The Alphabet of Art


Type Contrast Resulting Attributes
Large Maximum Emotionally Active
Esthetically dynamic
Spatially in depth
Small Minimum Emotionally passive
Esthetically decorative
Spatially static
An artist uses large size to make things appear near and of greater importance, and small size to make things appear far away or less important.

Carol Cloar used Size in his painting "My Father Was as Big as a Tree" by painting the father large in the foreground and the tree farther away in the middleground. Because the father is so large, he appears to be as big as the tree. Other modern painters have used size to their advantage, including abstract painters such as Morris Louis, who painted pictures of such huge size that the frame was unimportant.

Leonardo da Vinci, who never painted a picture unless it was to illustrate an intellectual point, illustrates the Element of Size in the "Mona Lisa." The lady occupies the foreground. The landscape in the middleground is moved to the background by making it smaller than it would normally appear to be. The picture therefore goes from foreground to background and eliminates the middleground in the picture plane. In so doing, Leonardo obtained maximum contrast of the large lady imposed on the faraway landscape.

Choose a topic to read more about the Alphabet:
Line Line Direction Shape Size
Texture Value Color Composition
The Attributes The Picture Plane

Return to the Home Page About the Authors