Shape vs Form

by lesley // posted on Aug 7, 2017

When we talk about shape we're referring to 2D.  Form is 3D. 

While both define objects situated in space, shape is simple - form is complex.

Shape is categorized in two ways: geometric and organic.

Geometric shapes are a square, circle, triangle, hexagon, etc. and have recognizable labels.

Organic shapes are found in nature.  They're described by their characteristics as in cloud shaped, tree shaped, river shaped, etc. An abstract blob is an organic shape.

Form takes up volume and is used to describe the elements of things like sculpture and pottery, 3 dimensional objects we can hold.

Painters, working on a 2D surface must develop the skill of building form into their shapes if they want to create the illusion of depth.  You can't have form without light because movement of light (and shadow) across an object is what gives it it's form.  This is where a strong understanding of value is essential. (we'll cover the value element in a future post)

Trompe L'oeil is an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions.  Trompe L'oeil translates as "fools the eye" and is a great example of how a painter can convert shape into form. 

(example of Trompe L'oeil taken from Pinterest)

Simple practices to further understand shape and form: draw a circle (shape) then change that circle into a sphere (form) using light and shadow; draw an oval (shape) and convert it to a cylinder (form); change a square (shape) into a cube (form) or a rectangle (shape) into a pyramid (form) - the options are only limited by you're imagination.

Three elements to go.  Next time we'll visit value, which seems to be the most difficult of the seven elements to grasp.  I struggled with it for quite some time when I started painting and have discovered while teaching workshops, that value causes more distress in students than any of the other elements combined.


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