Sunday, March 10, 2013

Artist Tip #12 - Principles of Design (Part 2)

In Artist Tip #11, we listed the seven Principles of Design:
  • Contrast
  • Gradation
  • Repetition with Variation
  • Harmony
  • Balance
  • Dominance
  • Unity
and discussed the first two.  In this tip, we'll move on to the third design principle...

Repetition with Variation tells us to introduce variation into any repeating object in our painting.  Examples include trees in a forest, fence posts, clouds, rocks, etc.  Our natural, human tendency is to paint repeated objects uniformly, but unfortunately, repetition without variation is dull and boring.  So unless we're designing wallpaper, we need to overcome our natural tendency and include variation, even when the objects before us appear very uniform.

It's best to vary as many elements as we can - size, direction, color, spacing, edge texture, etc.  We should try to vary lines as well as shapes.  For this reason, it is seldom a good idea to use a ruler for lines on our paintings.  To represent a group of items, often three are sufficient.  We can think mama, papa, baby to help us vary the sizes of the shapes we paint.

 In the painting Lazy Afternoon, we can see how variation can be applied to lines:

The lines that represent the stems of grass and grain vary in size, direction, width, and type (straight or curved).  This creates interest in a painting that would be rather boring if all of the grass and grain stems were of similar size, width, and direction.

Making Headway illustrates a number of shapes repeated with purposeful variation:

Note first the three sailboats, each of a different size, and with different spacing between them.  The sailboats are also a good example of applying the mama, papa, baby principle.  Varying the repeated spaces between shapes is just as important as varying the shapes themselves.  The clouds, also , have variation in size and shape.  Finally, look at the foam breaking on the beach.  The variation and randomization of its shape has been  exaggerated compared to actual foam on a beach to make the painting more interesting to look at.

A third example of repetition with variation can be seen in River Town:

Rural landscapes often include a line of fence posts, and in reality they may be quite uniform.  But to make our paintings more entertaining, it's important to vary the posts - their height, thickness, direction, and the space between them.  If we don't think about doing this purposely, our natural tendency will lead us to make the posts uniform, and our paintings a bit boring.

You will find it instructive to take a second look at these painting examples and try to identify where the first two design principles - contrast and gradation - have been applied.

We've now discussed the first three principles of design, which help us to make our paintings more interesting and less boring.  In our next tip, we'll start to discuss the remaining principles that balance these first three, and help us pull our painting together into a unified whole.

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