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APointit is the visual element on which all others are based. It can be defined as a singularity in space or geometrically as the area where two coordinates meet. When an artist marks a single point on a surface (akaTierra), immediately create afigure-ground relationship. That is, they share the work between their interface and whatever is added to it. Our eyes distinguish between the two, and their arrangement has a lot to do with how we see a final composition. The point itself can be used to create forms. For example,PointillismusIt is a painting style made famous by French artist Georges Seurat in the late 19th century. He and other members of the Pointillist group created paintings by juxtaposing dots or dots of color that optically blended to form lines, figures, and shapes within a composition. Check out a detail from SeuratDie Cirque-Paradeto see how this works. your big screenSunday afternoon on the Grande Jatteit is a testament to pointillist style and aesthetics. Its creation was an arduous process, but it created new ways of thinking about color and form.

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Georges Seurat, La Parade de Cirque, Detail, 1887-89. Das Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. CC BY SA

Definitions and line qualities

When you connect two or more points, you essentially create a line. A line can be lyrically defined as a moving point. There are many different types of lines, all characterized by being longer than they are wide. The lines can be static or dynamic depending on how the artist uses them. They help determine movement, direction, and energy in a work of art. We see lines around us in our daily lives; Telephone wires, tree branches, airplane contrails and winding roads are just a few examples. Take a look at the photography below to see how the line is part of the natural and built environment.

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Photo by NASA. CC BY-NC

In this image of a thunderstorm we can see many different lines. Indeed, the jagged, meandering lines of the lightning bolt itself dominate the image, followed by the straight lines of the light banners, the pillars supporting the overpass on the right, and the side railings. There are also more subtle lines, like the gently curved line at the top of the image and the shadows cast by the posts and the standing figure in the middle. The lines are even suggested by the falling drops of water in the foreground.

ThatNazca Linesin the dry coastal plains of Peru from almost 500 BC. C. were carved into the rocky ground and showed animals on an incredible scale, so large that they are best seen from the air. Let's see how the different types of lines are made.

Die of Diego VelázquezLas Meninasfrom 1656, apparently a portrait of the Infanta Margarita, daughter of King Philip IV and Queen Mariana of Spain, offers a lavish amount of artistic genius; Its cropped size (nearly ten square feet), painterly style of naturalism, lighting effects, and enigmatic figures placed throughout the canvas, including the artist himself, is one of the great paintings in Western art history. Let's take a look (below) to find out how Velázquez uses fundamental elements and principles of art to achieve such a masterpiece.

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Diego Velazquez, Las Meninas, 1656, Oil on Leanwall, 125.2" x Meadow, Madrid.CC BY-SA

real linesThey are the ones who are physically present. The edge of the wooden stretcher to the left of itLas MeninasIt is a real line, as are the frames of the paintings in the background and the linear decorative elements of the clothes of some characters. How many other real lines can you find in the painting?

implied linesare those created by the visual connection of two or more areas. The space between the Infanta Margarita - the blond central figure of the composition - and thegirl, or bridesmaids, to her left and right are implied lines. Both create a diagonal relationship that implies movement. By visually connecting the space between the heads of all the figures in the painting, we have a sense of erratic movement that keeps the lower part of the composition moving in balance with the darker, more static upper areas of the painting. Implicit lines can also be created when two areas of different colors or shades meet. Can you see any other implied lines in the painting? From where? Implicit lines are also found in three-dimensional artworks. the sculpture ofLaocoonamong,a figure from Greek and Roman mythology, he and his children are strangled by sea serpents sent by the goddess Athena in anger at her warnings to the Trojans not to accept the Trojan horse. The sculpture sets implied lines in motion as the figures writhe in agony against the snakes.

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Laocoön Group, Roman copy of the Greek original, Vatican Museums, Rome. Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen. CC BY SA

Straight or classic linesadd structure to a composition. They can be aligned with the horizontal, vertical, or diagonal axis of a face. Straight lines are inherently optically stable while providing direction to a composition. InLas Meninas, seen on canvases on the left, wall brackets and doors on the right, and in the background on matrices in the spaces between the walls between the framed pictures. Additionally, the small horizontal lines created at the edges of the stairs in the background help anchor the overall visual composition of the painting.

