Though perhaps no one can give a complete definition of what beauty is, we do come to understand that there are certain elements which combine to make beauty, whenever or wherever we find it. To recognize these elements and learn how they can serve us will greatly increase our prospects of achieving success as painters.
The elements of beauty are so well integrated that it is often very difficult to separate them for purposes of analysis. In discussing our principle or element it may be necessary to embrace another or even several others at the same time. Nevertheless, the attempt should be made to bring each other, separately, under our scrutiny. These are basic twelve:
1. Unity. The "oneness" which brings all the pictorial qualities together into a single or whole expression; the organization of design, color, line, values, textures, and subject into a combined and total expression.
2. Simplicity, or Clarity. The subordination of all material and detail that is irrelevant to the main thought; the reduction of the subject into the fundamentals of design, form, and pattern.
3. Design. The over-all relationship of areas, form and color. Design makes the picture
4. Proportion. Harmonious relation of each subject and each part of the picture. Distortion is the opposite of proportion, though some distortion may be legitimate, where an idea or an emotion might need greater emphasis.
5. Color. This is one of the strongest elements of beauty, and in using it the artist can not simply be guided by tastes, likes or dislikes. The relationship of color to values must be understood, as well as the basic principles of mixing and producing colors for realistic and harmonious effects.
6. Rhythm. Though this is often underestimated or misunderstood, it is a quality that contributed greatly to the beauty of a painting. There is rhythm in all animate and inanimate life, from the smallest forms to the cycles of the universe. Without it, form is static and lifeless. The repetition of similar colors or of lines or shapes of increasing or diminishing size will crate rhythm in a painting just as it does in nature. For instance there is rhythm in the repeating lines of trees with their branches and leaves, or in the lines of a zebra's back, or in the petals or markings of a flower.
7. Form. The structure of form in relation to the whole is a fundamental art principle, Everything is either form or space (solid or void) and neither can exist without the other. A painting is said to have "form" when the shapes of the objects contained in it are well outlined, well composed and properly contrasted with the open areas - such as a tree against the sky.
8. Texture. The rendering of surface. There is characteristics surface to all form, and this is as important as its structure. We can not achieve true beauty by painting all form with the same type of surface, as if all things were made of the same material, which is precisely what happens too often in otherwise good painting.
9. Values. Values and color are inseparably dependent upon each other. Neither can be true or beautiful alone. The proper relationship of values creates the effects of light and contributes to the unity of the picture. Incorrect relationships can do more than anything else to destroy beauty.
10. Quality of Light. An element of prime importance. The quality of the light in a painting blends with the actual light falling upon the picture and becomes part of it. There are many kinds of light - indoor, outdoor, sunlight, diffused light, reflected light. The source of light must be related to the modeling of form, to the kind and brilliancy of color and to the texture. Without a true understanding of light in a picture can become mere planes of paint and canvas.
11. Choice of Subject. This offers the artist his greatest chance to exercise individual taste. The limitless sources of life and nature are his to tap and form them he can select, design and produce a concentrated example of his own appreciation of beauty.
12. Technique. The means of expression rather than the expression itself. Technique includes understanding of surface and texture, knowledge of medium and its many methods of application. It is the personal rendering by which all the other elements are brought together.
When we find the elements that combine to create beauty in life, we can try to analyze and apply them to create beauty in our paintings. Beauty is not the special property of the artist. Beauty is perhaps just as evident to others, who may lack the knowledge and ability to re-create it. The rhythm and grace of an animal must be just as apparent to the lover of animals as to the artist. The difference is that we try to find out what makes the rhythm and grace in terms of line and proportion, so that our renderings are true and convincing.
The artist will do well to direct his efforts toward pleasing the viewer rather than the critics, for the viewer is the ultimate purchaser and I assume that most artists are interested in selling their work.