A Recipe For Success: The importance of teaching the elements and principles of art.


Becoming an artist is a little like becoming a chef..

Ingredients and Recipe

Much like a trainee chef, visual arts students need to learn about ingredients – the ingredients of a pleasing artwork. The characteristics of ingredients, how they react with one another, and what ingredients they need to add to make their artworks ‘taste’ or look better. Too few or too many ingredients or ingredients used in poor ways, results in an unsuccessful recipe or unsuccessful artwork.

We want our students to be able to look at their own artworks and know what ingredients (elements of art) they need to use to communicate their message and to make it a success. We also want our students to develop the knowledge of how to use these ingredients (principles of art) to put the ingredients together into a successful recipe.

Much like chefs with successful recipes or inedible meals, students learn and develop as artists by their successes and failures. In each and every artwork, they learn about what ingredients worked well and what ingredients they would use differently the next time they create. An unsuccessful artwork is not a failure but an opportunity to learn.

As a teacher of the visual arts, over time, your responsibility is to provide making and appreciating activities that:

Give the students the knowledge and understanding about these ingredients through direct instruction of their use and through appreciation of their use in the student’s artworks and the artworks of others.

Give students the skills to put this knowledge of ingredients into practice, through the exploration of different subject matter, art forms and mediums in both directed and self-directed activities.

The ‘Recipe’ to a successful artwork:

The Ingredients: Elements of Art

  • Line
  • Shape
  • Colour
  • Space (2D)
  • Tone/Value
  • Texture
  • Form (3D)

The Recipe: Principles of Art (Composition – How we put the ingredients together)

  • Balance
  • Contrast
  • Emphasis
  • Movement
  • Pattern
  • Rhythm
  • Unity

A recipe for success