Composition Continued: The Fibonacci Sequence

Happy Halloween! One thing that can be really scary for any artist is a painting that is seemingly missing something, it’s just WRONG and you can’t figure out what it is or how to fix it. Composition is a complicated, multi-faceted spooky mystery that baffles even the best of us. The Fibonacci Sequence is another tool for you to add to your composition toolbox and is the one I use most often in my own work. 

Happy Halloween, my lovely blog reading friends. No, I’m not going to talk about scary things in this post, but if you say Fibonacci in kind of a squeaky door, Vincent Price voice it does sound kind of scary : )

One thing that can be really scary for any artist is a painting that is seemingly missing something, it’s just WRONG and you can’t figure out what it is or how to fix it. Most of the time, these problems have something to do with design fundamentals like scale, color, proportion, etc, which all make up the COMPOSITION. Composition is a complicated, multi-faceted spooky mystery that baffles even the best of us, but knowing a few simple guidelines like The Golden Ratio and the Rule of Thirds can make all difference. The Fibonacci Sequence is another tool for you to add to your composition toolbox and is the one I use most often in my own work.

The Fibonacci Sequence is named after Italian mathematician Leonardo of Pisa, also known as Fibonacci. The Sequence, illustrated below, begins at 0, 1 then those two numbers added make up the next number in the sequence, which is 1, then those last two numbers added make up 2 and so on into infinity. In addition to being used extensively in other mathematical formulas, these versatile numbers are also proportionately related to the Golden Ratio, have been used in poetry and are seen in the growth rate of biological forms nature such as trees, sunflowers, pinecones and pineapples, even human skeletal growth. When these numbers are utilized in any kind of art or design, that design is said to be more pleasing to the eye-it just feels right.

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144….

I first learned about this Sequence as an undergrad in a class called Math for Design and I was fascinated. Later, when I was working as a textile designer, we applied these numbers to our stripe patterns, tile designs and anything else that required repetition. Last, I return to the Sequence again and again in my personal work whenever I have a question about repetitive elements or where an element should be placed within the painting.

To utilize the Sequence in stripe patterns, we applied the numbers to inches, mixed up the sequence and naturally applied color. Illustrated below is a stripe pattern (created in candy corn colors for Halloween : ) that is first shown in the sequence as it stands (1), then the numbers in the sequence are mixed up (2), then another stripe pattern in a random number of inches (3). Which is more pleasing?

Addendum: In response to Tess Stieben’s comment regarding which stripe pattern is more pleasing, I added repeat patterns below to illustrate my response. Thank you, Tess!

Tess: Interestingly I prefer #3, it is dramatic, #1 is boring, #2 ok but #3 has a bold punch in the way the colors are divided making the dark contrast with the lighter colors.

My Response: Thanks for your comment, Tess. I see what you mean. Looking at it as is, without repeating, as if we were looking at a painting is quite lovely and I see what you’re saying. Now, think of the stripe as a repeat pattern, floor to ceiling running across a wall or even on a large sofa. Still think the same? The Fibonacci Sequence and the other ratios are used in design because they make the design more pleasing, more comfortable. The dynamic quality of pattern #3 may be more exciting as a painting, but not necessarily if it was covering the four walls of a room. While making paintings, this is also something to consider.

1

stripe1

Screen Shot 2018-10-31 at 1.11.28 PM

 

2

stripemixed

Screen Shot 2018-10-31 at 1.11.46 PM

 

3

notfib

Screen Shot 2018-10-31 at 1.12.10 PM

 

According to the theory, stripe pattern 1 and 2 would be most pleasing. You certainly could have chosen 3, which is totally arbitrary and follows no compositional rules. Feel free to comment, I would be interested to know which stripe pattern is most interesting to you and why-the comment button is located at the top left of this article.

See the images below for examples of how you can apply this Sequence in your own work. I used this Sequence in grad school and beyond by applying inches to the spacing between repetitive elements as well as in the measurements of squares, circles and ovals themselves. Read this post for more about my early work as a designer and how/why I make the work I make today. When you begin to apply this sequence to your own work, please let me know how it’s working for you and if/how it’s made your compositional life easier.

It is important to keep in mind that all of these compositional tools I’ve been writing about in my last few posts are just tools and can be kept in your mental toolbox to use when you need them. As Francis Bacon is attributed to saying, “Knowledge is Power”, so learn what you can and use it wisely.

