In a recent article, an artist-writer in describing his process states: LINE IS KEY AND [LINE] IS ENOUGH “TO CREATE A COMPLETE PICTURE.” A different artist/writer declares that her “PICTURE IS ALL ABOUT SHAPES.” To another artist, the paintings is about TEXTURE; to yet another, COLOR.

After reading decisive statements such as those (above) I’m inspired to paint four versions of the same subject, each emphasizing a different element. Each artist-writer not only expresses an opinion, he/she expresses with conviction, i.e., “a firmly held belief or opinion.”

Only four of the seven design elements are mentioned in articles read. We have the option of using those plus the three remaining: value, size, direction. It is often recommended (by wiser minds) that one element be dominant; another less dominant. Maybe that is what was meant. One artist relies heavily on “line” but uses other elements as well (shape, color, value, for example).

Design Elements are the only tools we artists have to work with regardless of medium used. Frank Webb refers to elements as “NOUNS.” And he (we!) activate those nouns with VERBS — the eight DESIGN PRINCIPLES:

  1. UNITY — we unify by keeping most shapes, colors, sizes, etc., similar.
  2. CONFLICT — we add contrast by adding a round shape to a group of square shapes, warm color amidst cool, etc.
  3. DOMINANCE — no equal measurements of color such as 1/3 red, 1/3 yellow, 1/3 blue. One measurement must be larger to dominate.
  4. HARMONY — think of a chord, notes (of color perhaps) that are related, their relationship determined by intervals.
  5. GRADATION — when blue starts to fade and turn pink . . .
  6. ALTERNATION — when items repeat in turn . . . tall tree, short tree, tall tree, etc.
  7. REPETITION — repeating an element of shape or color, making it slightly different each time
  8. BALANCE — when it all fits. Or when we view a page and the weight of it is stable (nothing is sliding off the table).