Critique Week: The First of Many

This week, for the first time in far too long, I went out with some friends.  We walked around town and sat and chatted at a coffee shop for a few hours.  It was simple, but the exact recharge that I needed.  I’m so grateful for my friends for helping me get out more.

A wild thing happened while we were out though.  You see, I had never been to this café before. I live about 30 miles away from it. We had sat down, and lo and behold, guess what I see on the wall.

That’s a print of my art!! I drew this in high school!!  How crazy is that!  I must’ve signed off on it years ago when it was displayed at a show, but I totally don’t remember it.  Funny how life turns out sometimes.

My art style has since developed quite a bit since then, though I’ll be honest and say that it hasn’t shown in my paintings, as my art has been geared towards commercial work for so long.  In high school, I had clear talent and skill, but my work felt stiff.  This charcoal piece shows a great knowledge of my medium, but it doesn’t show originality.  When I’m not painting pet portraits, I like painting things that are a bit more whimsical, even though my portfolio right now does not exactly display that.

What helps an artist develop their work, other than practice and determination?  The helpful guiding eye of surrounding artists.  Critique [when referring to art] is the review and discussion of artwork with the intention of helping the artist understand their work. As the critique-r, one must ask themselves: What is working?  What is successful?  What are areas that need improvement?  

Critique is NOT criticism.  Critique is meant to be helpful and constructive, whereas criticism is generally not helpful.  Criticism only points out problems, but critique looks for answers to these problems.

Now, that’s not to say that critique is meant to flatter the artist.  Critique is meant to provide honest feedback in a healthy and positive manner.

Critiquing your own artwork can be difficult, as artists often overlook their own mistakes.  After staring at the same drawing for so long (sometimes hours or even days) the flaws seem to fade away.  That’s why it’s helpful to have other artists you can trust to help you develop your work.  For you, the reader, I am here to help.

I had a large amount of artists this week bring their art to me for critique, and to you I say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I was only able to write about the first three artists who sent work to me, but I will be saving all of it for future posts.  Critique Week will be the last Friday of each month. I am so excited to show off everyone’s work. 


This first drawing comes from Josie White.  She wrote: “I drew a favorite character of mine from a webtoon called Hooky. I’m not good at art but I think everyone can do it and enjoy it. So I drew this lady and I continue to draw because I hope that someday I can get better.”

First off, I’d like to say that what you said is beautifully put.  Art is for everyone, no matter what skill level.  You don’t have to be brilliantly gifted in order to be an artist.

Now there’s two ways to critique: you can either start with what’s successful, or you can start with what isn’t working as well.  Typically, I like to bring up the positive aspects first, as it doesn’t immediately fill someone’s thoughts with negativity.  If you’re greeted with the flaws first, it’s hard to focus on what you did right.

So Josie, I’d like to start by saying this is a beautiful drawing.  I love your choice in coloring: you kept it monochrome except for the eyes, making them the focal point, and you’ve got a range of gray in the drawing as well.  A range of gray can be very hard with a primarily marker drawing, but you’ve managed to create some color in the cheeks, a smooth crown, and mid-range of tone in the hair without any strange smudging.  Great job!

A couple things stick out to me: You’ve figured out this awesome technique for creating highlights and lowlights in the hair, in which you layer the lines in more heavily in dark areas and draw very few lines in light areas.  I’d like to see you slow this process down just a tiny bit to get these strands looking slick: your lines get a bit messy towards the ends from rushing. If you are not doing so already, you may find more success starting your preliminary sketch out in pencil and then going over that with the marker.  This way, you can figure out the form of the drawing easily and then erase any excess information. The next time you draw hair, take a pencil and track the way the hair falls on a head naturally.  It doesn’t fall exactly straight, and I can see this in the outside lines of the hair.  However, the inside lines are almost all straight.  Curving these strands could create more definition.

I personally am not familiar with Hooky, but I did a quick google search to get an idea of the art style. I can’t lie, it’s pretty adorable:

The reason I looked this up was because I wanted to look at where the ears lie on the head.  In your drawing, the ears are in line with the eyes. Again, starting out with a preliminary pencil drawing could help remedy this.  This way you can get the basic shapes down where they need to fall before going in with the rest of the drawing.  I recommend drawing the entire head shape and adding the hair afterwards.

