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2D Art Projects

The Formal Properties of Art and Design – shape, value, colour, line, mass and texture – are organized according to a set of eight principles: emphasis, variety, movement, balance, unity, rhythm, proportion and scale.

Let's break down how the Principles of Composition work by using a simple metaphor. Think about how language works: We have a set of twenty-six letters, the alphabet, that can be combined according to a very limited set of rules governing our use of grammer, spelling and syntax. When we apply our rules of grammer, spelling and syntax we can create words, sentences and paragraphs to make stories, essays, poems, letters, reports, inventories and countless other documents that have the potential to convey a limitless assortment of ideas and information.

If the Formal Properties of art are like letters of the alphabet, then the Principles of Composition are the rules of grammer, syntax and spelling that we must use to manipulate the Formal Properties until an artwork emerges.

You can memorize the Principles of Composition by using this simple mnemonic: EVery Man BURPS.

Emphasis is when one part of a composition stands out so that it becomes a "focal point" or when several parts of a composition stand out as "accents". Emphasis can be created through contrast, placement or isolation.

Variety is a sense of difference among the various parts of a composition. Variety is created when any kind of difference, no matter how slight, occurs between the visual elements of a composition. Variety is always at odds with unity; the two battle for domination of the work. The designer must therefore strike a balance between these two forces: Too much variety and a composition descends into chaos. Too much unity and a composition becomes boring and predictable.

Movement refers to the direction that the viewer's eyes take as they move from one element to another throughout the composition. Movement can be controlled and directed by the designer through the use of lines (actual or implied), the distribution of shapes, the contrast and similarity of colours or values, and through the use of directional patterns or textures.

Balance is the visual distribution of "weights" throughout the composition so as to achieve a sense of equilibrium. Balance can be depicted as

Unity is an overall sense of cohesiveness within a composition. Unity can be achieved through proximity, grouping, repetition, containment, closure and continuity. In fact, any kind of similarity of visual elements within a composition will strengthen its sense of unity.

Rhythm is the repetition of marks and "intervals" throughout the composition so as to create rhythmic patterns. Rhythm can be depicted as

Proportion is the size of one shape or part in relation to the size of another shape or part in a composition. Proportion can be depicted as

Scale is the apparent size of an object in a composition compared to what we would expect its size to be in actuality. Scale can be depicted as

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© 2016, Terry Reynoldson