Sunday, April 21, 2013

Artist Tip #14 - Principles of Design (Part 4)

This is the fourth and last artist tip on the seven Principles of Design:
  • Contrast
  • Gradation
  • Repetition with Variation
  • Harmony
  • Balance
  • Dominance
  • Unity
We've covered the first five, and in this post will cover the final two principles: Dominance and Unity.

Dominance suggests that when there are several related units of an element (see Artist Tips #9 and #10 to review the design elements), one of those units should be dominant.  Dominance can be applied to all elements.  For example:

  • One shape should be largest
  • One color should be brighter
  • One spot should have the greatest contrast
  • One of the directions - horizontal, vertical, or oblique - should be dominant

Dominance provides some order to the conflict and variation we introduce to make our paintings exciting.  It organizes our painting, and makes it more pleasing.  Let's take a look at Lake House:

In this painting, we can see dominance in one largest cloud, cool colors taking the largest area, one largest house, one largest clump of trees, etc.

Another painting we can examine for Dominance is Blue Water Racing:

Here, we can see a strong oblique dominance due to the position of the sails.  There is also one boat that is very clearly larger.  And the painting is mostly cool, with the red jackets on the sailors providing a temperature counterpoint.

Unity is the final design principle we shall consider.  This simply means that a painting should be a complete unit, not a set of separate parts.  Our major "tool" for accomplishing unity is called "relating":

  • Any important shape should be echoed elsewhere in the painting
  • Each color should be echoed elsewhere in the painting.
  • A dominant texture in one part should be repeated in another part

But where should we echo these elements?  Diagonally is most pleasing.  Horizontally is good.  Vertically is least desirable.

If our painting has unity, it could be torn into 3 or 4 pieces, these pieces mixed with pieces of other paintings, and we could quickly pick out the pieces of our painting because they "go together".  A painting without unity is seldom pleasing to look at.

Let's discuss the unity we can find in Evening on the Bosphorus:

We can find the sky colors reflected in the water.  The large boat is reflected by the small one.  The sail color is also reflected in the smaller sail.

Bass Harbor Light has a number of examples of reflection:

Notice how the small tree on the left reflects the larger grove of trees on the right.  The white of the lighthouse is reflected in the light colored rocks. The red of the dormer roof is reflected in the red of the light.  And the yellow in the trees is reflected in the yellow near the rocks and the yellow weeds in front of the lighthouse.

So, in summary, when we introduce conflict, gradation, and repetition with variation, we may our painting interesting.  When we introduce harmony, balance, dominance, and unity, we provide order in our painting.  Without both interest and order, our painting will not be very pleasing to most viewers.

There's a lot more to learn about painting design, and we'll pick up the story in awhile.  But next time, we'll take a break from design, and jump into a different topic.  I hope you've found the tips on design elements and principles interesting and useful.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Strasbourg - Original Watercolor Painting

This is the Ill river in Strasbourg, France, near where it joins the Rhine on the France/Germany border.

If you'd like to purchase this 11" x 15" original watercolor painting for $200 including shipping within the United States, you can do it securely on my website (click on the image). There are additional paintings for sale there, and my smaller paintings are available on my other website  Add a unique original painting to your collection!

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