We have explored line as an element of art and if you missed it look at last Monday’s blog post. I hope you have all taken the time to look through your portfolio or your favorite photographs to see what kind of role line plays in them and if it is something you want to explore further to bring your vision into focus. As we continue to explore the five elements of art; the second one I want to explore today is that of shape.
Everything is made up of shapes; one just can’t get around shape! (Well, actually there are round shapes-circles, cylinders…) There are two dimensional shapes like circles, squares, triangles and ovals that we all think of immediately, we can all easily draw these on a piece of paper. Perhaps as a child you played with toys and manipulated shapes into particular matching spaces. But there are also three dimensional shapes like cones, cylinders, spheres and cubes, shapes with volume and mass in which perspective and shading will bring about on a two-dimensional surface like paper. Shape is the "architecture" of a drawing, painting or photograph. If you look and think shapes everything is made up of shapes, even a square is really two triangles! Most objects we don’t think of so literally as purely made up as shapes, after all isn’t it just a face or a building or a landscape, isn’t it just a starfish? Shape is not confined to being angular or abstract, but the elements are in everything; we just don’t always look at things and think, that’s a circle or square or a triangle. But my largest purpose in exploring this early is to get you thinking about the shape of things and what those shapes convey, angular and sharp or harsh or are they fluid and circular or sensual? If we begin to think shape we can begin to realize what role it plays in our work. I want you to think about the human face for a moment, we all love people and a face has similar qualities in shape with some variations on that shape. Some faces are more angular and some more oval. Please consider this photograph. I only chose a few prominent shapes in the photograph but I am certain you can find more within those shapes particularly within the face.
Here also notice a simile of sorts where you have a rectangle, triangle, circle, skewed rectangle, and then finally a triangle. If the eyes don’t “grab” your attention the placement of the oval in the photograph will. Here is an example of a more angular and square face.
We can see where shape/s might be repeated; even though they are different objects the shapes contained in them may be the same---and don’t forget the “negative space!” You can see how shape will come into play in the principle of balance. Consider these photographs from nature and the shapes found within them. Notice on the sunflower photograph called “Flaming” we have the idea of a circle, even though it is not fully visible contributing to the abstract feel of this photograph.
And this architectural photograph of the Sydney Opera House where the triangular sail was its inspiration.
I also want to direct you to a few photographs from my fellow photographer Amanda Stone. In this particular photograph the elements of shape make this image wonderful to me; take note of the negative space involved in the snow angels on the driveway and the repetition of the triangle and how that makes it especially appealing. Take special note of how the negative space triangles produce a simile of the other snow angels and is an angel all on its own!
Do you see a thread in your work for shape to be a predominant factor? What do the shapes in your work convey to those who view it? Does it evoke the kind of response you are trying to bring forward? Shape does come into play in composition so it is definitely something for us to think about and consider; such in that you don't want this big old square or other shape floating in the middle of the photo, unless you want to do a Dali! Now think about line and shape together and how they fit in your photography and your vision. What is it that you are choosing to do in your work, is it conscious? Can it be? If we contemplate some of these concepts before we go out to photograph things our photography will maintain our vision more fully as we consciously bring in or leave things out of the frame.
Some masters to consider studying when it comes to shape playing a major part in their work, view the work of Cezanne, particularly his still life paintings and Chagall and his stained glass windows and Picasso or any cubist really. They were all great shape artists.