Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Balance and artistry

I've got a "Photomotivation" group over on Facebook consisting of about 60 former students and friends. Every month I give them a new assignment -- some frivolous, some more serious. They post their photos and we talk about a variety of things, not just about the assignment, but about art.

I can't seem to leave the teaching stuff alone, and this helps me keep my brain in the game, as well as interacting with people who have, over the years, become my friends.

Here's something I posted to the group this morning which I believe has overall interest and works well as a blog post.

Balance and artistry.

What you see here is a photomontage that features two immediately recognizable circles. Your eye probably went to them first.

To balance those circles, which are sort of huddled in the upper left, I added a “stack o’ sticks.” Those dark horizontal lines create a vertical rectangle, which leads your eye up and down. The horizontal lines in the stack also lead your eye over toward the right.

My collage, even though it’s technically top-heavy toward the upper left because of the big circle, works (for me) because I’ve balanced that circle with a block of dark, repeating shapes lower right.

Notice, too, how I’ve linked the smaller circle to the larger one, and then how the smaller circle intersects with, or links to, the vertical block of “sticks.” Do you see the movement that creates? Those subtle connections lead your eye along a subliminal diagonal line from upper left to lower right.

When I create a collage or a photomontage, it’s different, in a way, from taking a “regular” photograph with a camera. With a camera I deal with the subject at hand. I work with what’s been given to me.

When I create a photomontage, I pretty much begin with a blank canvas. Or perhaps a canvas that has one thing on it, such as the big circle. I add a texture, perhaps a photo I’ve taken of a painted piece of paper. I keep on adding, subtracting, moving, blending, rotating, etc., until I’ve created something that’s pleasing and meaningful to me.

With a camera, even though I’m working with what I’m seeing in front of me, there are similar decisions to be made. What was I initially attracted to? Is that “good stuff” therefore filling the frame? Am I eliminating all the unnecessary elements, elements that will distract my viewer from what I thought was important? What about the light? Is there so much brightness behind my subject that I run the risk of creating a silhouette? A black blob against the bright light? What if I move to the right, or to the left? Is the background too sharp? Is it not sharp enough?

Whether we’re drawing, painting, weaving, quilting, we, as artists, are constantly making choices. Where’s the balance? Where’s the focal point? Are we including enough? Too much?

Those choices, whether done consciously or subconsciously, are what sets us apart from the casual snapshooter and are what makes us artists.

©Carol Leigh
All text, photographs, and other media are ©Copyright Carol Leigh (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from Carol Leigh.