The last thing I’d like to focus on is the eyes.  Eyes are something most artists struggle with, especially when they’re still learning. The biggest tip I have for you is to slow down, and draw the eyes step by step, constantly comparing the two together. Don’t try to perfect one eye and then start the other, you want them to be finished at around the same time.

So to conclude this critique, I’d like to review: slow down, start with a preliminary sketch.  You’re doing great so far, Josie.  This is a beautiful drawing and I can’t wait to see what you make next.


This next piece is a digital painting by Annika Downey.  You can view her portfolio at interact with her via Twitter @chimichannika.

Annika, I am a HUGE fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and looking at this piece fills my heart with warm nostalgia.  Your figures look great; the proportions of the body are accurate, and they sit in the scene nicely.  You nailed the color palette: it’s warm and inviting.  I can tell that a lot of time and love went into this piece of work and building up your skill.

Going back to my post two weeks ago about color, I have one small tip that could blow your mind and really take your color work to the next level.  Right now it appears that you’re making shadows by adding black.  This sometimes creates a muddy tone.  For the sake of having a focal area, take a look at Aang’s sleeves.  If you took the orange from this and used the color opposite it on the color wheel to make your shadows, you could have a really interesting color dynamic.


The other thing that I’d really like to see in terms of technique is more texture.  Varying up some of the line widths and creating harsher edges in the fabric and hair could make a world of difference.  Using interesting color combinations to create fabric folds and hair highlights would make this piece POP!  

The last thing that I would like to suggest is to look at a reference of real life people in this position, if you are not already doing so.  You’ve chosen a super dynamic position for your subjects, and it can be hard to capture motion.  Studying the curves of the human form could be a great asset to you: you’ve already got an incredible sense of proportion.  The trick is making the figures lifelike in their form.  How would Katara’s arm fall naturally?

Great job overall, I’m extremely impressed with this piece, and I cannot wait to see more from you!


This next piece is another digital painting, this time done by Alexsa of LexicalNuisance.  You can find her on twitter and instagram @lexicalnuisance. She also runs her own blog, which can be found here:

So Alexsa, I LOVE Animal Crossing, and you’ve captured the cuteness it entails beautifully.  This is truly the most adorable thing I’ve seen all week. Your outlines on Isabelle are super clean, and the pattern on her dress is believable: it forms to the dress, stretching out so the squares are larger towards the middle as if they are coming towards us. You have so many interesting textures in one piece, and I’m particularly interested in your floor: the perception you’ve created is super cool.

Everyone is probably going to get sick of hearing it, but I’d like to point out the same thing that I did in Annika’s work.  You’re shading with black in the curtain.  You could really play with some fun color in this piece.  Swapping that black out for something wild like purple could play off the green of her dress nicely.

Speaking of the curtain, stylistically it does not match the rest of the work.  I would like to see Isabelle blend into her surrounding a bit more, trying to make the styles match.  Isabelle is very graphic in her rendering: her figure isn’t shaded, she has black outlines.  The microphone matches her beautifully.  The floor beneath Isabelle carries out the linework, save for a small shadow underneath Isabelle.  Even the pawprint wallpaper in the background has some cohesion to it, as it feels as though it’s blurred into the background but the visible brushstrokes in the curtain don’t make it feel realistic in the rest of the space.    Blending this a tiny bit more and adding a stroke to the outside of it (it doesn’t have to be black!) could tie the entire piece together.

Overall, you did a wonderful job. Her smiling face makes me wanna smile, too.

Thank you to all of the artists you sent in their work!  This is the first of many critiques on this blog, so I can’t wait to see what else will be sent in!  If you have any art that you would like to send in for critique (anonymously or not)  I would love to see it!  Send it over to and it might just get featured in the blog.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

The Final Puzzle Piece: The Principles of Design

Happy first week of spring! I’m so excited that the season is finally changing.  I’m far from a winter person myself.  I don’t like the cold and everything feels dead.  Some early flowers have even started blooming here.

Two weeks ago I had discussed the elements of art.  To reiterate, these are:

Line: defined by a point moving in space.  Lane may be two or three dimensional, implied, or abstract.

