The visual field can be loosely defined as “everything a person sees.” The visual field includes everything that is visually perceived. In the case of examining a painting, the visual field includes not only the painting but also the area around the painting and any shapes that can be perceived in the periphery of vision. In terms of the visual arts, the visual field is a starting point for understanding visual awareness and can become directly relevant concept when considering display and presentation.
Point – A point is a conceptual reference to a specific location in space. A point has no size, no shape, no color, and covers no area. It indicates position alone, whether the position is on a two-dimensional plane or in a three-dimensional space. Most often, a point is perceived at an intersection, such as the corner of a square. Visually, something is needed to depict a location that covers no area so points are usually represented by a small mark or dot. It is important to note that the dot is not the point. For the purposes of drawing, the use of a dot to represent a point is valid but the distinction between a dot and a point is real. There are many essential points in a design that are never marked. Such points are often referred to as implied points.
* Alternate terms: vertex
In the image below, a point is implied by the intersections of the white lines. An optical illusion occurs at these intersections and creates a circle (large point).
Line – A line is a conceptual reference to a point in motion, a series of adjacent points, a connection between points, or an implied connection between points. A line has length but no width. Much like a point, the visual representation of a line does possess width, though typically very little width. A line can be straight, curved, move in one direction or change direction, be continuous or interrupted. In terms of visual perception, a line can be seen as a crack in a sidewalk, telephone wires against the sky, or bare tree branches in winter. There are many essential lines in a design that are never marked and such lines are often referred to as implied lines.
* Alternate terms: contour
Plane – A plane is a conceptual reference to a flat, two-dimensional area that has fixed dimensions. A plane has height and width but no depth or thickness. Much like a point or line, a plane can be visually represented through the use of depth cues such as a photograph of a hallway in which the floor is a plane.
* Alternate terms: surface, picture plane
Form – A form is a conceptual reference to a three-dimensional unit. A form has height, width, and depth and is defined by points, lines, and planes. In a two-dimensional application, a form is an illusion created through the use of depth cues. In a three-dimensional application, a form actually exists.
Alternate terms: object, volume
Figure/ground – Any shape that can be distinguished from the background is referred to a figure. The area around the figure is referred to as ground.
* Alternate terms: positive/negative space
Motion – Motion indicates change over time. Motion can indicate change of position or the ‘movement’ of a figure within the visual field, and motion can indicate change of size or the growth of a figure within the visual field. It is important to note that motion does not equate time and time does not equate motion; a figure could be stationary within the visual field over time and thus no motion occurs.
Gradient – A gradual increase or decrease of a visual quality such as size, orientation, brightness, or color (see Descriptors). The intervals of a gradient must be significant enough to discriminate change and must consist of sufficient intervals to sense a transition; three shapes will typically be insufficient to indicate a gradient.
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