As usual, the texts for this week focused mostly on definitions. The majority of what I read was familiar, but some of it covered concepts I’ve never learned about before.
There were several things I found quite interesting in the Bowers chapter. First was the idea that a visual language is “a reflection of taste and style but chosen and applied by strategies and agendas.” To put it in different words, good design (especially in the business setting) is never an accident. It takes into account emotion, formal principles, and intuition, but it is also carefully controlled. It has specific goals and is very strategic in fulfilling them.
There were also several mentions of various methods of making visual art easier for a viewer to read. Our brains are developed to understand and be drawn to certain visuals, and to ignore or dislike others. Good design takes these brain processes into account and know that “when some elements are presented as dominant over others, it is easier to understand the whole form,” or that “structure is generally necessary to create meaning and a sense of continuity.” There are simply some types of visuals that our brains like and understand, and successful artists use this knowledge to their advantage.
Finally, the section on proportions was fascinating to me. I’ve learned more on this topic in math classes than art ones, so I enjoyed approaching it from a new angle. It’s really interesting that our modern paper sizes are based on the golden section, along with many other common items.
As for the Leborg reading, it was a bit less thought provoking because it was so focused on definitions over applications. However, I did enjoy some bits. The main part that I thought was interesting was the section on displacement, because I’ve never explicitly learned about it before. Although displacement and direction of displacement are concepts with which I interact regularly (manipulating shapes in Illustrator), the terminology is new to me. It’s fun to have words put to actions that I have been using for years. I enjoy the feeling of expanding my visual literacy.
The one part that confused me was about superordinate and subordinate movement. It didn’t define these terms very clearly and the visuals were equally confusing, so I’m still unclear on what these terms mean.
Otherwise though, the texts were a good reminder of some important formal elements, and I got to learn some new information as well.
Below are some images related to this week’s reading.
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- All of the above paintings are probably familiar, and all of them model some formal elements discussed this week very accurately. The first one is what I think is one of the best examples of movement available.
- Second is an example of mirroring against a volume. Admittedly, the object being mirrored is not immediately visible in the composition, only the volume. Regardless, it’s a very clear example of the distortion caused when volumes mirror.
- Image 3 has been edited to show just how extensively Da Vinci used the golden section in “The Last Supper.” It is used repeatedly and extensively throughout the entire piece.
- The final image represents several techniques, and I think the most prominent are repetition, up/ downscaling, hierarchy, and movement (perhaps on a path). Like the other examples, this too includes many techniques beyond those listed, but it provides a good practical example of some of the vocabulary.
Leborg, Christian. Visual Grammar. Princeton Architectural Press, 2006.
Bowers, John. Introduction to Two-Dimensional Design Understanding Form and Function. John Wiley & Sons, 2008.
Golden Ratio in Art Composition and Design