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.

 

 

Workshop Highlight: Surface Design & Layers at Madeline Island School of the Arts

If you are a fan of my early work and want to know the secrets of how I made it, then this is the workshop for you! Madeline Island School is ranked among the top five art and craft schools in the country because of the quality of instruction and loveliness of the surrounding area that inspires creativity.

If you are a fan of my early work and want to know the secrets of how I made it, then this is the workshop for you!

ENCAUSTIC MIXED MEDIA: SURFACE DESIGN & LAYERS
September 24-28
Madeline Island School of the Arts, LaPointe, WI
WORKSHOP DETAILS & REGISTRATION

Nestle in to the secluded Madeline Island in an absolutely gorgeous part of the world on Lake Superior. Madeline Island School is ranked among the top five art and craft schools in the country because of the quality of instruction and loveliness of the surrounding area which inspires creativity. If you’ve heard anything negative about the weather there, it’s a fib the locals spread so that they can keep the awesomeness to themselves!! I’m absolutely thrilled to be teaching at MISA this year and hope you will join me. See some lovely images of the school and read more about MISA and their location on their web site here .

Some of the materials, techniques and process we will cover include:

  • Creating patterns with shibori on fabric or paper using indigo, rust printing and bleach discharge.
  • Creating marks with heated metal and wood burning tools (pyrography)
  • Creating ornamental and repetitive patterns using encaustic with collage, stencils, tjaps and candy molds.
  • The application of thin layers of encaustic for collage-learn how to get rid of those blurry/bumpy areas when collaging into encaustic.
  • How to effectively mix, apply and fuse encaustic layers to best utilize it’s translucency and depth.
  • How to cover a panel with any fabric or paper and work back into it with encaustic.
  • How to incorporate line and drawing into your encaustic paintings using horsehair and other mixed media techniques.
  • How to incorporate stitch into your encaustic paintings for exciting textural surfaces.
  • How to make a perfect encaustic photo transfer.
  • How to create a flawlessly smooth encaustic surface.
  • The magic of the grid and how you can use it to create exciting compositions.
  • We will also discuss the conceptual use of layers, pattern and repetition with images, books and actual paintings for inspiration.
  • And so much more…just like all of my workshops, this one is taught from an experimental, alternative, hands-on approach…one never knows what other techniques and possibilities might pop up during the workshop.
  • Also in the spirit of all of my workshops, we will spend a lot of time exploring the surrounding landscape for found objects, photographs and inspiration.

See the gallery below for some workshop highlights and workshop work from a similar workshop I recently taught at RF Paints. For more information and highlights from workshops similar to this one, see this post, this post, this post and this post.

 

Encaustic PaintSmash: 3 Must-Have Scraping Tools

If you aren’t scraping your encaustic paint layers, you’re missing out! The first of two parts on encaustic scraping, this article covers 3 basic must-have tools for scraping and revealing amazingness under your encaustic layers. Also included, are some luscious eye candy inspiration images.

If you’re working in layers of encaustic paint and not utilizing scraping as part of painting, you are missing a tremendous amount of creative opportunities. Encaustic is unmatched by any other medium for many reasons; luminosity, depth, translucency, tactile qualities, just to name a few. Certainly, other mediums offer these qualities, but to my knowledge, encaustic is the ONLY medium that offers painters the ability to work in layers with the option of scraping them back to reveal hidden treasures. Once you begin doing this, you won’t want to stop, it’s absolutely addicting! Depending on how you have applied the paint, the amount of texture and the colors used, you will reveal layers resembling geologic forms, water bodies, aerial and satellite views of earth. Or moving toward the smaller end of things, you will find forms resembling layers of skin cells, bodily forms, rocks and minerals, etc. I’ve included a small sampling of inspiration eye candy images below that resemble scraped encaustic paintings painted with the PaintSmash method. The images are from my Aerial, Micro-Stuff, Rocks and Layered Pinterest Boards. To see each individual board, follow the links with the images below. Also, see this related post for more Texture and Layers inspiration.

Stay tuned for my next post which is a Basic Scraping How-To, complete with videos and images of various scraping methods. I show you how to use the tools mentioned in this article as well as discuss a bit about what it is you’re looking for under the layers and how to carve out a fabulous composition from your PaintSmash hot mess!

