Visual literacy refers to the ability to discriminate and interpret visible actions, objects, and symbols and to be able to understand and produce visual images in order to convey meanings. This lesson will explore how shared meanings and emotions are communicated visually through art.
- List the basic elements of visual art and how they are used in different ways
- Identify he principles of design in visual representations
- Evaluate how meanings are expressed visually through a variety of cross-cultural representations.
The Elements of Art
The elements of art visual components used in a piece of art; color, form, line,
shape, space, texture, and value.
Line is defined as a point moving in space, and it may be two-or three-dimensional, descriptive, implied, or abstract.
Shape may be two-dimensional, flat, or limited to
height and width.
Form is three-dimensional and enclosesvolume. It includes height, width and depth such as a cube, sphere, pyramid, cylinder, etc). Form may also be free-flowing.
Value is the lightness or darkness of tones or colors. White is the lightest value, and black is the darkest. The value halfway between these extremes is called middle gray.
Space refers to positive and negative areas that define or give a sense of depth.
Color is made up of three properties: hue the name of the color), value (see above), and intensity (quality of brightness and purity). Texture refers to the way it feels or looks if touched). Visit the J. Paul Getty Museum Elements of Art weblesson. To learn more about color theory, visit: https://elearning.cpp.edu/learning-objects/color-theory/
Principles of Design
The principles of design refers the ways that artists use the elements of art in a work of art. The concepts are used to organize or arrange the structural elements of design. The way the principles are applied affects the expressive content and the message of the work.
Balance is the distribution of the visual elements. If the design is a scale, the elements should be balanced to make a design feel stable. In symmetrical balance, the elements on one side of the design are similar to those on the other side. In asymmetrical balance, the sides are different
yet appear balanced. In radial balance, the elements are arranged around a central point.
Emphasis is the part of the design that catches the eye. This can be achieved through contrast or differences in size, color, texture, shape, etc.
Movement is the path the viewer’s eye moves through the work of art. The path can be directed along lines, edges, shape, and/or color within the work of art.
Pattern is the repetition of an object or symbol within the work of art, and this can embed action into the piece. Repeating elements also creates unity within the work of art.
Proportion is the distribution of size and the visual feeling of unity created when all parts (sizes, amounts, or number) conform well with each other. In a human human figure, for example, proportion may refer to the size of the head in comparison to other parts of the body.
Rhythm occurs when one or more elements are used repeatedly to create a feeling of movement. Variety is the use of several elements of design to hold the viewer’s attention and to guide the viewer’s eye through and around the work of art.
Unity is a feeling of harmony between all parts of the work of art, which creates a sense of completeness.
Meaning and Expression through Art
In addition to aesthetic appeal, art can also serve as a tangible representation for the intangible such as feelings, emotions and ideas. Art provides artists with a means to communicate complex experiences that may be difficult to encapsulate through the limited capacity of language. Some things just cannot be put into words, and artistic elements such as color, media, form, movement, balance, pattern, and proportion can be a vehicle to communicate meanings that are difficult to express or too complicated to express in conventional ways.
The following PBS Craft in America video entitled Service, illuminates the ways that some U.S. veterans use art and craft to express current or past experiences related to military service.
Art analysis provides a means of extracting meanings and emotions from a visual representation by identifying and evaluation specific elements and then compiling the findings to develop an overall conclusion. Analysis not only evaluates the visual components of the work, it also considers the social and historical contexts in which the piece was produced. This requires additional research on the background of the author as well as an investigation into political, social, economic and cultural phenomena taking place during the artist’s lifetime. Watch the film Dissecting Boticelli well as the video below learn more about art analysis and context.
- Art analysis looks beyond the simple visual representation of elements and design, and aims to identify social and cultural meanings represented within the art. To analyze art, one must:
- Situate the art in its social and historical context. When and where was the piece produced, and what was happening at that time? Who is the artist or group of artists? What or who is being represented? Is it a copy or reference to another piece of art or similar work? Why was the work created
- Describe the piece. What is it? What does it look like? Does it represent something tangible (a dog) or intangible (freedom)? Is it an abstraction, symbol, metaphor? What is the subject is and what is emphasized. What elements are dominant? This section is descriptive, not an analysis.
For more information on analytical methods in Art Analysis, visit the following tutorial by University of Arizona Little Rock:
For Discussion: Select a work of visual art (painting, drawing, photography, etc.) and conduct an analysis of the piece using the analytical tools presented in the lesson. What shared meanings are communicated by the work? How does the visual representation communicate or evoke human feelings and emotions? Be sure to use terms and concepts from the course. and respond to the analysis of at least two other students in the discussion. Resources: Artstor, MOMA
Expression: Now that your right brain has had a good deal of exercise, produce a piece of art using what you have learned in this class. Anything goes here, but be sure to include a brief (100-200 word) explanation of the purpose and meaning behind what you created.
For Extra Credit: Harn Museum of Art: Visit the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida. Select a cultural artifact (something produced by human beings), and situate it in its social and historical context. How does the art reflect the unique experiences of the producer? (You will need to do some research outside of the museum.) Things to consider: What types of materials were used, and what does that tell you about the natural environment the producer lived in? What does it tell you about the cultural environment? What is the role of the art (religious, entertainment, etc) and its cultural significance? How is the piece of art connected to the broader world (think globalization). Are there symbols and meanings? How are the experiences of the artist reflected in the art? (consider gender, race, class, etc). How does this piece differ from others of its kind produced by a member of a different group? How can you personally relate to this piece of art – why did you select it? Use terms and concepts from this course to produce an ANALYSIS of the artifact. You must include a picture of your self standing next to the piece of art you are analyzing. http://harn.ufl.edu/ If you live outside of Gainesville, you can substitute a different gallery for this extra credit opportunity.
Museum of Natural History: Visit the Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida. Select a cultural artifact (something produced by human beings), and situate it in its social and historical context. How does the artifact reflect the unique experiences of the producer? Things to consider: What types of materials were used, and what does that tell you about the natural environment the producer lived in? What does it tell you about the cultural environment? What is the role of the object and its cultural significance? How is the objected connected to the broader world (think globalization). Are there symbols and meanings? How does the producer affect the artifact? (consider gender, race, class, etc). How does this artifact differ from others of its kind produced by a member of a different group? How can you personally relate to this artifact? Use terms and concepts from this course to produce an ANALYSIS of the artifact. You must embed a picture of yourself next to the artifact you are analyzing. http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/You can substitute a different museum if you live outside of Gainesville.
Artwalk: Attend the Gainesville Artwalk and find an artist to interview about their work. Ask them to describe the symbols and meanings behind a piece of their art. What are they trying to communicate about the human experience? What do they hope the viewer/audience will experience from their work? Think about the lessons to ask additional questions about identity, fantasy, etc. Write a 1,000 report with the answers and post it in this forum with a picture of yourself with the artist and their work. Visit https://www.artwalkgainesville.com/ for a schedule of artwalks. If you live far from Gainesville, you can attend a different artwalk or festival closer to you.
When you complete the art discussion and expression here, move on to Film.