Shape:  Two dimensional, flat, limited to height and width.  Can be organic or geometric.

Value: the lightness or darkness of tones or colors.

Form:  Three dimensional shape, containing depth.  A shape with value.  Can be organic or geometric.

Space:  In which positive and negative areas are defined.  The distance and depth in which objects of a piece interact with each other.

Color: light that reflects off an object to create a hue.

Texture:  Refers to the way things would appear to feel: bumpy, smooth, scaley, slimey, etc.

If you have any confusion about any of these elements, please refer back to the original article here.  All of the images used in the article are royalty free, so please feel free to use them as references to draw on your own!

In fact, I was so lucky this week to receive two drawings from this post.  The artists would like to remain anonymous as they are still learning, and sometimes when you’re still learning it’s a little scary to put yourself out there.  That’s okay! We can still support them anonymously.

Anonymous “M” created this beautiful painting using the image for shape using acrylic paint and marker. I think this is absolutely beautiful: the color choices are great, and each flower has it’s own defined shape, but not so defined that the combination of all the flowers doesn’t make a unique shape in itself.  The background space is even a shape.  Wonderful! I can’t wait to see more, M.

Anonymous “T” created this remarkable graphite drawing of the sunflower in order to create texture. T, the attention to detail in this is insane.  It really shows that you are dedicated to art.

I even felt inclined to draw one of these myself.  Initially I was going to show every element off through art, but I decided it would be best to focus my energy elsewhere.  I probably should have used a medium I was a little more comfortable with to start, but I chose to work in simple graphite (with a little charcoal at the end because I was going mad.)  I myself drew form:

If I’m going into full critique mode, I’d definitely tell myself to be more careful with blending the harsh lines towards the center of the rose, and create more visible texture in the petals of the rose, as they’re a little soft right now.  So basically, I blended where I shouldn’t have and didn’t blend where I needed to.  I’m far from the perfect artist.  

If you have any art that you would like to show off (anonymously or not)  I would love to see it!  Send it over to bmartin.artdesign@gmail.comand it might just get featured in the blog.

Additionally, last week I talked about color.  My boyfriend is a painter as well, and lately he has been painting with some really interesting color combinations.  I wanted to show off this painting he made recently, using strong red, blue, and a toned green.  I love the vibrancy, and how the figure pops out of space.

His work can be seen on Instagram

So now that you have a thorough understanding of the elements of art, let’s talk through how to use these tools to our advantage.  The Principles of Designdescribe the ways that an artist may use the elements of art within a piece.  Similarly to the elements of art, the principles of design work together to create a piece.  There will never be only one principle of design present in art.  Knowing how to use them to your advantage is the key to interesting art.  This is where the true fun begins, folks.  This is where you can begin creating unique compositions that are all your own.

The principles of design are as follows:

  • Contrast
  • Pattern
  • Rhythm
  • Movement
  • Emphasis
  • Proportion
  • Balance
  • Variety
  • Unity

Now, I’d really like to have a theme like I did with the flowers…  but I don’t.  What I do have however, is some hastily made graphics and some famous artwork that I didn’t make and you’ve probably seen before, so that’s equally exciting, right? Let’s get right into it!


Contrast is a striking difference between elements within the same piece of art.  Contrast can easily be formed using color by taking colors that are far apart from each other on the color wheel and placing them in the same art piece.   (Scroll up to see the skeleton painting again for a great example.)  You could even take the same color and switch the values so that one is dark and one is light.  You can omit color completely and work solely in black and white: white against black creates huge contrast.  Contrast can be shown in shapes and line and form, too.  Harsh geometric shapes contrast greatly against smooth organic forms. Thick straight lines contrast against thin smooth lines.  The possibilities are endless.

In “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer, look at how her body contrasts with the dark background, allowing her to pop out.


Emphasis is similar to contrast, in that it is the element of art that is accentuated.  It is the “highlight” of the art: what sticks out to you when you’re looking at a piece of art?

“Sunrise Impression” by Monet appears subtle, but the emphasis is clearly on the reddish orange sunrise.


Pattern is a repetition of a visual element such as line, shape, or color.