Please note that this post is an introduction to basic scraping tools, there is much more to learn and many other tools to experiment with to find your favorites. If you try the tools mentioned here and the methods for using them I discuss in my next post, you might want to delve deeper by taking one of my upcoming encaustic workshops. I discuss scraping in all of my encaustic workshops, but dig deeper into the subject (no pun) in my advanced Beyond the Basics workshop.

The Tools

  • Razor Blade With Holder When you are using a razor blade, you definitely need one of these holders. Make sure you buy one like this and not one of the bulky versions. This smaller does the job to keep your hand from cramping as well as keeps your hand close enough to the surface to ‘feel’ it. Also, if you’ve been avoiding razor blades because of those unwanted marks the corners cause, invest in a metal file and take a few seconds to round out those edges. Razor blades definitely serve a purpose and shouldn’t be left at the bottom of the tool box because of those marks.
  • Clay Scraper My favorite is the Loop Tool  and/or the Sculpture House Scraper-read about it here. We all have our favorites, but I would advise avoiding the triangular shaped scrapers with very angular corners because like the razor blade, they tend to leave undesirable marks but are difficult to file down. Not mentioned in my previous favorite tools article is a Loop Tool (#510) I just discovered from Dolan Tools. It’s compatible to the Sculpture House Scraper in quality, but it’s easier to find and is slightly less expensive.
  • Double Sided Scraper Tool (A MUST have…Read more about and where to get it here) There is no limit to the fun you can have with this tool, making lines, marks and carving shapes. See a sneak peek of me using this tool to carve out some shapes on my Instagram Feed @lorraineglessner1. The complete video is included in my next post.

Aerial/Satellite Images

Layered Images

Microscopic

Rocks/Minerals

Two Exciting Upcoming Workshops Demystified

With workshop season fast approaching, I would like to introduce you to two of my most popular workshops. But before I do that, just below is a brief introduction to some of what you will learn in all of my encaustic workshops.

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 pariticipant 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 whose applies the concepts discussed in the workshop is offered for inspiration. Some examples of the slides included in the talks for each of the workshops discussed in this article is just below.
Pattern & Repetition Slides Examples
Grid & Line Slides Examples

ENCAUSTIC PATTERN & REPETITION

Mixed Media Encaustic: Pattern & Repetition
October 4-6
Studio Joy, Kansas City, MO
WORKSHOP WEB SITE

Basic 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 the use of organic and geometric form, realistic and abstract imagery, patterned collage, stencils, candy molds, tjaps, and branding (creating marks with heated metal and wood burning tools). Considerations such as using pattern and repetition as content itself, to tell a story, support and/or strengthen the message will also be discussed.

Who should take this workshop?

  • You swoon over textiles, prints, decorative arts, design, anything with pattern and you want to learn how to effectively incorporate these elements into your work.
  • You already include lots of pattern and repetition in your work, but the work hasn’t moved past mere decoration to involve meaningful content.
  • You desperately want to include pattern in your work, but you are fearful that it will be received by the viewing public as decorative art.
  • 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 want to express yourself in a more meaningful way with your work.
  • Your creative process is stagnating and you want to learn a new process, idea or technique.
  • You have always wanted to create ‘visual poetry’ in your paintings.

What happens in this workshop? What will I learn?

  • What a motif is and how you can generate one to create personal patterns with meaning and how to incorporate them into your work.
  • Create personally designed fabrics and papers using indigo, rust and compost printing and use them as a basis for a painting.
  • Create repetitive patterns using innovative tools and techniques such as pyrography (making marks with heated metal and tools), tjaps and candy molds.
  • Learn my technique for applying decorative stenciling into my 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!
  • Experiment with doodling, mark making and process to create personal patterns.
  • Learn how to use the transparency of the wax to allow pattern and information to combine and ‘talk’ within the painting.
  • Learn how repetitive pattern, symbols, text, ornament adds power and interest to the work and therefore brings the viewer closer to it’s message.
  • How repetition can create visual poetry, rhythm, music, etc within the work.

What kind of work will I make?
Please enjoy the work example pics below from participants who have previously taken this workshop. Please also visit additional blog posts here and here and here for more information related to this workshop.

WHERE CAN I SIGN UP!