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Straight Lines, July 11, 2012, Author: Oliver Harrison. CC BY

expressive linesThey are curved and add an organic and more dynamic character to a work of art. The expressive lines are often rounded and follow indefinite paths. InLas MeninasYou can see them on the aprons of the girls' dresses and on the curved hind leg and pattern of the dog fur. Look at those againLaocoonexpressive lines in the moving limbs of the figures and the curved forms of the snakes. In fact, the sculpture seems to consist of nothing more than expressive lines, shapes and forms.

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Organic Lines, July 11, 2012, Creator: Oliver Harrison. CC BY

There are other types of lines that encompass the characteristics of the previous ones, but together they help create additional artistic elements and richer and more varied compositions. Please refer to the images and examples below to familiarize yourself with this type of line.

contour or contour lineis the simplest of them. You create a path around the edge of a shape. In fact, contours define shapes.

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Outline, July 11, 2012, Creator: Oliver Harrison. CC BY

(Video) Elements of Art: Texture | KQED Arts

crossed contour linesFollow paths through a shape to describe differences in surface features. They add a sense of form (the illusion of three-dimensionality) to flat shapes and can also be used to create shadows.

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Cross Contour, July 11, 2012, Creator: Oliver Harrison. CC BY

hatch linesthey are repeated at short intervals generally in one direction. They add shading and visual texture to an object's surface.

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Luke, July 11, 2012, Creator: Oliver Harrison. CC BY

shaded linesprovide added tone and texture. They can be oriented in any direction. Multiple layers of hatched lines can add rich and varied shading to objects by manipulating the pressure of the drawing tool to produce a wide range of values.

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Crosshatch, July 11, 2012, Creator: Oliver Harrison. CC BY

line qualityIt's that sense of character embedded in the way a line is presented. Certain lines have characteristics that set them apart from others. Jagged, sharp-edged lines have choppy visual movement, while organic, flowing lines create a more comfortable feel. The meandering lines can be geometric or expressive, and you can see in the examples how their vague paths enliven a surface to varying degrees.

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One Line, July 11, 2012, Creator: Oliver Harrison. CC BY

Although the line as a visual element is mostly secondary in the fine arts, there are wonderful examples where the line as the main theme has a strong cultural significance.

calligraphic linesHe uses speed and gestures more akin to brushstrokes to give a work of art a fluid and lyrical character. To see this unique quality of line, look at the work of the Chinese poet and artist.Poem of Du Fu by Dong Qichang, from the Ming Dynasty (1555-1637). A more geometric example of theKoran, created in the Arabic calligraphic style, dates from the s.DieCentury.

Both examples show how artists use the line both as a form of writing and as a form of fine art. American artist Mark Tobey (1890–1976) was influenced by oriental calligraphy, adapting its form to the act of pure painting within a modern abstract style referred to as white lettering.

Shapes: positive, negative and flat themes

A shape is defined as a closed area in two dimensions. By definition, shapes are always implicit and flat in nature. They can be created in many ways, the simplest being by enclosing an area with an outline. They can also be done by surrounding an area with other shapes or by placing different textures next to each other, such as the shape of an island surrounded by water. Because they're more complex than lines, shapes do a lot of the heavy lifting in organizing compositions. The following abstract examples give us an idea of ​​how shapes are created.

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Shapes, July 11, 2012, Creator: Oliver Harrison. CC BY

Back to VelazquezLas Meninas, is basically an arrangement of shapes; organic and sharp-edged, light, dark and midtone, solidifying the composition within the larger form of the canvas. In this sense, we can only see any work of art, whether two-dimensional or three-dimensional, realistic, abstract or non-representational, in terms of forms.