Addendum: In response to Shary Bartlett’s comment on this post, I created a gallery below where the areas in which I used the sequence are most prominent in the work. In the paintings below, the sequence is also used in the regularly spaced intervals of information in terms of measurement, however the sequential numbers are not used. Thank you, Shary!!!

Workshop Highlight: A Bonus Philadelphia Encaustic Workshop #2: Pattern

Workshop Highlight: A Bonus Philadelphia Encaustic Workshop #2: Pattern. Register Soon, Limited to only 8 Participants!

Pattern is, essentially, a compilation of elements of design: line, rhythm, repetition…Not slavish duplication, but echoing, re-enforcing, reminding….~author unknown

WORKSHOP NUMBER TWO
Mixed Media Encaustic: Pattern
Limited to 8 participants!
Level: Beginner to Advanced
$400 includes most materials (see below)
For Registration, Please Contact: Lorraine Glessner, lorraineglessnerstudio@gmail.com

Payment
Payment of 50% of the workshop fee + materials ($200) is due at the time of registration with the remaining 50% ($200) due on the first day of the workshop. Please contact Lorraine for payment details.

When
April 5-7, 2019, 10am-4pm each day

Where
Dora Ficher’s Fabulous Studio at Scott’s Mills
3510 Scott’s Lane, #118, Philadelphia, PA

IMG_6308

Dora Ficher’s amazing studio at Scott’s Mills

Who
For Lorraine’s bio, work, exhibitions, teaching and anything else you might want to know, please visit her web site.

Workshop Number Two Description
Repeated use of a shape, color or design element unifies composition, creates pattern, rhythm and movement as well as reinforces content. This workshop focuses on the creation of intricate patterns, expressive personal surfaces and complex, multi-layered pieces utilizing and in combination with encaustic painting techniques. With an emphasis on mixed media, methods and materials covered in this workshop include creating motifs, rust printing on fabric, organic and geometric form, realistic and abstract imagery, patterned collage, stencils, tjaps and candy molds. Considerations such as using pattern and repetition as content itself, to tell a story, support and/or strengthen the content message will also be discussed.

SCROLL DOWN TO SEE images of student work from encaustic workshops similar in content to this one. Additional blog posts related to other encaustic workshops taught by Lorraine are here, here and here.

WORKSHOP NUMBER TWO WHAT TO BRING: the following is a list of materials for the student to bring to the workshop

  • 3-6 wooden painting panels (your preference of 8×8 or 10×10, but no larger or smaller, please) (nothing coated in acrylic or acrylic gesso!!)
  • 2-4 actual or images of your work
  • 3-5 natural hair brushes in various sizes for encaustic painting (1 brush will be designated your medium brush, so it must be free of color if you are bringing used brushes)
  • 1lb encaustic medium from any company (containers provided)
  • a variety of basic encaustic colors will be provided, however, if you prefer certain colors, please bring them. (containers provided)
  • sketchbook or drawing paper and drawing media of your choice
  • package of razor blades or scraper
  • smock (optional)
  • sharp scissors
  • any tool or material for any technique that you normally employ while working with encaustic
  • iwatani torch (optional)
  • textured objects and/or sharp ended tool for pressing into/incising/writing/drawing into wax.
  • materials for collage (papers, magazine images, photos, etc.)
  • decorative stencils, mesh, doilies, etc-anything flat with open areas that can be used as a stencil.
  • rusty metal objects or objects that will rust
  • ½ yard, even-weave, white or light colored natural fabric for rust/compost printing and painting. RTD or PFD fabrics are preferred and are available from dharmatrading.com. Alternatives are old sheets and/or tshirts that have been frequently washed.
  • paper punches (will be provided, however, if you have favorites, please bring them)
  • Tjaps (will be provided, however, if you have favorites, please bring them)

MATERIALS INSTRUCTOR WILL PROVIDE 

  • paraffin for brush cleaning
  • heated encaustic tools and irons
  • wood burning tools
  • Disposable gloves
  • Extra drawing paper
  • Wax paper
  • Parchment paper
  • encaustic paints
  • 2 cups salt
  • masking tape
  • 1 gallon size plastic bags
  • Tracing paper
  • Graphite transfer paper
  • cups for mixing instant indigo
  • Extra razor blades
  • Pans and cups for paint and medium
  • Linseed oil
  • paper punches
  • 2 iwatani torches with extra butane
  • instant indigo
  • extra fabric
  • extra rusty objects

Cancellation
In the event that you need to cancel your workshop, please notify Lorraine at least 30 days prior to the start of the workshop and your deposit will be refunded. No refunds will be available for cancellations occurring less than 30 days from the start of the workshop.

