Paintings are created with one or more elements of color, value, shape, form, texture, line, space, and direction. They define an artist’s style because they are produced intuitively and perceived subjectively. I favor the first three because they create the fourth, form. These four convey light and shadow, while texture establishes details, used in key areas. I usually use the last three, line, space, and direction in background and supporting shapes to help guide the eye to the subject or to a special part of it.
In my painting Semi-palmated Sandpiper (above), you can see how color, value and shape suggest form. Because the curved lines of the reeds surrounding this subject are similar to the bird’s round shape, they help connect it to its background and seem to point directly toward it (direction). Value establishes the reeds’ three-dimensional cylindrical forms, whether broken or whole. Similar color in the bird’s back and reeds visually connects subject and background spaces. Soft edges in the water and open space in the bird’s belly provide areas for the eye to rest. This combination of elements unifies all in this particular painting.