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					Expressive Properties

     Communicating Ideas through
       Shape with Associations
   An important thing to remember is that
    artists look for associations they can make
    with shapes in order to communicate their
   The examples on the pages of this slide
    presentation are only a few examples to
    help you get a feel for how artists do this.
   Never Ending - A circle doe not have a
    beginning or an end. This inherent
    property can be used to symbolize eternal,
    endless, immortality, ageless, etc.
   Full - Things such as balloons or pillows
    become rounded as they are filled. Thus a
    circle can suggest complete, whole,
    opulent, etc.

   Perfect – In a true circle the edge or line is
    always equidistant from the exact center.
    This quality can represent complete,
    whole, exact, flawless, immaculate,
    absolute, etc.

   Soft – A circle is made up of a curving line.
    This quality might represent smooth,
    graceful, feminine, comfort, etc.
   Balance – An ellipse
    has much the same
    qualities as a circle.
    However, because its
    shape is longer and
    more symmetrical, it
    may communicate             Harmony   – An ellipse has a
    equilibrium, stability,     long and short axis. Its shape
    symmetry, etc.              appears harmonious. It can
                                suggest accord, grace,
                                unison, elegance, etc.
   Egg – An oval is similar to
    an ellipse, but it looks
    more like an egg (ovum)
    and can suggest such
    things as nature, life,
    mortality, birth, inherent,

   Hope – During the
    Renaissance the oval was
    the symbol for hope in
    Jesus Christ and the
    resurrection. It can
    suggest peace, solace,
    comfort, etc.
   Target – Concentric circles
    are like targets and can
    suggest such things as aim,
                                  Concentric Circles
    focus, concentrate, condense,
    surround, enclose, encircle,
    entrance, hypnotize, etc.
   Tunnel – Concentric circles
    sometimes suggest lines of a
    tunnel or tube. (Some people
    get a feeling of falling into a
    pit or hole.)
   Hypnotic – They can suggest
    restriction, confinement,
    claustrophobia, entombment,
    tension, stress, nightmare,
   Motion – They can appear to
    rotate, spin, swirl, reel or
    revolve and can portray a
    sense of being dizzy, light-
    headed, etc.
                  Star or Sunburst
   Sun – A sun or star radiating
    from a center can remind us
    of the rays of the sun and can
    suggest radiant energy, warm,
    sunny, mild, summery,
    enthusiastic, explosion,
    surprise, fireworks, etc.
   Flower – The rays of a
    sunburst radiate from the
    center and are like the petals
    of a flower. They can suggest
    organic growth of such things
    as a flower, blossom, or
   Explosion – Irregular shapes
    can sometimes appear like
    fireworks, a flare, a fire, etc.
   Weak – Things such as jelly and
    amoebas have amorphous,
    undefined or formless shapes.
    Amorphous shapes can suggest
    things such as feeble, flimsy, faint,
   Liquid – Paint or ink spills typically
    have amorphous shapes and can
    suggest accident, stain, spill,
    runny, flood, etc.
   A Ghost – Ghosts or apparitions
    are typically portrayed as having
    amorphous or formless shapes.
    Phantoms, spirits, and spooks can
    have amorphous shapes. They can
    appear to flow, run wiggle, move
    creep , quiver, etc.
   Natural – Many natural
    objects have complex
    shapes. They can suggest
    reality, actuality, fact, not
    a dream, verity, actual
    existence, etc.
   Complicated – Complex
    shapes are made of many
    smaller shapes and can
    look difficult, hard to
    manufacture, elaborate,
    intricate, etc.
   Ragged – Frayed fabric,
    broken glass, or ripped
    paper can have an
    irregular edge. Shapes
    with irregular edges or
    outlines can suggest
    warn, broken, cracked,
    ripped, decayed,
    deteriorated, etc.
   Delicate – They might
    also have the appearance
    of complexity, perplexity,
    intricate, etc.
   Honest – The phrase
    “square deal” is used to     Squares
    mean an honest deal; thus
    a square can suggest being
    correct, having integrity,
   Strong – A square or
    rectangle is a common
    shape for buildings; thus a
    square can suggest solidity,
    security, stability, firmness,
   Confinement – Fences often
    enclose a square or
    rectangular area; thus a
    square can suggest being
    confined, having limits, etc.
   Earth – The square was a
    symbol for the earth during
    the Renaissance.

   Direction – A rectangle is longer than a square
    and its axis is more apparent. Because of its
    shape the axis can show direction or
   Opening – A rectangle is the shape for many
    openings such as a door or window. It can
    suggest a portal, entry, or entrance.
   Support – Vertical shapes are
    associated with strength and
    support because columns are used
    to hold up buildings. They can
    suggest strength, balance, etc.
   Classic – When vertical shapes are
    associated with Greek buildings
    having columns and pediments,
    such as the Parthenon, they can
    suggest dignity, stateliness,
    stillness, noiseless, timeless,
    ageless, resistance to change,
    classic etc.
   Upright – Because people stand
    upright, vertical shapes are
    associated with life, uprightness,
    integrity, firmness, etc.

    Rest – Horizontal shapes may be associated with
     rest, since humans sleep lying down. It can also
     suggest death, as a final rest.
    Silence – Horizontal shapes may be associated
     with, rest, sleep, quietness, serenity, peace, etc.
    Speed – With appropriate visual cues such as
     automobiles or arrows, horizontal shapes can
     suggest speed, motion, swiftness, etc.
   Action – Diagonal shapes
    can be associated with
    motion and action,
    because things such as
    running people, falling
    trees, and lightning are
    on an angle when they
    are in motion.
   Instability – Diagonal
    shapes can be associated
    with imbalance,
    misfortune, chaos,
    agitation, etc.

   Order – Shapes
    arranged in some
    logical order can
    suggest movement,
    order, logic, etc.
   Strength – A triangle resting on
    its base suggests great stability
    because a triangle in this
    position would be difficult to
   Timelessness – a triangle is the
    shape of the pyramids and can
    suggest things such as timeless,
    ageless, unchanging,
           Can you count the number of triangles?
             Inverted Triangle

   Unstable – A triangle sitting on one point
    is very unstable and is likely to fall over. It
    can suggest instability, weakness, dread,
    imbalance, fear, caution.

   Energy – Jagged
    shapes look like
    electricity and can
    suggest energy,
   Anxiety – These kinds
    of shapes can be
    used to portray
    anxiety, tension, fear,
    dread, suspense.
   Knife – Long, pointed
    triangles – whether
    straight or curved – can
    remind us of things such
    as knives, needles, spears
    or broken glass. They can
    suggest pain, hurt, harm,
    danger, abuse, damage,
    destruction, etc.
Dotted Line
   Invisible – A shape with
    a dotted or broken line
    is often used to show a
    viewer something that
    others may not be able
    to see. In these kinds of
    situations a dotted line
    can suggest such things
    as ethereal, not seen,
    airy, weightless, breezy,
    immaterial, intangible.
   Mysterious – Implied
    shapes are hidden and
    appear as if there is a
    secret image or a secret
    message. In these kinds
    of situations implied
    shapes can suggest such
    things as mystery, magic,
    supernatural, mystical,
    secret, wizardry, psychic,
    indefinable, hidden, evil,
    spiritual, airy, or without
     Expressive Properties of Shape

   Can you think of other shapes that would
    be expressive to other people through a
    general association?
1.   Define shape.
2.   What is the difference between a geometric
     and an organic shape? Give and example of
3.   What is the difference between a biomorphic
     and amorphic shape? Give and example of
4.   What are positive and negative shapes?
5.   List six qualities of shapes.

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