written by Bhex | December 5. 2021


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What is art?



Art comes from the Greek words techne and poesis, referring to the possession of a set of skills, the ability one has to create, or the creation itself (Zachary Isrow, 2017). 


Art is imitation. Art is expression.  Art is language and representation. Art is aesthetic. Art is symbolic.


The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes art as representational, formalist and expressivist. Art is judgment of perceptual beauty, judgment of the sublime and judgment of nature itself.


Sean G. Colonna at Bard College published an article in 2012 defining art as a cognitive process. Observation, modeling, and interpretation are all facets of mind. The mind conceptualizes experiences through symbolization. Attention is exaggerated to certain elements of the whole, converting sensory data into symbols by constructing them as objects (Colonna, 2015).


Art can be defined as a bio-evolutionary behavior of all humans. Observing the universe and attempting to explain it through processes of integration and differentiation or symbolism is an act of art that occurs daily. Art makes the ordinary extraordinary and stylizes reality by abstracting judgment into symbolic representation (Colonna, 2015).






What art isn't


Art is not art unless it is designed to be art. If no intention to be displayed and processed as art was made, then art is not present.


Nature on its own is not art. A photograph of a mountain would be. Dancing on your own without the intention to be witnessed or defined as an artist is not art, but performing in theater ballet is (Thomas C. Scott-Phillips, 2015). 


The most important feature of art is the intention for something to be that. This means that anything defined as art is art. This does not designate artwork as critically-acclaimed or good or bad. All this speaks is by definition, art can only be art when a parameter of artistic intention is established.



Image: an animated gif of Star Trek characters Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Data exchanging criticism






Art forms


Art has 7 main classifications:


  • Architecture

  • Cinema

  • Literature

  • Music

  • Painting

  • Sculpture

  • Theater




Image: an easle canvas painting of a grey cloudy sky sitting in an art room with an open door viewing outside trees





What are the elements of visual art?




ELEMENTS OF ART - the visual components of color, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value.



Line: An element of art defined by a point moving in space. Line may be two-or three-dimensional, descriptive, implied, or abstract.


Shape: An element of art that is two-dimensional, flat, or limited to height and width.


Form: An element of art that is three-dimensional and encloses volume; includes height, width AND depth (as in a cube, a sphere, a pyramid, or a cylinder). Form may also be free flowing.


Value: The lightness or darkness of tones or colors. White is the lightest value; black is the darkest. The value halfway

between these extremes is called middle gray.


Space: An element of art by which positive and negative areas are defined or a sense of depth achieved in a work of art .


Color: An element of art made up of three properties: hue, value, and intensity.


Hue: name of color


Intensity: quality of brightness and purity (high intensity= color is strong and bright; low intensity= color is faint and dull)


Texture: an element of art that refers to the way things feel, or look as if they might feel if touched.




What are the principles of visual art?



PRINCIPLES OF ART - balance, emphasis, movement, proportion, rhythm, unity, and variety; the means an artist uses to organize elements within a work of art.



Rhythm: a principle of design that indicates movement, created by the careful placement of repeated elements in a work of art to cause a visual tempo or beat.


Balance: A way of combining elements to add a feeling of equilibrium or stability to a work of art. Major types are symmetrical and asymmetrical.


Emphasis (Contrast): A way of combining elements to stress the differences between those elements.


Proportion: A principle of design that refers to the relationship of certain elements to the whole and to each other.


Gradation: A way of combining elements by using a series of gradual changes in those elements. (large shapes to small shapes, dark hue to light hue, etc).


Harmony: A way of combining similar elements in an artwork to accent their similarities (achieved through use of repetitions and subtle gradual changes).


Variety: A principle of design concerned with diversity or contrast. Variety is achieved by using different shapes, sizes, and/or colors in a work of art.


Movement: A principle of design used to create the look and feeling of action and to guide the viewer’s eye throughout the work of art.




Image: a gallery of the 8 principles of art with photo references





Image: an animated gif of an elderly woman painting a canvas with lime green paint in an art studio



Adajian, Thomas, "The Definition of Art", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2018/entries/art-definition


Colonna, Sean G., "Defining Art: What it is and Why we Need it" (2012). Senior Projects Spring 2012. 266. https://digitalcommons.bard.edu/senproj_s2012/266


Isrow, Zachary. (2017). "Defining Art and Its Future." Journal of Arts and Humanities. 6(6), 84-94. http://dx.doi.org/10.18533/journal.v6i6.1207


Scott-Phillips, Thomas C. (2015). "What is art? A pragmatic perspective." Evolutionary Anthropology Research Group, Department of Anthropology Durham University. https://core.ac.uk/reader/206176561