Welcome to The Helpful Art Teacher, an interdisciplinary website linking visual arts to math, social studies, science and language arts.

Learning how to draw means learning to see. A good art lesson teaches us not only to create but to look at, think about and understand our world through art.

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Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Principles of Design and Composition

Fill each triangle in the worksheet below with a linear pattern from the worksheets provided here

Below is a worksheet filled out by one of my students.

Next scan or photograph the finished worksheet and print three copies of it on white card stock. Using liquid watercolors, paint a different color scheme on each sheet.
Sheet 1: Every color you can mix using magenta and yellow
Sheet 2: Every color you can mix using magenta and blue
Sheet 3: Every color you can mix using blue and yellow

Next: Cut up all three sheets into the triangles and put them in an envelope for safe keeping. Use the triangles to explore the 9 Principles of Design and Composition by arranging them on a black background.

Here are a few more good videos on the Principles of Design:

The Principles of Design are Balance, Emphasis, Movement, Pattern, Repetition, Proportion, Rhythm, Variety and Unity.

Right click on the images below to open them full size in a new window. Using the worksheets and this blog post as a guide, create a series of collages with your triangles that express all the principles of design. You may use more than one principle in each design. In order for your design to be considered effective, other people need to be able to guess correctly which design principles your collage is addressing without you telling them.

Many students are confused by the concept of 'Asymmetrical Balance'. Consider the worksheet below. We know the chairs on the right are balanced (obviously, there can be zero debate about that because if the arrangement were unbalanced the chairs would topple over), yet the design is not symmetrical (it's not the same on both sides). 

How can a design be balanced but not symmetrical?

Often professional artists and designers will choose to use an asymmetrically balanced design over a symmetrical one because they wish to create a dynamic sense of movement in their artwork. The design on the right is more dynamic, while the one on the left is more static.

If you feel the need to review the Elements of Art, before plunging in to the Principles of Design, this series by KQED Art School is excellent:


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  2. Informative article, exactly what I wanted to find.

  3. I could not refrain from commenting. Exceptionally well written!

  4. hi,

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  5. This is great,
    thanks for being so generous with your lessons, it really helps non specialists to deliver a meaningful art lesson.