Elements of Design

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Elements of Design

From Fred Ross

Published before 2005


Dear Mr. Ross,

Thank you for bringing attention to these beautiful painters and for filling the gap in art education through your Art Renewal website. You've restored my faith in my intuitive sense of what makes good art. All this time I thought I was visually "tone deaf" because I don't understand what is beautiful about "modern" art; I've tried. Paintings by Waterhouse and Sargent, on the other hand, are gorgeous!

I am studying art and the elements of design. I've seen the elements listed several ways in different books. They're mostly the same, but with variations. The text I'm using now, for example, "Exploring Visual Design," defines 7 Elements and 7 Principles as:

Elements: Line, Shape and Form, Value, Color, Space, and Texture.
Principles: Balance, Unity, Contrast, Emphasis, Pattern, Movement and Rhythm.
Did the atelier masters of old refer to a list of design elements and principles? Where do they come from originally? Is there a list with definitions now that the ARC Approved Ateliers use?

Thank you so much for your help, and my best wishes for your continued success!

Roxanne Guilhamet



Dear Roxanne,

What is missing in studying the elements of design, is the understanding as to what the purpose of design must have when creating works of fine art.

The purpose of fine art is as one of the great modes of communication by which subjects and themes about humanity can be expressed with poetry and grace.

First you must choose a great subject or theme Next you must create a great composition which matches your subject Only then do the other parameters of fine painting come into play:

Design
Drawing
Modeling
Perspective
Tone
Color
Atmosphere
Selective focus
Etc.

And all of these elements must then harmonize with the composition and theme for the work of art to succeed.

Keep Design in its proper place. It should never become the subject or theme of a work of art. When it does the entire work becomes self conscious and potentially trite.

The elements of design were developed within the above context. During the last century, they have been extracted and misused as an end in themselves by Modernism.

Best wishes,

Fred Ross
Chairman,
Art Renewal Center
100 Markley Street
Port Reading, NJ 07064
USA
www.artrenewal.org