I haven't really run across a clear discussion of what the fundamentals are and why they are important so I thought I'd start this thread.
Visual art is about communicating - communicating an idea, a concept, a feeling, an emotion, etc. This is certainly the most important aspect of concept art. To communicate effectively one must be clear. To develop clarity in your work you must have a solid understanding of the fundamentals of visual art. Unfortunately, the vast majority of work I see both here and in the related digital art/illustration magazines lacks an understanding of the fundamentals and thus fails to communicate effectively.
The fundamental principles of visual art as I understand, study and teach them are (in order of importance):
1) Composition: if it isn't composed well it doesn't matter how well rendered, drawn or how much detail you put in - it all starts with composition.
2) Drawing: by this I mean accurate shape, form, scale, perspective and the way separate elements relate.
3) Value: light and shadow - this carries the rest of the image - this is also where 95% of the problems are - maybe more. Good value structure conveys a sense of light which is critical for environments and avoids that muddy, confused/chaotic light source problem which destroys otherwise good concepts.
4) Color: color is much more subjective/personal than value - it is not as complicated as people make it - the two important keys to color are temperature and saturation.
That's it. Give your concepts and ideas the effort they deserve. Study these things from life...understanding them will open doors both professionally and personally. I would be interested in what other professionals feel are the fundamentals...maybe you have an expanded list or some insight I've missed.
Thanks all! Study hard - play hard!