Food
There will be no food served during the workshops, you must bring lunch and snacks each day. There are a number of eateries, cafes, restaurants and markets nearby. There is also a refrigerator, microwave and coffee machine in the studio for your use as well as a wonderful cafe area with tables in the adjacent galleries.

 

For Registration, Please Contact: Lorraine Glessner, lorraineglessnerstudio@gmail.com

 

Workshop Highlight: Finally! A Philadelphia Encaustic Workshop #1: Collage

Workshop Highlight: Finally! A Philadelphia Encaustic Workshop Register Soon, Limited to only 8 Participants!

If oil paint is the prose of painting, then encaustic is its poetry. -Chester Arnold

WORKSHOP NUMBER ONE
Mixed Media Encaustic: Collage
Limited to 8 participants!
Level: Beginner to Intermediate
$400 includes most materials (see below)
For Registration, Please Contact: Lorraine Glessner, lorraineglessnerstudio@gmail.com

Payment
Payment of 50% of the workshop fee + materials ($200) is due at the time of registration with the remaining 50% ($200) due on the first day of the workshop. Please contact Lorraine for payment details.

When
February 15-17, 2019, 10am-4pm each day

Where
Dora Ficher’s Fabulous Studio at Scott’s Mills
3510 Scott’s Lane, #118, Philadelphia, PA

IMG_6308

Dora Ficher’s Studio at Scott’s Mills

Who
For Lorraine’s bio, work, exhibitions, teaching and anything else you might want to know, please visit her web site.

Workshop Number One Description
This workshop takes the exciting combination of mixed media, encaustic and collage to include innovative materials and mark-making techniques in which to explore narrative. Utilizing the natural luminosity, textural and layering possibilities of encaustic, participants will combine and collage photographic images, marks and texture to explore, communicate, or entertain through personal narrative. This workshop covers basic encaustic techniques and collage as well as mark-making using horse hair, graphite paper and image transfer.

SCROLL DOWN TO SEE images of student work from encaustic workshops similar in content to this one. Additional blog posts related to other encaustic workshops taught by Lorraine are here, here and here.

WORKSHOP NUMBER ONE WHAT TO BRING: the following is a list of materials for the student to bring to the workshop

  • 3-6 wooden painting panels (your preference of 8×8 or 10×10, but no larger or smaller, please) (nothing coated in acrylic or acrylic gesso!!)
  • 2-4 actual pieces OR images of your work
  • 3-5 natural hair brushes in various sizes for encaustic painting (1 smallish-no bigger than 1.5” brush will be designated your medium brush, so it must be free of color if you are bringing used brushes)
  • 1lb encaustic medium from any company (containers provided)
  • sketchbook or Drawing paper
  • package of razor blades or scraper
  • any tool or material for any technique that you normally employ while working with encaustic
  • drawing media of your choice
  • Closed toe shoes for safety in the studio
  • sharp scissors
  • Various materials for collage (papers, magazine images, photos, etc.)
  • textured objects and/or incising materials to press into and make marks in wax
  • any small sharp-ended tool for incising/writing/drawing into the wax (sewing or knitting needles are great)

Optional Materials

  • basic encaustic colors will be provided, however if you prefer working with certain colors, please bring them with you
  • iwatani torch
  • smock

MATERIALS INSTRUCTOR WILL PROVIDE 

  • paraffin for brush cleaning
  • heated encaustic tools and irons
  • Extra drawing paper
  • Wax paper
  • Basic encaustic colors
  • Tracing paper
  • Graphite transfer paper
  • Extra razor blades
  • Pans and cups for paint and medium
  • Double sided scraper tools
  • horsehair
  • heat guns (one for every two people)
  • griddles (one for every two people)
  • 2 Iwatani torches with extra butane
  • carbon copies for transfers

Cancellation
In the event that you need to cancel your workshop, please notify Lorraine at least 30 days prior to the start of the workshop and your deposit will be refunded. No refunds will be available for cancellations occurring less than 30 days from the start of the workshop.

