Curriculum Content

Visual Literacy is the ability to construct meaning from images of objects, places, and people in their context. Knowing the language of art – the Elements of Art and the Principles of Design – can help to make meaning of what you see, making you visually literate.

Elements of Art

Line

A line is a continuous mark with width and height, but no depth, made with a moving point.

Lines can be thick.
Lines can be jagged.
Lines can be vertical.
Lines can be diagonal.
Lines can be curved.
Lines can be horizontal.

Lines are used by artists to control your eye movement into and around images. 

Shape

A shape is an enclosed area defined by other elements of art, such as line or color.

Shapes can be squares.
Shapes can be circles.
Shapes can be triangles.
Shapes can be rectangles.
Shapes can be octagons.
Shapes can be pentagons.

Shapes are used by artists to create patterns and interesting compositions. Artists may use simple geometric shapes such as circles, triangles or squares, or more complex geometric shapes such as pentagons or stars. They may also use organic shapes from nature like leaves, snowflakes, or shells.

Similar shapes can work in harmony to create a calm effect, or contrasting shapes can be used to make a more challenging composition.

Color

Color is the full visible light spectrum (rainbow) and black and white, plus all possible combinations therein. Color has three parts: 

  • Hue is the name of the spectrum colors (like red, blue or yellow).
  • Intensity is the purity of the color (how bright or dull it is).
  • Value is the degree of lightness or darkness of a color. 

Primary Colors are colors that cannot be mixed by combining other colors. Primary colors are red, yellow and blue. 

Secondary Colors are primary colors can be mixed together to create secondary colors. By mixing red and blue, purple is created; mixing yellow and blue creates green; and mixing red and yellow creates orange. 

Complementary Colors are “opposites” on the color wheel. Pairing a color with its complement, makes the color “pop”, or stand out. 

Space

Space refers to distances or areas around, between or within components of a work of art. 

Space can be positive.
Space can be negative.
Space can be open.
Space can be closed.
Space can be shallow.
Space can be deep.
Space can be two dimensional.
Space can be three dimensional.

An artist uses space to denote the:

  • Foreground (the parts situated or represented in the front; the portion of a scene nearest to the viewer).
  • Middleground (an intermediate area or position; a halfway point).
  • Background (the part of the image represented as being at a maximum distance from the viewer).

Texture

Texture is the tactile quality of an object, whether real or perceived.

Texture can be smooth.
Texture can be bumpy.
Texture can be rough. 
Texture can be soft.

Artists can use line to show texture. This artist uses long, short, thick, and thin lines to show us the different textures on the creatures in this imaginary space.

Artists can use color to show texture. This artist uses light and dark values of a color to give us clues about how these textures would feel if we could touch them. 

Composition

Composition is the arrangement of the elements of art in an image according to the principles of design. It can be symmetrical or asymmetrical.