Positive/negative forms and figure-ground relationships

The forms enliven the figure-ground relationships. We decide visuallypositiveShapes (Figure) andNegativeforms (the ground). One way to understand this is to open your hand and separate your fingers. Her hand is the positive form and the space around her becomes the negative form. You can see that in the example above. The shape formed by the black outline becomes positive because it is enclosed. The environment is negative. The same visual arrangement applies to the gray circle and purple square. But identifying positive and negative shapes can be difficult in a more complex composition. For example, the four blue rectangles on the left have edges that touch, creating a solid white shape in the center. The four green rectangles on the right don't actually connect, but they still give us a hint of a shape in the middle. What would you say is the positive form? What about the red circles surrounding the gray star shape? Remember that a positive shape stands out against the background. InLas MeninasThe figures become positive forms because they are dramatically lit, capturing our attention against the dark background. What about the dark figure standing in the doorway? Here the dark shape becomes positive surrounded by a white background. Our gaze keeps returning to this figure as the anchor of the entire composition. In three dimensions, the positive forms are the ones that do the actual work. The negative forms are the empty spaces around and sometimes permeate the work itself. ThatLaocoonis a good example of this. A modern work that uses forms with dramatic effect is the work of Alberto GiacomettiLying woman dreamsfrom 1929. In an abstract style, the artist weaves positive and negative forms together, the result is a dreamy floating feeling that emanates from the sculpture.


Aairplaneis defined as any surface in space. In two-dimensional art, the image plane is the flat surface on which an image is created; a sheet of paper, stretched canvas, panel of wood, etc. The orientation of a form within the pictorial plane creates a visually implicit plane that suggests direction and depth in relation to the viewer. The graphic below shows three examples.

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Shape Planes, July 11, 2012, Author: Oliver Harrison. CC BY

Traditionally, the pictorial plane has been likened to a window through which the viewer looks at a scene beyond, with the artist constructing a believable image showing implicit relationships of depth and plane.Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, painted by Pieter Breughel the Elder in 1558 (below), shows us the tragic end of the Greek myth of Icarus, son of Daedalus, who, trying to flee the island of Crete on wax wings, falls too close to the sun and falls to the ground. Breughel shows us an idyllic landscape with farmers cultivating their fields, each row of terraces has a different surface area, and in the foreground shepherds are tending their flocks of sheep. It shows cattle in positions that suggest they are moving in different directions relative to the "window" of the picture plane. We look further and see a gradual recession towards the sea and a middle ground dominated by a sailing ship. Heaving sail curves involve two or three different levels. The background of the painting shows the illusion of outer space, the massive cliffs are now small in relation to the foreground, and the distant ship near the center is smaller and lighter in tone. In the grandeur of the scene, Icarus falls unnoticed into the sea just off the coast at lower right, with only his legs above the water. The artist's use of the flat description relates to the idea of ​​space and how it is represented in two dimensions. We will see the space element right in front of us.

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Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, Peter Breughel the Elder, 1558. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. CC BY SA

(Video) The Visual Elements - Shape | Art Appreciation


Space is the empty area surrounding real or implied objects. We humans categorize space: there's outer space, that boundless void that we step beyond our skies; the inner space that resides in people's minds and imaginations; and personal space, the important but intangible realm that surrounds each individual and is hurt if someone gets too close. The pictorial space is flat and the digital world is in cyberspace. Art responds to all these types of spaces.

Artists are obviously just as concerned with space in their works as they are with color or form, for example. The artist has many opportunities to present ideas about space. Keep in mind that many cultures traditionally use pictorial space as a window to view realistic subjects through which ideas, narratives, and symbolic content can be presented. the innovation ofrectilinear perspective,an implicit geometric pictorial construction from 15th century europehorizonjleaks. See how the perspective is set up in the following schematic examples:

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One Point Perspective, July 11, 2012, Author: Oliver Harrison. CC BY

One Point Perspectiveoccurs when receding lines appear to converge to a single point on the horizon and is used when the flat front of an object is facing the viewer. Note: Perspective can be used to show the relative size and distance of any object in space, but it's most effective on three-dimensional objects with sharp edges, such as a planet. B. buildings.

A classic Renaissance work of art that uses one-point perspective is that of Leonardo da Vinci.The last supperfrom 1498. Da Vinci composed the work by placing the vanishing point just behind Christ's head, thus drawing the viewer's attention to the center. His arms reflect the lines of the receding wall and if we follow them as lines they would converge at the same vanishing point.