Food
There will be no food served during the workshops, you must bring lunch and snacks each day. There are a number of eateries, cafes, restaurants and markets nearby. There is also a refrigerator, microwave and coffee machine in the studio for your use as well as a wonderful cafe area with tables in the adjacent galleries.

 

For Registration, Please Contact: Lorraine Glessner, lorraineglessnerstudio@gmail.com

 

Workshop Highlight: Beyond the Basics

BEYOND THE BASICS ADVANCED ENCAUSTIC November 8-10
Big Dramatic Questions Studio, The Blue Mountains, Collingwood, Ontario
WORKSHOP WEB SITE

Basic Description
Ready to take your knowledge of encaustic to the next level? Then this is the workshop for you! This three-day workshop will focus on mixed-media techniques, materials, mark-making techniques, color mixing, and building color relationships on the canvas. Students will learn progressive painting techniques including: the use of transparency and opacity, blending, gradations, pours and how to apply and manipulate layers and visual information. It is helpful, but not necessary to have had any previous experience with the encaustic medium to take this workshop.

Who should take this workshop?

  • You are a semi-beginner to advanced painter (encaustic or other) who often finds their paintings rife with color, paint, collaged, etc. information, but can’t put a finger on what is lacking or how to finish it.
  • You have great ideas but your compositions are scattered, nothing connects or works together to tell your story.
  • You are interested in what the grid can do for your work, but don’t want to make gridded paintings. NOTE: You won’t make a gridded painting in this workshop unless you want to do so, but understanding the concept of the grid as a foundational compositional structure will make your paintings stronger. Guaranteed.
  • You’ve worked in encaustic for a while and have never used it’s transparency and layering possibilities to full advantage.
  • You’ve worked in encaustic for a while and have never scraped your layers(!) to reveal the awesomeness underneath.
  • You want to express yourself in a more meaningful way with your work.
  • You want to create consistency, a personal voice, your own mark, in your paintings and body of work as a whole.
  • Your creative process is stagnating and you need to learn a new process, idea or technique.
  • You want to know what the heck Encaustic PaintSmash is and how it will benefit your work.
  • You love image and collage, but when you embed these elements into encaustic, the collage is blurred, burned or looks clunky.
  • You love painting with the intensely pigmented color of encaustic and want to learn how to effectively apply it-how to mix color, how and when to dilute, what brushes and tools to use.
  • You are frustrated with your current body of work, your process(es) and want to create consistency, and a cohesive portfolio.
  • You dislike drawing and/or you’re afraid of it.

What happens in this workshop? What will I learn?

  • What the concepts of good design are and how to apply these ideas to fine art.
  • Marking, drawing, making marks with fun exercises are sure to relax you so that you don’t even know you’re drawing and are designed for you to generate ideas, content and a personal mark.
  • Learn my technique for applying decorative stenciling into your work and how you can use stenciling to strengthen your compositions and content.
  • Learn how to apply encaustic paint in layers and in various levels of transparency, as well as how and when to scrape back to reveal exciting forms and patterns within the layers.
  • Practice the effective application and fusing of encaustic collaged layers so you aren’t tempted to give up collage forever in frustration!
  • The magic of fusing with a torch. NOTE: I will never make anyone use a tool that makes them uncomfortable, but you’ll be able to try a torch to see if you like it and most likely, you will!
  • Experiment with doodling, mark making and process to create a personal mark.
  • Learn how to use the transparency of the wax to allow pattern and information to combine and ‘talk’ within the painting.

What kind of work will I make?
Please enjoy the work example pics below from participants who have previously taken this workshop. Please visit additional blog posts here and here for more information related to this workshop. Scroll down a bit more to see what else is included in this workshop.

 

Included in all of my encaustic workshops

  • Color, composition, application, content-the basics, the intermediate, the advanced.
  • Using color relationships, proportion, scale as an effective foundation for other painterly information.
  • Individual consultation/critique discussion with each participant. Bring a piece of work, a question, a concern, a problem and discuss it with me. My most favorite part of the workshop is this special time I spend talking one-on-one with each participant.
  • Learn how to use encaustic’s strengths (layering, transparency, luminosity) to tell your story.
  • Mark-making exercises-whether you are taking the line workshop or not, exercises geared toward making simple or complex marks to generate a personal voice.
  • Book-sharing-each participant brings their favorite art book to share.
  • Group sharing and discussion-always an amazingly helpful time for participants to share their victories and struggles.
  • A slide talk with examples of contemporary artists who apply the concepts discussed in the workshop is offered for inspiration.

