming soon!
- 3.5 Alternation – coming soon!
- 3.6 Harmony – coming soon!
- 3.7 Balance – coming soon!
- 3.8 Gradation – coming soon!