If you've just stumbled onto this blog, please forgive the appearance; it's still under construction. If I've used one of your photos (found on Google) in a lecture and you don't approve, please write a comment and I'll remove it.

The purpose of this blog is to explain the basics of art and culture to English language learners in secondary school in Slovakia. This is not for profit. If you look to your right, you'll see a long list of topics that I plan to cover. This is a large project that will most likely take years to complete, covering some topics I know little about (like dance), so I will be borrowing heavily from other experts, with their permission, giving credit wherever possible. Please be patient, and, of course, all advice is greatly appreciated.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Choosing Canvas Shapes 1

One important aspect of art making is how artists choose the size and shape of their work. In 2D art, there are three basic options:

·        a portrait format rectangle (vertical)
·        a landscape format rectangle (horizontal)
·        a square
So, how does an artist choose? It's not so simple as saying all portraits have to be portrait format. There are exceptions:

Breakfast in Bed, by Mary Cassatt

Nor must all landscapes be horizontal:

Sketch on the Huntington River, Vermont, by Sanford Gifford

The main question for an artist isn't what the subject is, but whether you want the viewer to look up-and-down, or side-to-side. That's what rectangles do. They help suggest how viewers should move their eyes.

What about squares? What do they do? Well, they're a bit more claustrophobic. :)
With nowhere to turn, you tend to look more at the center:

Daedalus Sorrow, by Pedro Inacio

And squares work really well with circular compositions, where your eye travels in a circle:

The Music Lesson, by William Merritt Chase

Those are the basics, but they're not your only options. Artists have used alternatives for centuries, primarily the tondo - a circular or oval shaped canvas.

The Alba Madonna, by Raffaello Sanzio
20th century artists have developed "shaped canvases", where the shape and design of the canvas is the main creative focus - blurring the line between painting and sculpture:

by Charles Hinman

by Frank Stella

by Frank Stella

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