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.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Principles of Composition - The Psychology of Order

"That which is static and repetitive is boring. That which is dynamic and random is confusing. In between lies art." John A. Locke

1. Repetition and pattern gives a sense of order and security. We know what's coming next.

But too much repetition becomes boring, cold, and mechanical. It's unnatural.

2. Disorder creates tension and interest. How people react to it depends on how chaotic the work is. It's a question of balance - between order and disorder.

Convergence, by Jackson Pollack

3. A great way to balance these concepts is with areas of complexity matched with wide, open, simple spaces that give our eyes a place to rest.

Ocean Park, by Richard Diebennkorn

4. Artist James Gurney says people like clusters of shapes because they like to "untie knots". This may be true, especially with trees, but my advice is to be careful to do it right. Clusters can be just as hard for you to compose as for viewers to read, and you might make a mistake or two, like Rob Liefeld did here:

5. Part of the order of an artwork lies in its frame. The bottom edge of the picture is called the foreground line. If no shapes are present on the foreground line, the picture looks formal, like a group of people on stage.

A Friendly Visit, by William Merritt Chase

 Breaking the bottom edge suggests you're not seeing everything there, that there's more to see, and that you're more involved in the picture - you're part of the action. It also exaggerates the illusion of depth - an idea called repoussoir.

 Brotherhood of Man, by John Maler Collier

6. The same is true for the other edges of a picture. When no shapes interact with the edges, and everything fits in perfectly, it feels a bit like a shop window, and we say the edges are "lazy" (note - this doesn't mean the work is bad).

The Seine at Vernon, by Daniel Knight

When objects are near or break these lines, it creates greater tension.

Illustration by Randis Albion

7. Some subjects in art require what James Gurney calls "nose room". Nose room is important in portraiture, showing more area in front of a sitter - her world, what she sees and understands, than what's behind her. It's an issue when you see either a profile or 3/4 view of the sitter.

Joan Rhodes, by Laura Knight

The same is true for a car or plane's "lead room" so we know where it's going.

     You can break this rule, showing more space behind a sitter, but this changes the mood of the work. It suggests detachment, alienation, and reverie. It's the difference between looking at the world and ignoring it.

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