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Elements of Art  |  Principles of Art  |  Definitions  |  Guide

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The Principles of Art


The principles of art are rules or guidelines that are to be considered when judging art. The principles are: repetition, variation, contrast, balance, proportion, emphasis, pattern, and unity.



Yayoi Kusama

and rhythm (also known as repetition) is consistency with colors and lines. Putting a red spiral at the bottom left and top right, for example will cause the eye to move from one spiral to the other. It is indicating movement by the repetition of elements. Rhythm makes an artwork seem active.
    a. Rhythm Recurring elements
        Regular Rhythm same elements
        Irregular Rhythm Similar elements
   b. Harmony Logical repetition
   c. Dissonance Illogical repetition

   d. Pattern


Muslim Architecture





Repetition and simplification in the music Ready Steady Go by Paul Oakenfold: Collateral Club Scene.


is the quality of having different forms or types. The differences give a design visual and conceptual interest: notably use of contrast, emphasis, difference in size and color.



show differences and diversity in an artwork by combining elements to create interest. Contrast provides an artwork with something interesting to break the repetitions.

In the first two measures of Bach's Invention No. 8 in F major you can find every contrast in music. In the first measure we have notes against silence. In the second measure we have the notes in the right hand being played twice as fast, attached (legato), and going down in pitch. In the left hand, we have notes being played twice as slow, detached (staccato), and going up in pitch.


Ryan Layne Whitney - Bach: Invention No. 8 in F major, on clavichord

Bach: Inventions on Violin and Cello


BALANCE (p102)

is arranging elements so that no one part of a work overpowers, or seems heavier than any other part. Two different kinds of balance are:

     a. Symmetrical Balance
     b. Asymmetrical Balance

Types of Symmetrical Balance:

- Radial Symmetry

File:Haeckel Actiniae.jpg

 Plate from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur.

These sea anemones display radial symmetry.


- Pentamerism

Pentamerism is a variation of radial symmetry. These are arrangements of equal parts around a central axis.


- Bilateral Symmetry

In bilateral symmetry (also called plane symmetry) two mirrored halves can be referred to as the right and left.

The Brooklyn Bridge is a great example of symmetry, repetition, and line. Notice the two gothic arches - and the keystone at the top of each arch.


- Asymmetric

No symmetry is called asymmetric.




Proportion is  the size relationship of forms and shapes. Good proportion causes a sense of unity and harmony.


Fibonacci Spiral

A nautilus shell viewed from above (left), from underneath (centre), and a hemishell showing the camerae in a logarithmic spiral (right)

Human Body Image  II


Francesco Di Giorgio Martini

Francesco di Giorgio Martini (1439 1502) was an Italian painter, sculptor, architect, and military engineer who built almost seventy fortifications.

Tập tin:Proportion.jpg



Emphasis (also called focal point) is where the focus is concentrated through design principles or meaning. To do this one develops points of interest to pull the viewer's eye to important parts of the work. It is to make one part of an artwork dominant. It makes an element or object in a work stand out. To use emphasis in an artwork is to attract the viewer's eyes to a place of special importance in a artwork.


or harmony is the quality of wholeness or oneness that is achieved through the effective use of the elements and principles of art. It is the arrangement of elements and principles to create a feeling of completeness.



Articulation, or movement, is the path the viewer's eye follows throughout an artwork. If your eyes stay within the work, the composition is closed. If your eyes stay outside the work, the composition is called open. 


What principles dominate these paintings?


Student Gallery


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