The principles of the art of the drawing. What does art make up? What are the essential elements of a painting or drawing? What are the fundamental keys to understanding this peculiar and wonderful world, to interpret it correctly? In short, what does pictorial art consist of? Here, these are questions that do not have a well-defined answer: a painting is not a construction made with Lego that is, made with 24 small bricks, 13 large bricks, and so on. Yet, if we wanted to look for the main elements that make up a painting full of drawing ideas, keeping ourselves at a fairly concrete level, we would be able to do so. Warning: in some cases, these are rather bland elements, so obvious that they are often overlooked, to the detriment of the work of art itself. And this is precisely the problem! So let’s see what principles of art that everyone should know and review before getting to work are!
The principles of art
When we talk about the principles of art, we are not referring to the material elements that make up a painting: we are not talking about oil colors, mediums, and canvases. We speak instead of the “principles” of the theoretical elements that everyone should know to deal seriously and efficiently with creating a new drawing or painting. Let’s find out together!
It all starts with them. It can be straight, parallel, and perpendicular lines, as in Piet Mondrian’s geometric paintings. You can have dotted and discontinuous lines to draw faces, landscapes, or objects. Or it can be very short, close, dashed lines that create shadows. The lines in themselves are nothing more than signs made on the surface of a support, starting with a point and proceeding on their way, drawing and tracing spaces. The lines represent the basic principle of drawing and painting, from prehistoric graffiti onwards.
After the lines are the colors, which vary in hue, intensity, temperature, and more, the color, even before being a product to be spread on a canvas or a block of paper, is a physiological sensation that is felt in front of the effect of lights of different composition and quality, as well as resulting from the sum of those that they are called primary or iris colors, that is, red, orange, yellow, green, violet, blue and indigo.
You cannot think about the color of work without focusing on its value, that is, on its brightness, and therefore on the quantity of black or white present, to make us perceive more or less light.
Yes, of course, the artwork is meant to be looked at, not touched. Yet even the texture, or rather, the tactile sensation that seems to give a painted surface, should not be underestimated. Some surfaces appear smoother, others that seem silkier, with different results for the observer.
There is space between one line and the other: the artist certainly does not create space, but rather its limits, but this does not mean that he can fail to consider this fundamental element.
In the paintings and drawings, the shapes created by the artist can only have two dimensions: it is up to the artist to use the proper technique to transform a square into a cube, a circle into a sphere, a triangle into a pyramid.
After discussing the forms and two-dimensionality of drawings and paintings, we can only talk about another fundamental principle of art: perspective. There are, it must be said, different methods to give three-dimensionality to two-dimensional creations. There is the linear perspective. The one studied at school allows us to give the sensation of three-dimensionality thanks to the convergence of the lines in a precise point located on the horizon. There is the aerial perspective, which in designing reality considers the progressive blurring of objects as the distance increases and the change in colors.
Here is another element that differentiates the drawings of the little ones, or the simple sketches of those who draw to pass the time, from the more realistic and plausible representations. Shadow is a fundamental element in artistic representation, giving substance to the whole.
The principle connected to the very existence of the shadow is chiaroscuro, a term that is also used abroad in its Italian form, to reaffirm how central our country has been in the history of art at an international level. Chiaroscuro, or the play between lights and shadows, between lighter and darker shades, is essential to give volume and three-dimensionality to work. The chiaroscuro as we understand it today was born and developed during the Renaissance, starting with the works of Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci and later Rembrandt.
A fundamental element to differentiate the various elements proposed within a work: without contrast, there would be, in fact, an indistinct mass.
A principle that must never forget: shadows, perspective, chiaroscuro, everything can be in vain if another fundamental principle of figurative art is not respected, namely proportion. When we talk about proportions, we refer to the relationship between the various elements of a drawing: the proportions can certainly be altered, but always starting from a careful study and a deep understanding of the actual proportions, as they have been codified in the centuries.
The proportions are not to be confused with the scale, that is, the relationship between the actual dimensions and the dimensions on paper. For a realistic and plausible representation, this relationship must remain unchanged within the work.
A principle linked to music and art: the variety, number, and repetition of the elements within a painting make up its rhythm.
From the beginning, some works want to have the maximum balance with proportional representations; and other works point to asymmetry, on the contrary, thus avoiding classical equilibrium. All roads are passable: the important thing is to consider this principle.
The drawing, the painting: these are static, still representations. Yet it is possible to give a particular movement to one’s work, or rather, to guide the observer’s eye from one part of one’s work to another, with lines, gestures, repetitions, plays of color, and so on.
Not a work marked by chaos, nor a work dominated by regularity and therefore by absolute monotony and ‘ harmony in between to create a sense of familiarity.