The Principles of Art


Unity in art refers to the similarty of items, and the visual linking of the different items of the painting or piece of art. It is the
way the different elements come together in one final product. However, everything cannot be the same. You must have unity
with variety, or the piece of art would be boring, but with too much variety, the picture would be random, and not make any

In Mirror Lake Frank Carmichael demonstrates Unity in the form of his hills. The half circles, and the triangles of the trees all
relate to each other, not to mention the reflection of them brings unity to the painting. The difference in colors brings variety to
the picture, but keeping the same color scheme throughout keeps it from being too random.

In The Hilltop Frank Carmichael demonstrates Unity in the way triangular shapes of the trees and the colors green and yellow
are the same throughout. Variety is kept in the contrast of the round hill and the triangular trees.

Mirror Lake

The Hilltop


Variety is the usage of several different types of lines, textures, shapes, and colors. Without variety the picture would be dull,
boring, and look the same all over. It adds interest. However, too much variety and the picture will look random, and

In his picture, The Great Gate of Kiev, Wassily Kandinsky uses lots of shapes and lines to create variety.
The theme and color scheme keep the picture unified and from being to random.
Kandinsky - The Great Gate of Kiev



Rhythm is the continuation or organization of movement in space and time. There can be more than one rhythm in a picture. It
comes from the repetition of certain elements of design. Other important factors in creating rhythm are the differences in the
shapes, like in sizes or placement, or in differences in the way people or moving. In Augusta M. Asberry's
"Lead Dancer in Purple" you can see the rhythm in the dancer's bodies and the ribbons they are holding. M.C. Escher is another wonderfull example of rhythm, you can see the repition of colors and lines.

Augusta M. Asberry
M.C. Escher


Movement refers to two qualities: the path your eyes take when you look at the picture, and the movement of the actual objects.
It is important to creating rhythm and unity in the art.

VINCENT VAN GOGH: In his classic, Starry Night, van Gogh shows movement. The swirls in sky carry your eyes from the tree,
then swirling down towards the town in the distance. There is also the movement of the tree, and the light radiating out from the


Emphasis, when one item or section of the artwork has all the attention at the first glance, it is the first thing that you see. It is
important to making sure the viewer notices the most important part of the art. Color, location, and size can all be used to
create emphasis.

Joan Miro:

Joan Miro shows emphasis in this picture "The Beautiful Bird Revealing the Unknown to a Pair of Lovers"
by using thicker, bolder lines in the bottom right corner, larger shapers, and a color that pops out from the
rest of the picture.


Balance the harmony of design and proportion, and there are three types
  • radial: The balance is in a circle, you could fold it in half anywhere and it would match up.
  • symmetrical: The picture is equal on both sides, if you folded it in half vertically, it would match up.
  • asymmetrical: The picture does not look the same on both sides.
It is important to maintain balance, even when it is asymmetrical. Without balance the picture would look akward, and you
would get the feeling of needing to rearrange the objects
Kandinsky: In this picture, Composition VIII, Kandinsky has asymmetrical and radial balance. The left side of the picture does
not have as many objects, however they are larger than the objects on the right side creating balance without symmetry.
Each of the circles has radial balance.


Proportion is the symmetry inside of an object. It is also the correct relationship of size or shape, and a comparative size relationship between several objects.

Pierre Renoir - in Pierre Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party", he shows excellent proportion in each individual person, in relation to their surroundings, and to the people in the background. Everything is the correct size in relation to everything else.
Luncheon of the Boating Party - Pierre Renoir