  One artist that pops into mind immediately when I think of pattern is Kehinde Wiley.  While the name might not sound familiar, you probably know his work, as he painted the portrait of President Barack Obama.  The backgrounds of all of his paintings include these stunning, intricate patterns.  Check out this piece above, “Mrs. Waldorf.”

Rhythm & Movement

Technically these are different principles that go hand in hand.  Rhythm is the speed of movement within a piece. Movement occurs as if the art itself is forcing your eye around the piece. 

Look at “The Scream” by Edvard Munch.  There’s movement all throughout the painting.  The texture of the orange sky almost feels as if it’s vibrating.  The focal point of this piece (where your eye goes first, that is) is in the center bottom: the figure’s head.  The blue background leads your eye upwards, and into the orange sky. This brings you back down onto the bridge, which leads your eye downward and back into the head, creating an inverse triangle position for your eye to look.  Rhythm refers to how quickly your eye is led around the art.  This piece feels chaotic; your eye moves quickly throughout it.

“Starry Night” by Van Gogh is another good example of Rhythm and Movement.  You can almost see it swirling right before your eyes.  The visible brushstrokes help guide your eye throughout the piece.


Proportion refers to the size comparison of elements in a piece of art.  This can be referring to the proportions of a figure in its surrounding space, or it can refer to the proportions within a figure.  In our minds we know an elephant is bigger than a mouse, but what if they are drawn the same size?

We owe a lot of what we know about the human form’s proportions s to Leonardo Da Vinci.  The drawing “Vitruvian Man” displays the anatomical proportions of a typical human adult male.


Balance is arguably one of the hardest things to strike in art.  Balance refers to equal visual weight throughout the art.  This means when you’re looking at art, your eye doesn’t want to trail away from it; it isn’t too heavily weighted on one side.  Balance is primarily about the placement of figures and subjects.  A balanced composition can be visually symmetrical or asymmetrical.  Symmetrical art is almost impossible to become unbalanced, though it may appear static, or flat.  To put it simply, your symmetrical balance might be boring.  Symmetry traditionally occurs when you take an object and split it down the middle and it is a mirror reflection of itself, like a butterfly.

Symmetrical balance in art is not quite as exact: rather, it refers to when each side of art has similar visual weight.  A great example of art with symmetrical balance is “The Last Supper” by Da Vinci. The background in particular is almost an exact mirror image, but the weight of the people in the foreground is also symmetrical.

Jan Van Eyck’s “Ghent Altarpiece” is another great example of symmetrical balance.

Art does not have to be symmetrical in order to achieve balance, though.  Asymmetrical art, while more difficult to achieve, is typically more dynamic, and therefore more interesting.

Paul Gaugin’s “Christ on the Mount of Olives”  depicts a figure that’s weighted heavily to the left side.  He is balanced by the details in the background, so it does not feel as if he is falling off the edge of the piece of art.

Unity & Variety

Another pair of principles that go hand in hand, unity and variety are extremely similar to each other. Variety is the combination of multiple different elements of art in one piece.  Unity is what ties them together harmoniously. Roy Lichtenstein is a pop artist who perfectly paired shape, color, line, and texture.  All are prominent in his artworks. This one is entitled “Ohhh … Alright …”

So Now What?

With this knowledge, you have the power to create anything you like.  Seriously.  I still have more to show you, of course, but these are the basics.  The Elements of Art and Principles of Design are the key to understanding any art.  Not only do they help you understand how to make your own work, they can help you break down other artists work and figure out how they did what they did.

Go forth.  Be one with the pencil.  And once you’re finished, please send in your art to bmartin.artdesign@gmail.comand it might just get featured in the blog.

Next week the blog will be dedicated to critique, so if you have any work old or new that you would like to receive feedback on, send it over!   Thank you so much for reading, tune in next time.

Using Color: Color Theory and How to Apply it

How was everyone’s week? I caught a pretty awful cold, and being the baby that I am, I stayed in bed for four days because of it.  In the beginning I was so foggy I could barely form sentences, but I treated myself well, scrubbed the apartment clean, and I’m almost all better now.  I got to do a bit of sketching, but unfortunately it knocked me out of schedule, and my initial plan for this week had to be delayed until next week.  C’est la vie.