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Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, 1498. Fresco. Santa Maria della Grazie. The work is in the public domain.

Two point perspectiveIt occurs when the vertical edge of a cube faces the viewer, exposing two sides that recede into the distance, one for each vanishing point.

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Two Point Perspective, July 11, 2012, Author: Oliver Harrison. CC BY

See those of Gustave CaillebotteParis street, rainy weatherof 1877 to see how two-point perspective is used to give an accurate view of an urban scene. However, the artist's composition is more complex than just his use of perspective. The figures are deliberately positioned to direct the viewer's gaze from the front right of the picture to the front edge of the building on the left, which appears knife-like like a ship's bow, thrusting both sides toward the horizon. In the midst of this visual recession, a light pole stands firmly in the center to prevent our gaze from wandering directly off the back of the painting. Caillebotte adds the small metal arm on the top right of the post to direct us back on a horizontal path and now prevent us from sliding over the top of the mat. As sparse as the left side of the work is, the artist fills the right side with organic, sharp-edged shapes and figures in a complex play of positive and negative space.

Three-point perspective is used when an artist wants to project a "bird's-eye view", that is, when the projection lines trace back to two points on the horizon and a third well above or below the horizon line. In this case, the parallel lines that form the sides of an object are not parallel to the edge of the support on which the artist is working (paper, canvas, etc.).

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Three-point perspective (with vanishing points above and below the horizon line displayed simultaneously). Design by Shazz, CC BY

The perspective system is a cultural convention that fits well with the traditional Western European notion of "truth," that is, an accurate and clear interpretation of observed reality. Even after the invention of linear perspective, many cultures traditionally use flatter pictorial space and rely on overlapping shapes or differences in size in shapes to indicate the same observational truth. Examine the miniature painting of theThird courtyard of Topkapi Palacefrom 14th-century Turkey to contrast its pictorial space with that of linear perspective. It consists of several different vantage points (as opposed to vanishing points), all of which are very flat with respect to the picture plane. Although the overall picture is viewed from above, the figures and trees appear as cutouts that appear to be floating in the air. Note that the towers are on the extreme left and right sides of the image plane. As "false" as it may seem, the painting provides a detailed description of the landscape and structures on the castle grounds.

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Third courtyard of Topkapi Palace, Hunername, 1548. Ottoman miniature painting, Topkapi Museum, Istanbul. CC BY-SA

After nearly 500 years of linear perspective, Western ideas for accurately representing space in two dimensions experienced a revolution in the early 20th century.DieCentury. A young Spanish artistPablo Picasso, moved to Paris, then the art capital of Western culture, and fundamentally reinvented the pictorial space with the invention of the pictorial spaceCubism, dramatically initiated by his paintingThe Ladies of Avignonin 1907. He was influenced in part by the chiseled forms, angular surfaces, and disproportionality of African sculpture (see themale figureof Cameroon) and mask-shaped faces of the first Iberian works of art. To learn more about this important painting, listen to the following question and answer.

Picasso, his friend Georges Braque, and a handful of other artists strove to develop a new space that ironically relied on the flatness of the pictorial plane to transport and animate traditional motifs such as figures, still lifes, and landscapes. Cubist paintings and eventually sculptures became fusions of different perspectives, light sources and flat constructions. It was as if they were presenting their subject in many ways at the same time, while constantly changing the foreground, middle ground and background so that the viewer wasn't sure where one began and the other ended. In an interview, the artist explained cubism like this: “The problem now is to pass the object, turn it over and give the result a plastic expression. All of this is my struggle to break free from two-dimensionality*” (by Alexander Liberman,An artist in his studio, 1960, page 113). Public and critical reaction to Cubism was understandably negative, but artists' experiments with spatial relationships resonated with others and, along with new uses of color, became a driving force in the development of a movement in modern art centered on two-dimensionality supported the picture plane Instead of a window to see through, the flat surface becomes a floor on which formal arrays of shapes, colors and compositions can be built. For another perspective on this idea, see the Module One discussion on Abstraction.

