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Lesson Plans

Re: elements and principles

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Robert Alexander Fromme (rfromme)
Thu, 22 Oct 1998 22:06:53 -0500

At 01:14 AM 10/22/98 EDT, Kim in Oregon wrote:

>I want to make a poster for the Elements of Art and one for the Principles of
>Design. .....(parts deleted)....I give there a STANDARD list

Welcome to the wonderful world of art education, Kim. On this one you get
to make up the rules (based upon the ages of your students and the degree of
formal discussion you want to try to incorporate into your lessons).

Keep in mind that the words, (as you try to verbally communicate about
non-verbal phenomenon) have little direct relationship to the visual,
tactile ......perceptual, explanation required for an effective examination
of creative form in art class. As a result, if the students are young, a few
elements chosen by you to fit specific art examples in the course of study
will probably serve you more effectively then the full list of elements and

Yes, I know .....about now you are saying.....that isn't much help. So,
keeping traditional examples of work from art history in mind, a list of
elements which includes point, line, shape, value, color, texture, form and
space will work. This short list will keep you quite busy if your students
are in elementary or middle school.

If the students are in high school, you may choose to elaborate your list to
include under color, the concepts of hue, value and intensity (or color
name, tone and saturation(purity)...or any other method of explaining the
aspects of color). You may also choose to explaine that light is also
considered one of the elements and its addition to the mix now forces us to
consider the hues (compliments of reflected light) and the compliments of
projected light. (Yellow, Red, and Blue of surface color primaries vs. Red,
Green and Blue primaries of light ....or if you really want to get deeper
into color, try your hand at the CYMK , Blue, Yellow, Red and Black used in
printing many computer generated color images. )

If you also want to add to the student's confusion, you can throw in time
and physical movement as two additional elements which are important in the
creation and appreciation of many recent works.

So, if you want the long list, you can include; point, line, shape,
reflected color (with its three aspects), texture, shape, form, space, light
(with its color, brightness, contrast and intensity), time and physical
motion. These are also the elements which one usually confronts in the
traditional college curriculum, yet, they will probably create more problems
then they solve if they are all included as part of the learning in the
early grades.

Perhaps the primary lesson for any discussion of the elements of art
involves their interconnected roles in the organization of form. (You
know.......lines and colors and value and textures can all serve to create
shapes or varied lines can be compressed to create the illusion of texture
or compressed more to suggest value which can suggest shadows and forms in
space (stiippling, hatching, crosshatchiing, etc, etc, etc,)

Now, your choice of principles in the list will also serve you best if you
can look at the particular art works that you want to examine in the class
and then include those principles which can be demonstrated as you look at
formal structure in those work. Here, you will discover that the principles
have a way of doubling up on you, or like animals headed off to the ark,
their concepts can be best be communicated and understood if you look for
opposites and teach them as if they are antagonistic couples. For example,
to understand unity one must understand the lack of it. To understand
emphasis, one must grasp the concept of support or subordinate. Movement
makes little sense unless we understand stability Contrast, variety and
elaboration are most effective if we have a foundational understanding of
unity, harmony and simplicity. Balance requires an appreciation of tension
lacking balance. Rhythm and repetition are of little help unless we
understand singularity and the lack of syncopation. Proportion and scale
have little to offer until we understand the disturbing effects of illogical
and non-sequential relationships in space. Economy of effort is best
understood against an appreciation of the ornate and some experience of the

I have probably missed something here but this should get you started.
Perhaps you can look over the list and see what you want to include in your
list. You can mention that all of this...(this word game hinting at the
visual, tactile world of art) has a long tradition spanning the history of
our craft. Master, trying to explain formal relationships to apprentice,
master trying to make some sense out of the work of another master.....the
struggle goes on. Now, with conceptual or "idea art" and directions toward
events, multimedia, technology, and telecommunication, one wonders what new,
non-verbal concepts will have to depend of somewhat less then effective new
words added to our list of elements and principles of in the visual arts.

Good luck with this project. Make it serve you and your students in your
classroom. You don't need all those concepts hanging on your wall unless you
intend to talk about them.