In my previous post, I had discussed the different elements of art, but I left color a little vague.  That’s because color is a HUGE topic.  Sure, everyone knows what color is, but do they know the science behind it?  Do they know how to properly use it?  What exactly is color theory?

Color occurs when the spectrum of light interacts with the cone cells in your eye.  What you need to understand is that our eyes are not perfect, and color is more or less an illusion.  Colors bounce off of each other and interact with each other: an object that is blue might look purple, green, or gray depending on the lighting, the time of day, or the objects surrounding it.  Test this by taking an object and bringing it into multiple different light sources.

But let’s go back to the basics of color for a moment.  Maybe you’re familiar with ROY G. BIV, an acronym for the colors of a rainbow. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.  Now let’s be real for a sec: the indigo is a part of this specifically so you can remember Roy G. Biv as a name.  It doesn’t really belong, because when you take it out and put these colors in a circle, you get the color wheel:

The colors marked P (Red, Yellow, Blue) are the Primary colors.  This means that any of the other colors in this wheel can be made using these colors alone.  The secondary colors: Orange, Violet, and Green, are exact mixes of the primary colors. Therefore Red + Yellow = Orange, Yellow + Blue = Green, Blue + Red = Violet.  The tertiary colors are that third set of colors in between Primary and Secondary sets: Red Violet, Red-Orange, Yellow-Orange, Yellow-Green, Blue-Green, Blue-Violet.  To make it easier to remember these colors, list the primary color first, then the secondary color.

Before I go on to talking about some color combinations, I want to quickly talk about how these colors can change.  When you see the color blue, it might not always be a pure blue.  When I think of blue, I tend to think much brighter and more vibrant like the ocean.  But again, the ocean changes color depending on the lighting, the time of day, and even the clarity of the water.  This is where hue, saturation, and temperature come into play.


A hue is the pure form of a color.  This means it has no black or white added to it.  A shade is when black is added to the color, making it darker.  A tint is when white is added, making it lighter. A tone is when a mix of the two is added, meaning the color is grayed.


Saturation is similar, as it describes the intensity or purity of a hue.  When a color has been completely desaturated, you’re left with only the value that the color once was: a 100% desaturated version of any color is gray: the initial value of a color determines what the desaturated version’s value will be.  Most colors that we see are at least somewhat desaturated.


Temperature is a perceived warmth or coolness to a color.   Typically, warm colors are red, yellow, and orange: they make you think of fire and heat. Cool colors are blue, green, and violet, like the ocean.  However, some colors blur the lines of temperature a bit: you can have a warm green, or a cool red.  

You can also add warmth or coolness to a hue.  Picture those rare golden sunsets you might see during the summer: the sun bathes everything it touches in a yellow light, making everything appear warmer. Similarly, think of those full moon nights where everything is illuminated by the moon.  There’s little light, so everything appears blue-toned. 

Using the knowledge of Hue, Saturation, and Temperature, you can create any color of the rainbow by mixing just the three primary colors, black, and white!  How exciting is that?  Now you need to understand how to use colors in conjunction with each other so that they interact with one another.  There are different sets of color schemes built right into the color wheel.  Color harmonies are basic color combinations that are visible on the color wheel that make for awesome and creative colored art any time.


The first basic color chord is complementary colors.  These are colors opposite of each other on the color wheel: these are high contrast images that look super cool in art.  You can play with the saturation and purity of your colors to really make it pop.

One awesome thing to note about complementary colors: if you find a color to be too vibrant but you don’t want to mix in black or white to make it gray, you can mix in it’s complement to get a muted tone!


Analagous colors are colors that sit right next to each other on the color wheel.  These are colors that suit each other naturally, and the lack of jarring contrast is typically soothing to the eye.



Triadic color schemes are really fun: they occur when you evenly space out three colors in a triangle wheel.  These often look best when one of the colors is toned down or shaded, one is left vibrant, and one is tinted, but the best way to find out what you like is to experiment on your own!

Split Complementary

Split complementary takes the basic idea of complementary colors and breaks it apart into three colors. You take the compliments blue and orange, and split one side to the colors adjacent to it on the color wheel: blue and orange becomes blue, yellow-orange, and red orange.

