The holiday season is upon us, so I hope you have a safe and happy holiday! My family celebrates Christmas and last year was the first year I ever decorated our tree (mostly) by myself. I took on this same task again this year because I found it so much fun! While decorating, I realized that there are actually some of the principles of art that I took into consideration. Now, I’m definitely not claiming to be the best — or even a good — Christmas tree decorator. I just love this part of my family’s tradition and I wanted to bring some of you lovely artistic minds into our process!
There are seven principles of art/design. They are balance, unity, movement, contrast, emphasis, pattern, and rhythm. These principles serve to organize the elements of art (line, shape, form, color, texture, space, and value) within an artwork. In other words, the principles of art allow us to play around with different ways to show these elements in a way that’s unique. I think throughout the process of decorating this tree, I used all of these principles to figure out which ornaments to hang and where to hang them!
I began with a lighted tree. My dad has a method to the way he strings the lights in order to emphasize the depth of the tree and make sure it’s lit throughout. When he was telling me about his process, I got the inspiration for this post! Here is his beautiful handiwork:
The next step of this process was to take out all of the ornaments and decide which ones to use. Here, I considered the principles of unity and of emphasis. Which ornaments would look best together to create a tree that looks put together? Which ornaments would be the most fun to look at while scanning the tree? I decided to use almost all of the unique ornaments that we had! I decided to go with a red, white, and green color palette to ensure that all of the ornaments would look good together while also standing out on their own!
While putting the ornaments on the tree, the principle of movement was considered also. Movement is how your eyes move throughout the artwork. The usual Christmas ribbon was added to the tree to draw your eyes up to the star at the top as well as down to the bottom branches. Emphasizing the verticality gives the illusion that the tree is a little taller as well. 😉 Here it is with all of the unique ornaments on it!
At this point, it’s a decorated tree! This could totally have been the end product, but adding a few extra elements ties in the last couple of artistic principles. Using some classic red and white baubles in a variety of sizes and finishes adds so much dimension to a tree! The first principle it utilizes is contrast through color. The red and white ornaments stand out from the deep green pines. The next is pattern due to the repetition of the same red and white colors and spherical shape throughout! Balance is utilized in an interesting way with these ornaments. Balance is a principle of distributing the elements of design within an artwork to create a feeling of equal weight or importance. I arranged the red and white ornaments symmetrically so that the smaller of these were closer to the top and the larger were closer to the bottom. This creates an effect of the tree branches and the ornaments both getting larger the further your eyes travel down the tree. Then I had a lot of left over tiny red ornaments, so I distributed them throughout the tree to create more unity of color and shape within the tree.
Thanks for joining me as I decorate our tree! I love looking at a super full tree knowing that every ornament was placed with care. Any way of decorating is so fun and is definitely not limited to the steps I used here, but this is how I saw it relate to some of the artistic principles that I’ve learned about. Anything can be art and art is everywhere! If you celebrate Christmas, let me know how you and your family decorate your tree in the comments! Have a happy holiday season!