Shape is an important element of art.  Very simply put, shape is simply an enclosed line. Shapes are flat; 2 dimensional.  They can be geometric or organic.

Geometric shapes are mathematical, regular, and generally associated with manmade things.


Organic shapes are more natural and irregular.  Often they are just free form.


Shape Can Be Literal and Obvious

When we talk about shape, sometimes we mean that we use basic shapes to create other things.  That’s why how to draw tutorials are so awesome.  When we put basic shapes together we can draw quite intricate things.  How-to-draw tutorials are powerful teaching tools for teaching about shape because they teach kids to see the shapes in items.  Check out the Layers of Learning How To Draw Pinterest Board for a collection of tutorials that use shape to draw items.  Here’s a sneak peak of it . . .

You can also play with literal shapes using tangrams.  Click on the following picture to get a printable tangram you can use.

You can either solve tangram puzzles that have already been made, or use the tangram pieces to create your own puzzles and see all the cool things you can make with a few basic geometric shapes.


By Kazi S. M. Faysal(Naogaon)Wiki naogaon at bn.wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons
To take a look at literal shape as used in some very famous artwork, take a look at the shape compositions made by Piet Mondrian.  Look in an art book or online.  You won’t have any trouble spotting his use of shape.

Shape Can Be Natural, or Implied

Famous artists throughout time have used shape in all sorts of ways.  Sometimes it’s very natural like the implied shape of a triangle you can see formed by Mary’s body in this painting called “The Virgin and the Child” by Lucas Cranach the Elder:

Lucas Cranach the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Can you spot other shapes in the painting?

Make Your Own Shape Art

Begin by cutting out shapes, both organic and geometric from poster board.  Arrange them how you’d like and then glue them to a piece of cardboard.  Once they are adhered, spread  a thin layer of glue over the top of the whole thing.  Place a piece of foil over the entire surface, then press down along the lines of your shapes under the foil.

You will see your shapes appear in your foil art.


You can also paint foil and use sharpies on it, so if you’d like to add color to your foil shape art, go ahead,  Go crazy with color.

Additional Layers:

  • Draw these items using simple shapes: a Ferris wheel, a house, a boat, a castle, a train.
  • Go for a walk and sketch things you see using basic shapes, both geometric and organic.
  • Flip through an art book and point out the shapes you see – geometric, organic, concrete, or implied.

Go check out Layers of Learning Unit 1-11 for lots more fun with the art element of shape:


Layers of Learning Unit 1-11 sample page

For lots more learning fun, we hope you connect with us!  We love getting to know our readers, so leave us a comment or come visit us on Facebook and keep in touch!

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