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What is form? Like the word shape, form is both a noun and a verb. As a noun, form means a state of matter: something or someone. It may be the outline of a two-dimensional image, the shape of a three-dimensional object, the composition of a sound, the structure of the human figure, the whole of a building or the outline of a city. As a verb, we may form an image or opinion in our mind.

When we form something, we make or create something into a distinct entity. We give it structure and shape. We give form to our ideas as artists and designers. Forms are basically rectilinear, angular, or curvilinear. Composition, color, choreography, texture, line and shape, all contribute to form. Forms may be simple or complex, regular or irregular, complete or incomplete. For most artists and designers, form and content are related. Content is what the work is about or what is intended to be seen or understood.

May the forms be with you!

Activity 1 – Form Ideas

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In your mind, think of a simple form (such as a circle, square, or triangle). Draw the simple shape in your journal. Next, model the shape using the third dimension. Print out the following forms and cut them out, glue them together and then make drawings of them in your journal. These are basic forms. Basic forms come from adding the third dimension to two-dimensional shapes. Now have some fun! Draw an irregular form. Make a three dimensional form for your irregular shape out of clay. Just as in shape, forms can be additive and subtractive. Take all three simple shapes (circle, square and triangle) and cut out a piece of them. You are left with an incomplete shape or a subtractive form. Next, draw the three shapes again and add a shape to them. You are creating an additive shape. Using clay, explore your additive and subtractive shapes into additive and subtractive forms. Take a digital photograph of your form next to your drawn shape. Print it and paste it and put it in your journal. Check out the web links to forms from sculptors, object designers and architects. Sketch some of them that you like in your journal. Fixate on forms in your world: on your desk top, out of your window, on the street.


Activity 2 – Forms From a 2d Image

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Find a painting that you like on the web or in a book. Make three copies of the painting. Cut the shapes out of the copies and rearrange them into new compositions: one rectilinear in arrangement, one angular and one curvilinear. Remember that motion in the composition can be rectilinear (right angles), angular (diagonal) or curvilinear (in a circular or arcing motion). Label each composition, staple them together into a packet and place them inside your journal.

Move with Form!

Activity 3 – Make a 3D Form

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Using the copy of the painting in Activity Two, you will take the two dimensional information from the painting as directions and turn the composition into a three dimensional space. Cut, tear and rip oak tag (or other stiff paper) to create a vertical rendition of the painting that a person or people could inhabit. Imagine what kind of space the shapes could become.

May you find the forms, may the forms find you!

Activity 4 – Visualizing Forms

Exploring forms offers many viewpoints and stretches our visual imagination. We can see different geometries, two dimensional and three dimensional. We can imagine linear, radial, and cubic forms. While 2D Geometry and 3D Geometry explore examples of measured points, lines, planes, and masses, sketching forms fluid explore and experiment with shape to form. Draw along with this video of forms.


  • Forms are the same as shapes.
  • What is the main difference between shape and form?
  • Most rooms are:
  • Nature is natural, not artificial.
  • Taking away from a form is called subtractive.
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