You can see the radical changes that Cubism made in George Braque's landscapeLa Roche Guyonfrom 1909. The trees, houses, castle and surrounding rocks form almost a single complex shape, offsetting the canvas to mimic the distant crest of a hill, all struggling upwards and tilting to the right within a flat pictorial space.

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George Braque, Chateau de La Roche Guyon, 1909. Oil on canvas. Stedelijk van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands. Licensed by GNU and Creative Commons

As the Cubist style developed, its forms became even flatter. John Graythe parasolfrom 1914 shows the still life he depicts on the canvas. The elements of the collage, such as the newspaper, reinforce the painterly flatness.

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(Video) Bridget Riley – What illusions do you see?

Juan Gris, El parasol, 1914. Gouache, collage, chalk and charcoal on canvas. Tate Gallery, London. Image licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License

It is not so difficult to understand the significance of this new notion of space when placed in the context of comparable scientific advances at the turn of the century. The Wright brothers took off on a powered flight in 1903, the same year that Marie Curie received the first of two Nobel Prizes for her pioneering work in the field of radiation. Sigmund Freud's new ideas about the inner spaces of the mind and their effects on behavior were published in 1902, and Albert Einstein's calculations on relativity, the idea that space and time are intertwined, first appeared in 1905. Each of these discoveries added to human understanding . and realigned our self-image and worldview. In fact, Picasso said of his struggle to define Cubism: "Einstein didn't even know! The condition of discovery is outside of us; but the frightening thing is that despite all this, we can only find out what we know" (fromPicasso on Art, a selection of viewsby Dore Ashton, (Souchere, 1960, page 15).

The three-dimensional space does not experience this fundamental transformation. There remains a visual tugging between positive and negative spaces. However, sculptors influenced by Cubism develop new forms to fill this space; abstract, non-objective works that challenge us to see them on their own terms. Constantin Brancusi, a Romanian sculptor based in Paris, became a leading artist championing new forms of modern art. his sculpturebird in spaceIt is an elegant example of how abstraction and formal arrangement combine to symbolize the new movement. The photo from Brancusi's studio below gives further clues to the sculpture's debt to Cubism and the struggle to "turn the object over, to give it a plastic expression".

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Edward Steichen, Study of Brancusi, 1920. Metropolitan Museum, New York. This photo is in the public domain.

Now that we have established the relationships of line, form and space, we can turn to surface qualities and their meaning in artworks. Value (or tone), color and texture are the elements used for this.

Value is the relative lightness or darkness of one shape in relation to another. Bounded at one end by pure white and at the other by black, with a range of progressively darker shades of gray in between, the scale of values ​​gives the artist the tools to perform these transformations. The scale of values ​​below shows the standard variations in shades. Values ​​at the lighter end of the spectrum are referred to as high-key, and values ​​at the darker end are referred to as low-key.

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Value Scale, 11. Juli 2012, Urheber: Oliver Harrison, CC BY

In two dimensions, the use of value gives shape to the illusion of mass, adding a sense of light and shadow to an overall composition. The following two examples show the effect the value has when changing a shape to a shape.

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2D Shape, 11. Juli 2012, Urheber: Oliver Harrison, CC BY

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3D form, July 11, 2012, Creator: Oliver Harrison, CC BY

The same technique brings to life what begins in Michelangelo's work as a simple line drawing of a young man's head.Head and right hand of a young manfrom 1508. The shading is done with line (see our discussion oflineearlier in this module) or tones created with a pencil. Artists vary the hues depending on the resistance between the pencil and the paper they are drawing on. The leads in one pencil have different hardnesses and give the next a different shade. Ink or color washes produce values ​​determined by the amount of water in which the medium is dissolved.

The use ofHigh contrast,Placing lighter ranges of values ​​against much darker ones creates a dramatic effect whilelow contrastgives more subtle results. These differences in effect are evident in "Guiditta and Oloferne" by the Italian painter Caravaggio and the photograph by Robert AdamsUntitled, Denverfrom 1970 to 1974. Caravaggio uses a high-contrast palette in an already dramatic scene to increase visual tension for the viewer, while Adams deliberately uses low contrast to emphasize the monotony of the landscape surrounding the figure on the bicycle.

