Part I: Learning About the Elements of Shape and Space in Art

At Fishtown Recreation Center this week, we embarked on a two-part formal art lesson focused on the elements of shape, space and color in art. For the first part, we worked closely with the students to help them plan and sketch their design, using triangle- and square-shaped stencils. Next week, we will introduce the element of color.

The Element of Shape. We began the lesson by identifying the properties of all shapes and in particular, squares and triangles. A shape is defined as a closed line. Shapes can be geometric (eg., squares) or organic (eg. blobs). Students used pencil to trace triangle and squares, using cardstock stencils, onto watercolor paper. After creating their geometric designs, students then outlined each shape with black oil pastel crayon.

The Element of Space. Space refers to the area within and around an object. Students learned the terms “positive space” and “negative space” and we discussed how the goal was to trace enough shapes so as to minimize the negative space on their paper. We also encouraged the students to use techniques such as overlapping and placing shapes partially off the paper to make their artwork more interesting and complex.

Reflections. In addition to the lessons on shape and space, our goal was to imbue the students with the sense of artistic choice. We discussed the idea of planning their designs and not rushing. Tracing the perimeters of the stencils requires a slow and careful hand, making sure the lines are straight and intersect at the corners so the shapes are closed. When students finished the tracing, we asked questions such as “Are you satisfied with your design?”, “How could we place additional shapes to make the art more interesting?” and “Where else could you add a shape to minimize the negative space?”.  By dividing this lesson into two parts, we are teaching them to slow down, re-evaluate what they have created, and build their masterpieces in stages.


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