Mixed Media Encaustic: Pattern & Repetition
October 4-6
Studio Joy, Kansas City, MO
WORKSHOP WEB SITE

ENCAUSTIC LINE & GRID

Basic Description
Lines lead the eye and communicate information through variation in width, direction, density, length and character. They are as integral to any composition as the composition itself. Despite the incredible versatility of the encaustic medium, there is a limit to the techniques available in which to incorporate line. This workshop explores line and linear language far beyond the usual methods and materials to include the use of tjanting tools, masks, drawing with horse and human hair, branding with heated metal and wood burning tools, as well as creating your own grids, laces and lace like forms using free motion sewing machine embroidery on water soluble stabilizer. The workshop begins with a comprehensive exercise involving composition generation, which will result in several compositions from which to explore these new techniques. Considerations of the use of the grid as a conceptual as well as compositional tool will also be discussed.

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 structure will make your paintings stronger. Guaranteed.
  • 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 love materials and innovative ways to use them.
  • You dislike drawing and/or you’re afraid of it.

What happens in this workshop? What will I learn?

  • In depth discussion, brainstorming and slide talk about line and the grid-what it means in art, what it does, how to generate it, how to use it.
  • What the concepts of good design are and how to apply these ideas to fine art.
  • Marking, drawing, making marks with fun exercises involving music, text, folding/cutting paper, collage, fire, found materials 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.
  • Effective and productive doodling.
  • Experiment with line ideas using innovative techniques and materials such as horsehair, pyrography (making marks with heated metal and tools), stitching by hand or machine, Solvy (water soluble embroidery stabilizer).
  • Experiment with encaustic tools such as a tjanting, incising into the wax, creating grids and lines using masks, paintsticks and encaustic friendly drawing media.
  • How you can create your own process to make a cohesive body of work and how that process can relate to and enhance content in that work.
  • Learn what found drawings are and how you can use them as a tool for inspiration and content generation.

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 and here and here for more information related to this workshop.

WHERE CAN I SIGN UP!

Mixed Media Encaustic: Pattern & Repetition
October 4-6
Studio Joy, Kansas City, MO
WORKSHOP WEB SITE

If you have taken one of these workshops and it has made an impression on your work, I invite you to write briefly about your experience in the comment section and include a pic if you would like. I look forward to hearing from you.

Inspired By…Fiber & Paint

Painting and fiber, two disciplines whose marriage has always intrigued and inspired me throughout the evolution of my work. Over the 15+ years since graduate school, I have completed several series of work, all of which borrow and combine aspects of both disciplines. However, each series leans either to the fiber or painting end, but never fully captures the essence of either discipline.

For this reason, I am fascinated when I come across artists whose work fully exhibits the perfect balance of material, materiality, color, tactility, surface, pattern and process that encapsulates the two disciplines of fiber and painting. I must mention that there are many artists who work within these boundaries and without listing them-there are so many-I am inspired by them all. However, it was difficult to find artists amongst this group whose work possessed a blending, rather than a combination between the materials, process and techniques used, a seamlessness, a perfect balance, a sensitivity, a symbiosis that is almost intangible and cannot easily be put into words. I have chosen three artists whose work stands out and characterizes these qualities .

I have always been a fan of Margery Amdur’s work and first came across it when she was working with layers of painted, hand cut mylar in wonderful diagrammatic floral patterns that resembled the preparatory acetates and paintings I used to do when I was a textile and rug designer. In her layered paintings, there is a painterly quality in which the materials, process and content effortlessly support one other. Her latest work applying paint, pastel, ink and silkscreen on cosmetic sponges takes painting to a whole new level. Some may categorize these pieces as sculpture, but the use of materials, repetition, tactility, process, technique and structural pattern all speak to textiles. The reference to flowers, the garden, layers and the mark of the hand is also evident.

Julia Bland’s work is what sparked the writing of this post as it imbues the perfect blend of fiber and painting I describe above. Bland’s work is founded in weaving and craft based traditions and her stem from her interest in religious and cultural patterns. Working hand in hand with the repetitive process of weaving, she adds, subtracts, cuts, glues, sews and paints elements into her large scale wall hangings. Hand worked details, knots, stitched and painted areas are added after the weaving takes place making piece exciting and interesting both up close and at a distance.

At first glance, Gabriel Luis Perez’s work may just look like mixed media paintings. However, what I see in these richly layered surfaces are references to quilting, applique, weaving, sewing, embellishment, pattern-making, design and repetitive process all densely integrated with painted pop imagery, text and collaged elements. Of his work he writes, “It is important to me that all my pieces inherit an energy; sometimes that energy is one produced during its performance and at other times it is a conjured from past or future experiences.” They do have an energy and I totally get it.