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Caravaggio, Guiditta Beheading Holoferne, 1598, oil on canvas. National Gallery of Italian Art, Rome. This work is in the public domain.


Color is the most complex artistic element because of the combinations and variations inherent in its use. People react differently to color combinations, and artists study and use color in part to give their work the direction they want.

Color is central to many forms of art. Its relevance, use, and function in a particular work depend on the medium of that work. While some color concepts are universally applicable to all media, others are not.

the fullspectrumof colors is contained in white light. Humans perceive colors from light reflected from objects. For example, a red object appears red because it reflects the red portion of the spectrum. In a different light it would be a different color. Color theory first appeared in the 17th centuryDieIn the 19th century, English mathematician and scientist Sir Isaac Newton discovered that white light could be divided into a spectrum by passing it through a prism.

The study of color in art and design often begins withtheory of color. Color theory divides colors into three categories: primary, secondary, and tertiary.

The basic tool used is a color wheel developed by Isaac Newton in 1666. A more complex model known ascolored tree, created by Albert Munsell, shows the spectrum formed by shade groups and shades in connected planes.

There are a number of approaches to arranging colors in meaningful relationships. Most systems differ only in structure.

Traditional model

Traditional color theory is a qualitative attempt to organize colors and their relationships. It is based on Newton's color wheel and is still the most widely used system used by artists.

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Color wheel red yellow blue. Released under the GNU Free Documentation License

Traditional color theoryIt uses the same principles as subtractive color mixing (see below), but prefers other primary colors.

  • Thatprimarythe colors are red, blue and yellow. He finds them equidistant on the color wheel. These are the "elementary" colors; it is not created by mixing other colors, and all other colors are derived from a combination of these three.
  • ThatsecondaryThe colors are orange (mixture of red and yellow), green (mixture of blue and yellow), and violet (mixture of blue and red).
  • ThattertiaryColors are made by mixing a primary color and a secondary color. Depending on the amount of paint used, different shades can be achieved, such as B. orange-red or greenish-yellow. Neutral colors (brown and gray) can be mixed using all three base colors together.
  • Black and white do not fall into these categories. They are used to lighten or darken a color. A lighter color (made by adding white) is calledshades, while calling a darker color (made by adding black).Sombra.

mixture of colors

A more quantifiable approach to color theory is to think of color as the result of light reflections off a surface. Understood in this way, color can be represented as a ratio of mixed amounts of primary color.

additive FarbtheorieUsed when turning on lights of different colorsprojectedon top of each other Projected media creates color by projecting light onto a reflective surface. While subtractive mixing creates the appearance of color by selectively absorbing part of the spectrum, additive mixing creates color by selectively projecting part of the spectrum. Common applications of additive color theory are theatrical lighting and television screens. RGB color is based on additive color theory.

  • The primary colors are red, blue and green.
  • The secondary colors are yellow (mixture of red and green), cyan (mixture of blue and green), and magenta (mixture of blue and red).
  • Tertiary colors are obtained by mixing the previous colors with different intensities.

White comes from the confluence of the three primary colors, while black represents the absence of any color. The lightness or darkness of a color is determined by the intensity/density of its various components. For example: A medium gray could be created by projecting red, blue and green light at 50% intensity onto the same spot.

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(Video) Aesthetic Appreciation: Crash Course Philosophy #30

Display of additive colors. This image is in the public domain.

The primary colors are red, green and blue. White is the confluence of all primary colors; Black is the absence of color.

Subtractive color theory("Process Color") is used when a single light source is used.reflectedthrough different colors that are superimposed. Color is created when part of the spectrum of the external light source is absorbed by the material and not reflected back to the viewer's eye. For example, a painter applies blue paint to a canvas. The chemical composition of the paint allows for the absorption of all colors of the spectrum except blue, which is reflected from the paint's surface. Subtractive color works like the inverse of additive color theory. Common applications of subtractive color theory are in fine arts, color printing, and the processing of photographic positives and negatives. The primary colors are red, yellow and blue.