Composition Talk: The Golden Ratio & The Rule of Thirds

Understanding composition fundamentals is so very important, but how many of us really do understand it and/or how to use it effectively? We all know when something doesn’t look ‘right’, but how do we figure out why and how do we fix it? The following is an excerpt from a talk on composition that I give to all of my workshops. It’s a bit technical, a bit boring maybe, but knowing these simple rules may be helpful to you when something not ‘right’ befalls you in the studio. Read on…this is going to be fun!

Understanding composition fundamentals is so very important, but how many of us really do understand it and/or how to use it effectively? We all know when something doesn’t look ‘right’, but how do we figure out why and how do we fix it? The following is an excerpt from a talk on composition that I give to all of my workshops. It’s a bit technical, a bit boring maybe, but knowing these simple rules may be helpful to you when something not ‘right’ befalls you in the studio. Read on…this is going to be fun!

There is a reason why some compositions look better than others and that is because the relationships between the colors and forms in the work are proportionate and likely somehow follow one of the following rules: The Golden Ratio and/or The Rule of Thirds.

First, let’s take a look at the Golden Ratio, also known as the Golden Mean and Golden Rectangle. The idea was started by the ancient Greeks, who believed that all things, both tangible and intangible, have a perfect state of being that define them and felt that one should always strive toward achieving this ideal state. Greek mathematicians, after repeatedly seeing similar proportions in nature and geometry, developed a mathematical formula for what they considered an ideal rectangle: a rectangle whose sides are at a 1:1.62 ratio. –Nelson. Ever wonder why the Mona Lisa is so pleasing to the eye when she’s actually not conventionally beautiful? It’s because she’s perfectly proportionate from the tip of her nose to her knees..see how she fits perfectly into the Golden Rectangle in the image below. This same idea goes for buildings and rooms, furniture and other forms of design. The closer to the Golden Mean they are, the more comfortable they will feel and the better they will look to us as humans. This is because our bodies are also proportionate and also fit the Golden Ratio, we are all familiar with the image below which illustrates these proportions. If you’re really bored and want to test this out, consider your comfort level in the room you’re in right now and rate it on a scale of 1-10. Now measure the room and see how close it comes to the Golden Mean. Interesting, huh? Now try it with one of your paintings that just isn’t working and see what happens.

Next up is the Rule of Thirds, which states that if you divide any composition into thirds, vertically and horizontally, then place the essential elements of your image either along these lines or at the intersections of them, you’ll achieve a more pleasing arrangement. Edmund Dulac was a stickler for this Rule and it’s perfectly illustrated in his painting below of the Little Mermaid. Here Dulac has placed the column, figures and the horizon line perfectly along a line of thirds. The empty space leads the eye to the action in the composition, therefore creating a more interesting composition. These images were borrowed from the informative Art With Nelson.

Now, watch what happens when the rule is ignored and the action is centralized…kinda boring… and why is that? The column now dominates the image, which takes away from the figures, the source of the action in the image. The viewer’s eye goes directly to the strong column shape and there is no empty space calmly leading the eye into the image.  In any painting, one design element must be more dominant than the others, which creates an imbalance, thus creating tension and attracting the viewer’s eye. When the canvas is segmented in half, there is no imbalance or tension, which makes for a not so interesting composition. Imbalance and tension can also be applied to many compositional elements of your painting including value, color and contrast. I’ll talk about this a bit more in my next post, which will also include a nod to mathematician, Fibonacci.

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A word of caution…don’t go crazy trying to make your composition fit exactly into these Rules. For example, you can apply the Rule of Thirds to any grid as long as you keep the major design elements on the segments and/or at intersections. The same goes for the Golden Ratio. These tools are not to be used as starting points necessarily, but as check points when we are trying to figure out what’s gone wrong. If you spend too much time thinking about these things when beginning a painting you won’t have any fun and your painting will feel stiff, technical and sad. Click on the images below for some proportionate famous and not so famous works of art and photography.