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Chapter 5 Summary—English

Shape, Form, and Space

Lesson 1: Shapes and Forms
All objects are either shapes or forms. A shape is a two-dimensional area that is defined in some way. There are two types of shapes: geometric and free-form. Geometric shapes are precise shapes that can be described using mathematical formulas. Geometric shapes include circle, square, triangle, oval, rectangle, octagon, parallelogram, trapezoid, pentagon, and hexagon. Free-form or “organic” shapes are irregular and uneven shapes. Forms are three-dimensional. They are like shapes because they have length and width, but they also have depth. Shapes like squares and triangles can “grow” into forms such as cubes and cones. Like shapes, forms can also be geometric or free-form. Houses are usually geometric forms while your body is a free-form form. Artists create both shapes and forms. In two-dimensional works, they can use lines and shapes to represent forms.

Lesson 2: Space
We exist in space and move through it. Our bodies take up space as do all shapes and forms. In art, space is the element that refers to the emptiness or area between, around, above, below, or within objects. In both two- and three-dimensional art, the shapes and forms are called the positive space, or the figure. Empty spaces around shapes and forms are called negative spaces, or ground. The shape and size of negative spaces affect the way you interpret positive spaces. Some artists give equal emphasis to both negative and positive space in order to confuse the viewer. Over, under, through, behind, and around are words that describe three-dimensional space. Architects create buildings that both occupy and enclose spaces. Artworks that are freestanding are surrounded by negative space whereas relief sculpture projects into negative space. When the positive areas project slightly from the flat surface, the work is called bas-relief or low relief. When the positive areas project farther out, the work is called high relief. To experiment with space, artists add three-dimensional, or relief, features to two-dimensional artworks such as prints and fabrics. Photographers create holograms, which are images in three-dimensions created with a laser beam. Sculptors make kinetic sculpture, which moves through space.

Lesson 3: How We Perceive Shape, Form, and Space
Your eyes and brain work together to allow you to see in three dimensions—height, width, and depth. Each eye sees an object from a different angle; so your brain merges the two views into one three-dimensional image. But this image depends on your point of viewthe angle from which your eyes see the object. You see a shape or form very differently if you are standing above it as opposed to lying beside it. Your hand can look very different depending on the way you turn or move it, and a rectangular table may not look rectangular if you sit across the room from it. When your relationship to an object changes, what you see also changes.

Lesson 4: How Artists Create Shapes and Forms in Space
Shapes and forms can be classified as natural or manufactured. Artists use many materials and techniques to make shapes. They concentrate on both outline and area. They also model, mold, and carve three-dimensional forms. Artists who work on two-dimensional surfaces can create the illusion of three-dimensional form. To show forms, they use changes in value. They arrange light and shadow on shapes in ways that mimic reality. This arrangement of light and shadow is called chiaroscuro. To create the illusion of depth—the impression that some objects and shapes are closer to you than others—they use perspective. Perspective is a graphic system that creates the illusion of depth and volume on a two-dimensional surface. Artists use six main techniques to give their artworks perspective. (1) They overlap objects, where one object covers part of a second object, and the first object seems to be closer to the viewer. (2) They include differences in size, where large objects appear to be closer to the viewer than small objects. (3) They place objects at different levels on the picture plane to be closer to the viewer than objects placed near eye level. (4) They include differences in detail. (5)They alter the value and intensity of colors. (6) They incorporate converging lines to show distance and depth. To create the illusion of forms and depth, artists must try to represent the way we perceive things in real life.

Lesson 5: What Different Spaces, Shapes, and Forms Express
Shapes, forms, and spaces in art can cause us to feel certain ways since we associate them with similar shapes, forms, and spaces in real life. Smooth, curved outlines and surfaces can be soothing. Angular shapes with zigzag outlines and forms with pointed projections can cause us to feel uncomfortable. Perfectly geometric shapes seem orderly and stable, perhaps expressing a lack of emotion. The density or mass of an object refers to how compact it is. Dense materials seem strong and unyielding and may suggest protection. Less dense forms are soft and fluffy and seem comfortable. An open shape, form, or space, which you can see through or inside, can be welcoming. For example, an armchair is an open form that invites you to sit; an open door invites you to enter. On the other hand, closed forms, such as windowless buildings, can look forbidding and say, “Keep away.” Just as lines can be active and static, so can shapes and forms. Active shapes and forms slant diagonally and seem energetic. Static shapes and forms are usually horizontal or arranged like an equilateral triangle. These forms evoke quiet and calm feelings.


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