You can experiment a lot by mixing color. Color tells the viewer what time of day it is, creates a mood, and can make or break a piece of art. Claude Monet created a series of paintings of the Rouen Cathedral, each at different times of day/in different weather. The only difference between the paintings are his color choices, but take a look at each of them. Each piece creates a different mood, thanks to color’s ability to impact our emotions. The cool image shown first feels gloomy, whereas the third one in on top feels bright, sunny, and happy.

Please go ahead and try playing with color on your own!  You can use any of these color wheels as a guide to help you.

For this weeks prompt, I want you to try and use one of these color schemes in a piece of your art.  Have fun creating!  I can’t wait to see what you make.

A Budding Knowledge: The Elements of Art

How was everybody’s week? I hope you all scheduled in some time for yourself to sketch a little.  Every little doodle brings you closer to your goal.

In my first post, I gave the prompt of “flower.”  I’m really excited to show off the art I was sent as a response!

This first piece was drawn by Josie White.  I love the technique she used on the petals:

This other piece is a bit more conceptual, created by Etherea Art.  (@etherea_art on Instagram) ( I love her thought process behind this!  She took the prompt “flowers” and put them on the tattoos of her subject.

Words cannot describe how much I appreciate your submissions!  These are both incredible.

I wanted to talk about flowers today because of how variable they truly are.  Each flower has a different petal shape, texture, size, and color. Each flower has its own personality. Because of this, they make a great subject matter for your art.  More on this in a bit.

What do houses, relationships, and art have in common?  They all need a foundation or they’ll crumble.  A structure built on sandy terrain will collapse.  A relationship with no common-ground interests or beliefs will not last.    Art that attempts to convey some sort of realism without an understanding of shape, form, etc…  well, it’s still totally valid art, but it might not be as successful as the artist wishes for it to be.

So, how do you “build” a work of art?  What are your tools?  These are what’s known as the elements of art.  Whether your creation is 2 dimensional or a sculpture; abstract or realistic, the elements of art are what make up the artwork.

The elements are as follows: line, shape, form, value, color, texture, and space.  While not every piece of artwork has all seven, a piece of art cannot exist without at least two of these elements present.  It doesn’t matter if the work is a masterpiece or something a child drew.  Take a look at these two images:

When you look at this famous painting, Claude Monet – Woman with a Parasol, 1875, the texture is one of the first things you notice.  The painting does not appear smooth; Monet used short brush strokes to create his impressionistic style.  The elements of art work together cohesively in this painting: take a look at the clouds. When you think of clouds, you think white, right?  These clouds have tinges of yellow and muted blue to create form, another element of art.  The use of the element color creates the element form. Color creates form in the dress of the woman as well: the streaks of blues in her skirt area create a highlight. 

Now look at this image.


This is a typical child’s drawing.  Upon first looking at it, there’s nothing too fancy about it; after all, children don’t exactly have classical art training.  However, even the works of a four-year-old can show the elements of art, and this piece does a particularly good job.  With this drawing, shapeis the focus.  Take a look at the sailboat to the right.  Our artist Alex knew that a rectangle with a pole attached to two triangles is the perfect representation for a boat.  The sun is a circle with thick lines coming out of it, and yet we know it’s the sun.  Linesof dark blue on top of light blue represent the motion of waves: color and line working together.

If this is confusing, that’s totally normal.  Let’s break each element down individually, with the help of some flowers.


I chose Peony’s for linedue to the way they fold.  Think of the way these petals intersect.  The outlines of the petals and the leaves are creating the illusion of lines.  Look at the petals themselves: the veins in the petals are lines, and these lines give the petals a sense of direction.

Lines can be thin, thick, straight, curved, spiraled, squiggled, zigzagged, dashed, dotted, long, short, and even implied. Implied line is extremely important in art:  look at the petals of the middle flower that touch the background of the image.

The tone of the petal and the tone of the background are really close together.  If you were drawing this, you wouldn’t want to create a thick line for this petal.  You would want it to blend; therefore you would imply the line of the petal.

There’s also leading lines. These lines lead your eye in a certain direction throughout the piece of art.   In this piece, your eye starts at the middle flower: this is what’s known as the focal point.  When you look at the image, it’s the first thing you see.