  • The secondary colors are orange, green and purple.
  • Tertiary colors are created by mixing a primary color with a secondary color.
  • Black is mixed with the three primary colors, while white represents the absence of all colors. Note: Due to impurities in subtractive colors, it is impossible to create true black by mixing primaries. For this reason, the result is rather brown. Similar to additive color theory, the lightness and darkness of a color are determined by its intensity and density.

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Subtractive color mixing. Released under the GNU Free Documentation License

The primary colors are blue, yellow and red.


There are many attributes for color. Everyone has an impact on how we perceive them.

  • huerefers to the color itself, but also to variations of a color.
  • bravery(as discussed above)refers to the relative lightness or darkness of one color next to another.The value of a color can make a difference in how it is perceived. A color on a dark background appears lighter, while the same color on a light background appears darker.
  • applicationrefers to the gradation or subtle changes made to a color when mixed with a gray created by adding two plugins (seecomplementary coloramong). You can see different shades of color by looking at the color tree mentioned in the previous paragraph.
  • saturationrefers to the purity and intensity of a color. The primary colors are the most intense and pure, but diminish as they mix to form other colors. Creating hues and shadows also reduces a color's saturation. Two colors work best together when they are of the same intensity. Namedequiluminance.

color interactions

In addition to creating a mixing hierarchy, color theory also provides tools for understanding how colors work together.


The simplest color interaction is monochrome. This is the use of variations on a single tone. The benefit of using a monochromatic color scheme is that you get a high level of consistency throughout the artwork because all tones are related. See this at Mark TanseyDerrida questions manab 1990.

analog color

Analogous colors are similar to each other. As the name suggests, analogous colors can be foundnexteach other on any 12-part color wheel:

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Analog Color, July 11, 2012, Creator: Oliver Harrison. CC BY

The effect of analogous colors can be seen in Paul Cezanne's oil paintingsPanoramic view of Auvers

color temperature

Colors are perceivedtemperaturesconnected to them. The color wheel is divided intowarmjCalledColours. Warm colors range from yellow to red, while cool colors range from greenish yellow to purple. You can achieve complex results with just a few colors when you combine them in warm and cool ensembles.

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Warm Cool Color, July 11, 2012, Creator: Oliver Harrison. CC BY

complementary colors

Complementary colors are found directlyoppositeeach other on a color wheel. Here are some examples:

  • purple and yellow
  • green and red
  • orange and blue

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Complementary Color, July 11, 2012, Creator: Oliver Harrison. CC BY

Blue and orange are complements. Placed close together, the accessories create visual tension. This color scheme is desirable when a dramatic effect is needed with just two colors. The paintingsJustifiedby Keith Haring is an example. You can click on the painting to create a larger image.

Ashared complementaryThe color scheme uses one color plus the two colors on either side of the complementary color of the first color on the color wheel. Like using plugins, a split plugin creates visual excitement but includes the variety of a third color.

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Split Complementary Color, July 11, 2012, Creator: Oliver Harrison. CC BY

color subtractionrefers toa visual phenomenon in which the appearance of one color diminishes its presence in a nearby color. For example, orange (red + yellow) appears more yellow on a red background. Don't confuse color subtraction withSubtractive color systemalready mentioned in this module. Color subtraction uses specific shades within a color scheme for a specific visual effect.

Simultaneous contrast

Neutrals against a colored background appear toward that color's complement as the eye tries to balance them. (Gray on a red background, for example, appears greener.) In other words, the color changesoutsidethe surrounding color. Also, non-dominant colors appear tinted towards the complement of the dominant color.

The color interaction also affects the values. Colors appear darker at or near lighter colors and lighter at or near darker colors. Complementary colors appear stronger on or near each other than on or near gray (see Keith Haring's example above for this effect).

Read: Artistic Elements | Artistic Appreciation (34)

Simultaneous Contrast, July 11, 2012, Creator: Oliver Harrison. CC BY

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