top of page

Elements of Art 3: Shape & Form

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

The next stop in our exploration of the elements of art are Shape & Form. In the last posts we've talked about Line and Texture, and today we'll be learning about 2 very closely related topics: Shape & Form. I chose to have these 2 be together on one post because they are so closely related and I think learning about them at the same time is helpful.


For most people the idea of a shape is easy enough to grasp. The basic ones are triangles, circles, squares, and so forth. However, when used in visual art, shapes become the building blocks for how a piece or object is put together. Generally speaking, artists use shapes to get the basic idea of an object they are trying to draw/paint.

Shapes are 2 dimensional and therefore have no depth to them. Also, they cannot have light or shadow to them. They're only flat. They can, however, be geometric or organic. Some basic examples are shown below.

To use shapes in drawing or painting, we can either use them as they are, or use them to build upon. Many artists use traditional shapes in abstract art. But, if want to be more concrete in what we want to portray, we can use shapes to create objects or other subject matter. The best way to think about this is as those "Learn to draw" books people use where they would have basic shapes that you use to turn it into an animal or whatever it is you're trying to draw.

Some learn to draw using shapes with this technique

Learning to use shapes in creating objects takes a lot of practice, as with anything. But, the main goal to understand is to try and see an object as being made up of smaller shapes. It can be difficult to grasp at first, but with practice, you will get better at it. Plus, we'll have some practice doing this with our exercise this week. But, this reminds me of something one of my art teachers used to say to us: "Drawing is easy, seeing is difficult." I'm not sure if she was quoting someone else, but the thought always stuck with me. You can draw easily, it's just learning to perceive objects and translate them into drawings that is the hard part.


Form is the brother to shape. They are very closely related and tend to go hand in hand with one another. What we come to classify as a "form" is really nothing more than a

shape with dimension to it. Form takes a 2D shape and adds the 3rd dimension of depth to it. These have light and shadow to them. Like shapes, they can also be geometric (like cubes or spheres) or organic.

In art, we can use forms in different ways. The most common is by taking a shape and expanding it into a form. Using shapes within objects, we can convert them into having depth and changing them into forms. Also, although it is more difficult, we can take forms themselves and create solely in the 3rd dimension, skipping the shape building step. This also takes a great deal of practice and can be difficult for even experienced artists.


For this week's exercise, let's try our hand at outlining shapes in objects. You can pick items from around your house, or just search the web for different objects or animals. Once you have your items or images chosen, we'll try and find the shapes that are hidden within them. I've done a few examples below ranging in difficulty, so practice at whatever level you feel comfortable with.

The complexity and number of shapes all depends on you!

As for form, we can take the shapes we drew from our objects and try and turn them into something 3 dimensional. The level of detail you want to add to this is completely up to you. But, just trying to make it appear more 3D is the basis of what we're trying to accomplish with this. The way we accomplish this is by adding various amounts of shading to our shapes. Wherever the light source is (or where the light is coming from) will be the brightest part of the object. And, on the opposite end, will be the darkest part of the object. Using a light source and understanding lighting is a topic in and of itself, so don't get discouraged if you don't get it quite yet. The main thing is knowing that light and dark should be on opposite ends of an object.

Use line or simple shading to give a 3D effect

Weekly Challenge

The challenge this week is going to be apply the same techniques used in the exercise above to more complex objects. It helps to start simply, with things that aren't too complicated, but in order to improve faster, we have to constantly challenge ourselves.

I'd love to see what you've accomplished and you can share them with me on social media here: twitter, facebook, and instagram. Also, if you have any questions or need clarification on anything just let me know!

Next week we'll be learning about my absolute favorite element: Color! Brace yourself, because this is going to be an intense one. But, I'll try and keep it simple for the beginners out there!

Until next time... :)

28 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page