From there, your eye moves around the piece in a triangular pattern.  The top of the left flower to the tip of the top center leaf is one leading line.  The top center leaf then brings you down to the bottom right flower.  The bottom of the bottom right flower leads your eye to the bottom of the left flower’s petal.  These leading lines keep you looking at the piece of art, making it difficult for you to look away.


Shape is almost always tied to line.  When you think of shape, you’re probably thinking of triangles, circles, squares, and maybe even stars and .  These are inorganic or geometric  shapes. Shapes are all around you, though.  Any closed line can be considered a shape.  Any shape that isn’t geometric is an organic or natural shape.

What makes shape so unique is that it requires another element of art in order to work.  You need a bounding line for shape to appear. The shape of a daisy’s petals would not be distinguishable from the center of the daisy were it not for the difference in valueand color.  The spacein the background of the flowers creates their own shape, as well, making the shape of the daisies crisp.  Shapes are 2 dimensional, but when the third dimension is added, it creates form.


Simply put, form is what creates the illusion of three-dimensional art on a 2D surface.  You’re reading this post on a screen (or if you printed it out, paper) which is 2 dimensional, but this rose appears 3D.  Like shape, form can either be geometric or organic.  The form of an object creates highlights and shadows.  In this rose, you can see where the sun is hitting the object the most: that’s the highlights.  The shadows are where the sun is hitting the object the least.  The shadows are the darkest areas of the rose.  Form creates depth, perception, and value.


Value is closely tied to form.  An object can have value without form, but it cannot have form without value: this would break the illusion of 3D, making it a shape. 

Value is what refers to the lightness or darkness of a tone.  Value is easiest to notice in grayscale work, but it’s important when working in color as well.

This pansy has an incredible value gradient.  Starting in the middle, there’s a small section of white.  From there, it’s immediately dark: almost black.  Then it gets lighter, and then darker once again, though not as dark as that second color.  Let’s look at the same image in grayscale

Now you can really see the difference in value of the flower’s petals.  However, there’s a new problem that arised.  The value of the green background and purple petals are almost the same, making the image look muddy.  It may be helpful to adjust the value when you’re drawing so get a crisp image.


Color is fun!  It’s usually most people’s favorite element of art. Colors can be muted or vibrant.  Color theory is a hugesubject that will be discussed at a later point, but here’s a quick overview:

Red, Yellow, and Blue are the primary colors in an RGB spectrum.  If you only have these colors in your pallet, you can mix them to create any of the other colors, (orange, green, or violet.)  Different ratios give you different results.  Try mixing some color!

The colors chosen in this bouquet are actually very close to the primary colors.  The florist chose an off blue-violet, a dark pink, and a yellow flower, with some white to tie it all together.  The way you use color can vastly influence the mood of a piece of art.

With that said, working with color before you have an understanding of value (or your medium) can be incredibly frustrating, and you may not get the results you want.


Looking up at the night sky, you might get intimidated by how vast space is.  What you might not realize is that there’s space all around you. This space can be positive or negative. This doesn’t have to do with the energy in the room (although that’s important, too) rather it has to do with where things lay.

In this photo, two flower vases sit in the middle of the composition.  They take up space.  Everything surrounding it is negative space: it’s where nothing is going on, really.

Now, let’s take this same image and crop it differently.

Feels a little uncomfortable, right?  There’s less positive space than negative space.  It feels empty and off-kilter.  Placing your subjects in a space properly can change the entire mood of the image.


Last but certainly not least, we have texture.   Texture is one of my personal favorites.  Take a look at your surroundings.  No matter where you are, there’s probably at least one interesting texture.  Look at your clothes.  Are you wearing something soft like fleece, or something tough like leather?  Can you tell how it feels without even looking at it?  If you’re outside, can you see any wood or stones?  Maybe brick?  These all have a visible texture.

You can practice drawing with the elements of art using any of these images as a reference photo. They’re all public domain, meaning you can use them for any purposes.  I would love to see your renditions of these flowers! Please email with any art that you would like to show me, and it could end up in the blog!

I hope you have a great week, and I’ll be seeing you soon to discuss the Principles of Design.