When using art to decorate your home, it helps to know more about art to better reflect who you are and what you like to share in your environment.
In all forms of art, basic elements help create each piece. Though not all elements are present in each piece, artists may make use of line, shape, form, color, texture, space, and value (shade and tint).
Knowing what you like and what emotions pieces evoke will help you make wise decisions about what art to display.
Every piece of art includes line. Even a monochromatic painting (such as a canvas totally covered in white paint) still has an edge, a line that separates it from the surrounding space outside the canvas.
A dot is a very (very!) short line, and most art includes lines to separate the spaces of the piece. Smooth, flowing lines tend to be soothing while bold lines, zigzags, and frenzied lines make us feel edgy and energetic.
Knowing this, we realize a music room or art studio may benefit from active lines, while quiet spaces feel more restful with softer lines and waves.
Shapes, such as circles, squares, triangles, and other creative contours are common in art. Ocean scenes are historically popular for their soft waves, though some show crashing storms on the beach which heightens the energy.
Still life images of vibrant flowers have always been popular, with bright colors that never fade like the real cut beauties. But when the artist portrays black, wilting flowers, the art evokes feelings of despair, death and decay.
Shapes can be calm (think of pears on a table) or harried (think busy repeating patterns in hot, bright colors). Plaid anyone?
I’m amused by the commercial bathroom tissue boxes and the choices of designs available. Often the colors and patterns are bright and bold—I guess the tissue companies want their products to be seen, so they get used more often! Nice marketing tool, but do I really want my tissue box to be the highlight of a room?
At least it brings art into traditionally boring spaces like bathrooms.
Shape even affects our dining experience. Is your flatware rounded and flowing or squared and straight? What about your plates—round, patterned, raised design, or square – rectangular – triangular?
Form is shape in three-dimensional space. Are your plates flat or do they sit up and hold lots of food in a cupped shape? What about your bowls, tall on the sides or more flat? Check out the glasses and mugs you drink from each day. Are they traditional and symmetrical, or more imaginative?
I use both, plain and artful, depending on my mood. I love unusual dishes like Amy Hetrick’s fanciful birthday ware or dishes shaped like flowers. Form can be fun!
Colors evoke all kinds of emotions. Warm colors brighten and energize (light green, yellow, orange, red) and cool colors sooth (dark green, blue, purple, all the tropical ocean colors). Earth tones (browns and tans) tend to be soothing, but if they contain red or yellow, they become more active.
White is the result of all colors being reflected back to the eye, and black is the absorption of all colors with no reflection (unless it has a shiny surface, then the white highlight gets reflected). White tends to energize, while black tends to suppress or depress (why I would never paint a dining room black unless I wanted to fast).
Texture is an important element in the home. Compare a shiny metal dining chair to an aged, well-worn wooden rocking chair. These two items are total opposites in energy, yet we can use both to sit.
The metal chair seems modern, attentive and worldly while the rocking chair invites us to sit for hours, contemplating our navel or the banked fireplace embers. The metal chair makes me think of wine glasses, and intelligent conversation while the rocking chair of relaxation, a snuggly throw, and a nap.
Every item in your home has texture, and one good way to create interest in a space is to vary textures. Ultra-modern homes often have lots of bright, shiny surfaces. To soften the space and welcome people inside, include textured art such as textiles in nubby fabric, pillows with interesting surfaces (leather or fur?), and art that includes wood or water.
Period homes with lots of antiques might benefit from some shiny surfaces or warm uplighting to bring more life into the space. Perhaps a bright geometric rug would break up the monotony of tradition. It can’t hurt to try! Most stores will let you return a regularly-priced retail item if it doesn’t work in your home, but check the store’s return policy before you buy.
Space in art pieces deals with depth. Some art seems two-dimensional, such as folk art pictures, rugs (either on the floor or hanging on the wall), and many abstract pieces.
Most art, however, makes use of space (height, width, and depth). You see this in sculpture, photographs, and realistic paintings.
Most art and designalso takes into account the physical depth of the piece and assigns a way to display it, such as hanging the item from a ceiling, on a wall hook, or on a base for the floor, groundor table. Some art pieces even come with their own display racks or shadow boxes.
Depth makes a huge impact on the physical space and every item within that space. Oversized furniture can overwhelm a small room, or a small sculpture may get lost in a large space unless displayed well.
Value (shade and tint) is often overlooked when it comes to art. A color is shaded when black or another color is added to tone down the hue. Tinting is when white or another light color is added to raise the value higher (lighter). This gets confusing when we hear slang such as “tinted windows” (they are actually shaded).
We often think of the lighter colors as feminine or childish. Pastels in the U.S. are traditionally associated with babies, old people, Easter, and waiting rooms. Darker colors are considered more sophisticated and serious. Many offices are darker, and I can’t imagine a mortuary painted light pink (though it might be good for visitors and employees alike).
Thankfully, many people choose to break color stereotypes. Men can wear pink and purple, executives can wear colors besides black and navy, and many people paint their walls a variety of colors and values.
Next month we will explore how artists use art principles to manipulate the elements and create art.
Tip of the Month: When you buy art (including furniture), consider art elements when deciding where and how to display your pieces.
Monica Hagen loves her life as a writer, artist, teacher and registered stock broker. She loves to share thoughts and images that inspire, guide and heal. Find her book, “Fit, Fueled and 50,” on Amazon.com Contact – LinkedIn – Books