Elements of Art Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about the elements of art. The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Elements of Art. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Help children explore and observe artwork in different ways. This movie will introduce the basic elements of art: color, value, texture, shape, form, line, and space. Help children understand that we can use this group of features to help us observe and describe works of art and explore them in our own creations. This movie will share examples of artists and how they incorporated the elements of art in their work. We recommend that children research their favorite artists and illustrators and analyze how they use the elements of art. Encourage children to study each others’ artwork and describe the pieces using the art elements vocabulary.

Remind children that colors can communicate different moods, or feelings. You may want to share the Colors movie for further exploration or review of the topic. What kinds of feelings might bright colors communicate? Dark colors? This may be a good opportunity to do an artist study on Pablo Picasso and explore his Blue Period or Rose Period. Showcase different works of art that use color to communicate mood such as Georges Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette. Help children see how the artist combines different colors to communicate a sense of peace and relaxation. How might the painting be different if it was done in shades of gray or in dark colors?

Then review with children that value is the lightness or darkness of a color. Artists often explore both color and value to communicate their ideas. You may want to show different examples of artwork drawn from different periods. In The Milkmaid, Johannes Vermeer used color and value to show how light comes through the window and casts shadows on objects in the scene. In Calla Lily, Diego Rivera used darker colors next to lighter ones to make certain shapes and colors pop out. Josef Albers used different colors and values to show how colors look different when they are next to other colors. You may want to observe his Homage to the Square series to explore further.

Review with children that texture describes how an objects feels to the touch. Explore different objects and describe their textures. Are they rough, soft, smooth, bumpy, or sandy? Explain that the artist Meret Oppenheim explored texture in her sculptures. She took objects that were typically smooth (such as a teacup, saucer, and spoon) and recreated them with different textures. The painter Jackson Pollack dripped and splattered paint on canvas to create a rough texture. Explore other works of arts and observe texture together. How was the texture created using the medium?

Remind children that lines can be straight or wavy, thick or thin and can run in any direction. Artists employ lines in their works in different ways to achieve different effects. Piet Mondrian used simple straight lines in his works. You may want to observe Broadway Boogie Woogie to show how he used lines to represent the streets of New York City. How do the lines, colors, and shapes communicate the energy of the city? Review with children that lines can also be used to create textures. Vincent van Gogh used wavy lines and thick and thin brushstrokes to help give his paintings the appearance of a rough texture. The artist Bridget Riley explored colors, value, and lines to create optical effects in her paintings.

Help children understand that shapes are everywhere around us. We can use shape in our own artwork in different ways. For example, Cubists such as Pablo Picasso experimented with shapes and we can see how the individual shapes come together to form a whole picture. M.C. Escher explored geometry in his work to show how shapes can change. Explore other artists together, such as Dieter Roth or Alexander Calder and see how they use shapes.

Explain that form is a shape or figure with length, width, and height. We can explore form through three-dimensional works of art, such as sculpture. Isamu Noguchi carved materials such as marble and wood to study form. Some of his pieces have sweeping curves, while others are more angular or geometric. Eva Hesse draped different materials such as rope and net to create organic forms. Dance also explores form through movement and bodies. Help children understand that form can also be achieved in two-dimensional works of art through shading and color.

In art, space is the area explored or shown in a work. We can observe what is in the background, foreground, or middle ground in a piece of art, such as a photograph. Observe a photo together and point out objects in the foreground or background. How are the objects in the background different? Explain that objects that are farther away in a photo or landscape painting might be smaller and have less detail than the ones in the foreground or middle ground. The painting Christina’s World uses space to communicate a mood. The houses in the background and the subject seem very far apart, which communicate a sense of aloneness or even sadness. In three-dimensional forms of art, space can be explored in different ways. Artists such as Richard Serra and Rachel Whiteread have created large sculptures and installations that create spaces for people to explore.

Help children use the elements of art to explore different ideas and experiment in their own artwork. They can also use the elements to describe art that they observe and study. Encourage children to compare works and explain what they like about pieces using the elements of art vocabulary.