Studio Cascadia brings the joy of education through creativity right to your home. Our collection of lessons created by Mona T. Smiley-Fairbanks explores the concepts of line, shape, texture, space, and more through interactive lessons you can download and print right from our page. Please enjoy these free lessons, and look forward to our video art lesson series coming soon!

The Elements of Art

The elements of art are the building blocks to all artworks, from painting and sculpture to photography. Artists use these building blocks to create their pieces, and viewers can use them to study any art piece. While they seem simple, these elements can create the most complex of pieces.  

Below is a list of the 7 elements of art along with a piece that has been shown at Cascadia showing that element of art. Art lessons are included for some of the elements along with different art activities.

Try out these art elements yourself with the projects below!

Elements of Art: Line

Line is a moving point. It marks the distance between two points and can be straight or curved. Lines create shape and form. There are a few different types and variations of lines. These types and variations of lines can be used to create anything!  

Types of Line:  

  • Straight  
    • Vertical  
    • Horizontal  
    • Angled 
  • Zigzag 
  • Curved 
    • Wavy 
    • Spiral 



Line in Art at Cascadia

Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944)
Untitled, circa 1905
Ink on paper
Collection of Lee and Elizabeth Rose Stanton

This piece by Charles Dana Gibson uses line to create shape, depth, value, and form. Below we can see examples of all different types of lines, and we have highlighted just a few.

Red: Straight & Zig Zag
Blue: Curved
Yellow: Curved/wavy
Purple: dashed

Art Project: Exploring Line through Hand Art

Hand art is a project that is always close to home! This project gives us the opportunity to explore the art element of line. Thin, thick, dotted, sketchy- they are just a few examples that can be tried.

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Elements of Art: Shape

Closed lines with height and width create a shape. A shape is two-dimensional and includes geometrical and organic shapes.

Geometric vs Organic

Geometric shapes have clear edges and boundaries and are defined by mathematic terms. They include triangles, squares, rectangles, circles, polygons, etc.

Organic shapes do not have clear edges and boundaries and are free form. They do not have exact angles and measurements, and they are shapes found in nature.

Shape in Art at Cascadia

Elizabeth Warhanik (1880-1968)
Composition, circa 1925
White line color woodcut
Private Collection

Elizabeth Warhanik was an early prominent artist in Seattle who focused on landscape and still life. Born in Philadelphia, she later taught in Japan before moving to Seattle. In this piece, Warhanik uses a mixture of organic and geometric shapes. Look carefully at the yellow and red pattern to find triangles and rectangles. Do you see any other geometric shapes?

Art Project: Exploring Shape in My Neighborhood

Shape can either be geometric and angular or curvy and organic. Either way shape emphasizes the flat two-dimensional property of elements in art.

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Elements of Art: Texture

Texture is how something feels. Think about how it feels to pet a dog verses touching hard wood floors or touching metal. These materials each have a different texture, and this is something artists use. In sculpture, the materials naturally have different textures, like wood sculptures versus ceramic bottles and vases. In two-dimensional art, texture also refers to how it looks like it feels.

Texture in Art at Cascadia

Virginia Weisel (1923-2017)

Left to right
Bottle, circa 1958, Incised fish design, Collection of Thula Weisel
Bottle, circa 1960, Private collection
Vase with dogwood motif, circa 1955, Collection of Thula Weisel
Bottle, circa 1960, Private collection
Bottle, circa 1964, Private collection

These pieces by Virginia Weisel appear to have different textures. The Bottle with the incised fish design would have one texture from the material and the incised fish design with the lines and circle shapes while the neighboring bottle appears to have a smoother texture.

Art Project: Exploring Texture with a Cactus!

This cactus landscape lets us explore the use of texture in creating rolling hills and the use of line drawn cactus making an interesting contrast. Texture can be created by the use of varied pencil lines, thick paint, or in this case crayon rubbings. Our houses and neighborhoods are filled with textures just waiting to be explored.

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Elements of Art: Value

Value is the lightness or darkness of a color, and it adds dimension in a piece.  Value is also a concept in color, as mentioned above. Artists can create value in line drawings through different shading techniques which use different types of line. In painting, value in color is created by adding whites and blacks to a color to create different values and shades.

Shading techniques create value in drawings and add dimension and perspective. These techniques include hatching, cross hatching, stippling, scumbling, stippling, and blending.

Value in Art at Cascadia

Bertha Lum (1869-1954)
Mother West Wind, 1918
Color blockprint
Collection of Ken Nelson and Jessica Greenway

This blockprint uses different values or shades of blue. The bottom starts with a darker blue and gradually fades to a lighter blue at the top. The use of value creates dimension in this primarily monochromatic piece.

