The concept of form in art, is one of the most fundamental elements of painting. As it is the construction of an object, figure, or scene in three dimensions, giving the illusion of depth and solidity.
Form can be created using various techniques, such as the use of light and shadow and the manipulation of color. So, in this article, we will delve deeper into the concept of form in art and painting. However, we’ll not only explore its meaning but also uncover the traditional methods behind its creation. So join me by scrolling down and learning more about the essence of form and how to apply it in your own work!
Using Light and Shadow to Create Form in Art
One of the primary ways of creating the illusion of form is through the use of light and shadow. It is the contrast between light and dark areas that creates the illusion of three-dimensionality. In order to create convincing shadows in your painting, it’s essential to understand how light works and be able to simplify and group your values together.
To do so, it helps to understand what to look for and what you see when you look at light. This can be easily seen and understood in a model of a sphere. As it illustrates an orderly and predictable series of values and how light functions in nature.
When you break things down in such a way it makes it easier to understand more complex value situations.
This is most easily seen in a model of a sphere. classic model of consider the direction of the light source and the angle of the object in question. For example, a cube will have sharp, defined shadows if the light is coming from a single source directly above it.
Creating Form in Color
Color temperature plays an exceedingly important role in the creation of form. Since it follows laws and rules of nature, it has a predictable pattern as well. So, it is very helpful to understand HOW light works in nature, as this helps you to understand what you are seeing.
The sphere diagram above illustrates a classic north facing light situation. You can see how warm and cool temperature colors essentially alternate. The highlight is extremely cool while the light is cool until it changes into a warm light halftone. After the light halftone the light then changes to a cool dark halftone before the warm core shadow starts. After the warm core shadow we can see the warm reflected light.
The way the color temperature works in the diagram changes however once exposed to a different type of light. For example, if the light is warm instead of cool, then you will see a cooler shadow instead of a warm shadow. This becomes increasingly more complicated once you start to add multiple different light sources.
Understanding the basic model of color temperature
In the diagram below you can see how a warm light mass results in a cool temperature shadow. Whatever light situation you find yourself in, the important thing is to understand the basic model of color temperature as shown in both diagrams shown here. This will help you to understand and interpret what you are seeing in different types of lighting situations.
Examples of Form in Art History
It helps to see some real life examples of form in art. As you can see how the models of light and color temperature apply to painting.
Above is a detail of a painting by Hans Holbein. You can see the important color temperature and form change at the top bridge of the nose as it moves down towards the corner of the eye. As the light becomes darker, the color temperature alternates between cool and warm. As you can see, both color temperature and value have an incredibly important impact on creating convincing dimension in a painting.
The example shown in the Hans Holbein painting has a very narrow range of value. In other words, the difference between the light and shadow is very small as the diagram above illustrates. Despite how close they might be on the value scale, color temperature helps to create a clear sense of form as well as sense of light.
The wide value range of form
Form in art is just as relevant in a wide value range. In this detail of an Ingres painting you can see how color temperature and value changes from the cool light down to the warm shadow. We can see and feel the dimension and shape of the cheek. It has volume only because of the color temperatures and value at play.
The range between the lightest and darkest value is far greater than the painting by Hans Holbein. Despite, the changes in color temperature are just as relevant and important.
Use of form in art and landscapes
Creating form in art is just as relevant in still life, landscape and or abstract painting as it is in portrait and figure painting. The laws of light and color temperature applies to any and every subject matter.
In this seascape detail by Simon de Vlieger, color temperature and value give form and dimension to the painting. This is a great example of how painters can create clouds that have a believable sense of volume and shape.
How to Apply Form in Your Own Painting
While it is very important to understand how value and color temperature work to create a sense of light. It is just as crucial for you to employ this knowledge while observing the wonders of nature. Most often, the shifts between values and temperature is so subtle that it can be difficult to see.
Understanding the principles of value and form in art, can heighten your perception of color shifts. In turn, allowing you to create more authentic depth and realism in your art and painting.
Nevertheless, there is no substitute for taking brush in hand and actively applying the lessons learned. Thus, select a subject matter of your preference; it could be a simple still life object or portrait. Take note of the subtle temperature variations that happen across a subject’s face or the interplay of light and shadow upon walls in your own home. The more you intentionally observe, the better you will become at capturing form in your art and painting!
What’s your experience with form? Do you feel like your work captures it well or is this a struggle for you? Let me know in the comments below!