In my last couple of posts I have suggested that seeing “things” in nature is not the same as seeing God’s creation. My reasoning is that when you see “things” you see them in terms of their names or identity, and God did not create their names – man did. In the post entitled “Learning to See Like Adam Saw” I pointed out that when God created all the stuff of the natural world He used various combinations of what we now call “The Seven Basic Elements of Visual Design.” Those elements are line, shape, form, value, color, texture, and space.
While everything that you see is a combination of the basic elements, each artist will seem to be particularly sensitive to specific elements. As a result, their works will emphasize those elements and, eventually. take on a stylistic quality that reflects their fascination.
I’ve picked out the seven paintings above to demonstrate what I mean. In Blue Mountain I am struck by the artist’s powerful use of value. We see not only extreme dark and light areas but all the middle values as well. In Autumn Cottage the artist has done a fine job of eliminating distraction so that complex forms are reduced to basic shapes. Even though the forms of the buildings are captured in that we see them as three-dimensional, we recognize the forms as developing from basic shapes. Notice in Three Apples that Cezanne seems to be so aware of the outside edge of the apples. His use of line emphasizes those outside edges. In the Van Gogh painting we find an almost sensuous capturing of texture. In the still life by Schlosser we find a masterful capturing of form. Here the forms are not dependent upon basic shapes as they were in the Autumn Cottage. The items look so 3-D that we are sure we could pick them up and turn them over. In Schmidt’s floral still life on the other hand we are thrilled with her exuberant use of color in the most unexpected places. Finally, in Greg Olsen’s Country Lane we find a sense of space so skillfully depicted that we feel as if we could enter the painting and walk down the path. Without a doubt each art piece involves all of the elements, but you can see how each artist emphasized one or two of them. Compare the pieces with similar subject matter and notice how their unique sensitivity impacted the overall work.
While producing art requires the artist to see in terms of the basic elements, every child of God should learn to see the world around them as unique combinations of line, shape, form, value, color, texture, and space. Doing so would increase their appreciation for God and His creative powers and begin to give hints about the nature and character of the God behind creation.
In the next few posts I am going to spend a little time on each of the elements. I’ll show and discuss several art pieces that emphasize that element. I will also discuss the invisible qualities of God that I think the visual element is hinting at.