Art Project: Exploring Value through Crayon Rubbing

This unique rubbing project lends itself to many different images and styles. This project is an example of the design principle of value.

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Elements of Art: Form

Form is a three-dimensional shape that has height, width, and depth. Forms are also geometric and organic/free-form, and form is all around us in our natural world. Geometrical shapes include cubes, rectangular prisms, spheres, cylinders, and many more. Artists that use form as an element tend to work in sculpture.

Form in Art at Cascadia

John Carl Ely (1897-1929)
Head of a Woman
Circa 1923-24
Wood sculpture
Private collection

This sculpture by John Carl Ely is made from wood. The artist carved the wood to create this form of a woman’s head. Ely worked primarily with form and most of his pieces are created from wood. This sculpture has an organic form, but some pieces resemble geometric forms such as the front neck which resembles a cylinder. Parts of geometric forms can be used to create organic forms.

Art Project: Exploring Form with a Dog House

Form takes shape and gives it another dimension. This 3rd dimension creates a more realistic impression in contrast to the ‘graphic ‘style seen in shape by depicting objects receding into the space. Think of a square becoming a cube for a house or a rectangle becoming a cylinder transformed into a vase for flowers.

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Elements of Art: Space

Space is all the areas around, between, and within components in a piece. Different types of spaces include positive or negative, open or closed, shallow or deep, or 2D or 3D. Space separates the elements in the piece, and it is an essential element to art creations. Space also helps build physical perspective. An artist creates space through the placement of objects and components on the piece.

Space in Art at Cascadia

Orre Nelson Nobles (1894-1967)
Rug designed for the Fette-Li Company, Peking China, circa 1930
Northwest landscape motif
Collection of Paden and Norma Prichard

In this piece, the shape of two trees are presented in the front with the pale pink color creating the space between the trees. In the center back, above the curved color lines, the artist Nobles has used a purple color to create more space at the top. Additionally, Nobles created a border of space surrounding the entire piece.

Art Project: Exploring Space through Paper Cutouts

Shapes are all around us and when they are cut out beautiful new shapes are made.  Learning to see not only the importance in creating positive shapes, but thinking of the ‘leftovers’ or negative spaces, not as waste but as new possibilities is the goal of this project. Whether the shapes are rounded and fluid or harsh and angular exploring can be fun.

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Elements of Art: Color

Color, in a simple definition, is light reflected by an object. Color can affect how people feel and is symbolic. In art, a color theory exists. Color theory includes the color wheel, color value, and color schemes. Color is a part of all art and is all around us!

Color Wheel

You may recognize a color wheel. A color wheel includes primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. Primary colors are colors that exist naturally, through natural pigments. No mixing of colors can create a primary color, but primary colors mixed together create all the other colors. Primary colors are red, blue, and yellow.

Secondary colors two primary colors mixed together. Blue and red make purple, red and yellow make orange, and blue and yellow make green. Tertiary colors are one secondary color and one primary color mixed together. They include red-purple, red-orange, blue-green, yellow-green, blue-purple, and yellow-orange.

Color Value

Color value is the lightness and darkness of a color. A color is made lighter or darker by the addition of blacks or whites.

Color schemes are how colors are put together harmoniously. They include:

  • Monochromatic: 1 color
  • Analogous: colors that are next to each other on the color wheel
  • Complimentary: colors across from each other on the color wheel
  • color triads: colors equally apart from each other on the color wheel
  • Split: one color and its complimentary color and closest analogous color—like a combination of different schemes
  • Warm colors: red, orange, and yellow
  • Cool colors: blue, green, and purple

Color in Art at Cascadia

Peter Camfferman (1890-1957)
Untitled, circa 1924
Oil on paper
Private Collection

This piece by Synchromist painter Peter Camfferman uses a lot of color. Camfferman’s abstract style includes vibrant colors. He also painted to music, and Synchromism uses color scale in the way notes are arranged in a musical piece. Like in music, color and form in this artistic style can evoke emotions and sensations without any direct representation.

Art Project: Exploring Color with Pears

Colors are thought of as warm, cool or neutral. Warm colors are ‘sun’ colors- red, yellow, orange, and purple and are thought to be lively and energetic. Cool colors are ‘water’ colors- blues and greens and bring calmness and tranquility to the scene. Neutrals like white and black help with value and contrast. This pear project features either a warm or cool pear with the opposite colored background to define the difference between the two-color palettes

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