The Importance of Teaching the Elements and Principles of Art

In the homeschool environment art is often taught in an unstructured way, teaching just technique, or just art history, or crafts. However, as in any discipline it is better to teach it with a strong foundation of the elements and principles of art. Learning the elements and principles of art step-by-step and showing master works of art as samples and introducing them in order, allows a student to become a master in a variety of techniques learning how to use different mediums with greater success. Students understand how to put things together visually in a powerful way, and understand how visual images are put together to achieve a certain effect.

For example, beginning with showing the importance and power of line, (the first element of art), such as the Nike symbol or the golden arches, emphasizes the influence art has in our culture. Diagonal lines show movement, and vertical and horizontal lines lend stability. Master artists Van Gogh and Dore are great examples of doing compositions in line. Use of line is very important in any composition.

The second element of art is shape. Line defines shape. Everything can be seen in basic shapes. When students understand creating shapes from line and identify how to see light [shading and shadow] falling on an object, you introduce the elements of texture and value.  Ask, where does the light fall when you introduce shape?

Recognizing how the masters used these concepts reinforce learning. Students are amazed at their success when taught in this step by step manner.

After you teach these beginning elements, you can introduce color and instruct on creating values in color.

The sense of space is created by introducing atmospheric perspective, overlapping, and linear perspective. Understanding and implementing Bierdstadt’s use of atmospheric perspective and allowing students to replicate his use in a picture reinforces understanding of how to create a sense of space which is an important element of art. It helps students see things from the master artist’s eye.

Introducing the various principles of art step by step after teaching the elements of art allows student to understand center of interest, harmony, unity, balance and other principles of art in a finished composition, and then how to create a balanced and interesting composition themselves. After the elements and principles are introduced, students then can work on experimenting with a variety of mediums and develop their own individual style with excellence.

Needing a place to start? For teaching tips and sample lessons that can give a feel for how to incorporate these elements as you teach, our website is a great resource, Sign up here for our free e-newsletter to receive updates and special offers.

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