Team Textile @ The Pentaculum

I happily spent New Year’s Day packing my suitcase and part of my studio, so excited to drive down to Gatlinburg, TN for The 2nd Annual Pentaculum. I was honored to have received the invitation to participate in this exciting event at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts last year and as the event approached I just couldn’t wait to get there. I have previously taught workshops at Arrowmont and the facilities, food and staff are consistently top notch. The Pentaculum invites artists and writers at various stages in their careers to participate for a one week residency utilizing the studios, collaborating, socializing, etc. The five participating studios during this Pentaculum were Ceramics, 2D Painting, Sign Painting in the wood shop, Jewelry/Metals, Writing and Textiles. The event began with a slide show of all participants’ work, I was so impressed to be among such amazing artists and writers-just simply amazing PEOPLE. To spend a week working around them was an honor.

Of course the textiles studio is where I spent most of my time. Each artist in the studio with me was as individual, accomplished and amazing as their work. Most impressive is how much work each person produced in only one week-this is what uninterrupted time can do for an artist! I am pleased to share their work made during the Pentaculum with you here, please click on their names to visit their web sites for their complete body of work.

Stay tuned for my next blog post describing my personal experience and work created during the Pentaculum.

Loo Bain, who I am privileged to work with at Tyler spent her time repetitiously cutting, drawing 2d and drawing in space with fluorescent vinyl, mylar and other sparkly, shiny fabrics. By the end of the week, her colorful and tactile studies just begged to be touched.

Erin Castellan, our fearless studio coordinator, did a great job herding us cats all week, answering our questions and stitching, stitching, stitching. I have long been a fan of Erin’s work, which translates constructed fabrics of all kinds, thread and other embellishments into stitched paintings. The week of the Pentaculum, she meticulously stitched and beaded an lovely, intimate piece that I secretly covet.

Orly Cogan’s work is instantly recognizable-unabashed, large scale, stitched, collaged, painted pieces exploring feminine myths, identities and relationships. Orly was most at home collaborating with the 2D studio, where they created air brushed magic on her pieces.

Naomi Falk, sculptor & materials wizard, uses performance, clay, fabric, wood, stitch, paper and myriad other materials to investigate personal identities. During the Pentaculum, she experimented with many materials and made all of us in textiles studio amazing hand cut paper crowns!

Sonya Yong James’ work explores repetition, ritual and transcendence through simple felted forms, which become complex through multiples and repetition. During the Pentaculum, Sonya worked to combine felt and horse hair, making quiet, intimate samples-so impressive was her magnificent collection of various colors of horsehair!

Colleen Merrill was extremely prolific during the Pentaculum, especially considering that her constructed pieces are mainly hand sewn. She completed or got a good head start on a new series of soft sculpture pieces entitled ‘fawn’ exploring her new role as a mother.

Valerie Powell’s fun, colorful and approachable work is made with painted, stitched and sculpted shrinky-dinks! Too. Much. Fun. Just as fun was watching a wonderfully detailed, patterned painting take shape, along with some funky sculpted pieces during the week.

Karie Reinertson, owns and operates a multidisciplinary design studio with her partner husband. One of the specialties of the studio are exquisitely hand crafted leather handbags. Karie brought with her some beautiful buttery leather that she cut, braided and sculpted for a new fine art leather piece.

Rebecca Siemering works with paper-found, handmade, stitched, sculpted, constructed. During the Pentaculum, she continued work on her “Lottery Project”, created by stitched and constructed found lottery tickets collected from daily walks in her neighborhood.

Brooks Stevens turns straw into gold with an on-going project entitled ‘Mending Gold: Cloth, Architecture & Landscape’ in which she mends/repairs or simply highlights the essence of the object with stitched gold thread. During the Pentaculum, she methodically stitched a pair of jeans-mesmerizing was her meticulous process.

Melanie Wilder is a weaver who also creates naturally dyed weaving yarns with plants from her own garden. During the Pentaculum she dyed, stitched and labeled a wonderful dye sample book of various plants and mordants on cotton and wool yard and fabrics.

LM Wood collaborates with her computer to create quilts or quilt inspired works that speak to memory, time, history and narratives. Inspired by the photographic image, both found in thrift stores or through searches on her computer, and working with a wide variety of materials, she explores the many forms of narrative the photographic image can provide.

FABRIC PATTERN & IMAGE 2 FALL 2015 FINAL PROJECTS

Final projects from my Fabric Pattern & Image 2 Course in the Fiber & Materials Studies Department at Tyler School of Art, Temple University.