There’s an element of surprise when you’re driving along and see a billboard or an ad on tv with colorful shapes that leap out at you. It captivates you and garners your attention. When it comes to geometry, we learned how to find the area, volume, and LWH (length, width, and height) of various shapes. Even as a kid, staring up at the moon at night through my bedroom window, I would often hold my thumb up to the moon to see if my thumb could cover it, and wondering how something shaped so circular could hide behind my not so round thumb.
Colors give shapes depth, adds mystery and volume to that shape, and makes it appear as if it had motion. Although the color black doesn’t seem to really show anything but darkness, and the color white makes everything seem to disappear, those colors play a major part in how we see shapes as well. In fact, when artists begin to paint, they paint on a white blank canvas. The white helps them to see the balance in what they create. When you use black as a base, the black helps you to see the contrast of your work.
Some of the earliest types of artworks in the history of art starts with the most magnificent shapes and colors that you can’t even imagine. For instance, take the Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh. I used to have this hanging in my dining room, but what captivated me through this piece was the shapes of color. The blue swirls, the yellow brushed circles with the gradual hues, the contrast of the shapes between the tree and sky. It amazes me that something so whimsical and bold could keep me staring at it and talking about it. Something that has a fine technique is still being revered as a classical piece of art.
Back in the days of the pointillism movement (1880’s through the early 1900’s), artists would place small strokes or dots of color to their canvases so that when you looked at it from a far enough distance, everything blended together. How amazing is that? Creating something from a million tiny dots that work in unison to depict a scene.
Figure 1 – Georges Seurat: A Sunday on La Grande Jatte – 1884
Whether it’s a square, rectangle, circle, parallelogram, or a triangle, art has been made to tell a story. The work you have seen in galleries, and the new pieces that you see today start out with a simple foundation of blended shapes in all different sizes. Challenge yourself today to view some type of art and notice the beauty and technique that lies in the shape of what you see.
“Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.”