Continuing in our series The Elements and Principles of Art, up next is form. When an artist uses form, he or she uses techniques to show 3 dimensionality (either real or perceived). A square is a flat shape, but a cube is a square with form.
Form is an illusion in 2D art like paintings, movies, or other pieces of flat art. Form is used in reality in art forms such as sculpture or other physical 3D art.
For the most part, artists use form as an illusion and there are various techniques used to imply form, mainly through lighting, contours, perspective, and contrast.
In these cases, the contrast of light and shadow can be used to suggest form, as can the simple contour lines as seen in the cube and cylinder above. Single, double, and complex perspective techniques, as well as atmospheric perspective, can all give the illusion of depth and form. Contrast of tone or color can be used to suggest form as well.
Understanding form is one thing, but learning how and why to use it is another. Starting with a basic understanding of what form is helps artists know how to talk and think about artistic choices.
Even in live action or CG films where form is native to the medium, there are certain scenes or sequences where the director intentionally flattens or enhances form to make an emotional connection to that part of the story or something the character is experiences.
The next time you watch a film, pay attention to form and how it is used by the director. It’s a great exercise in learning about form.