The Laws of Nature

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Orchestration of Solutions

Last Tuesday, November 10th, I posted some ideas about balance in terms of weight and direction from Rudolf Arnehim's book. Margaret Ryall ( responded with a wonderful critical analysis. I think her comments deserve special attention, so I'll highlight some of them here:

Margaret wrote: Overall I agree with most of these points when I read them in isolation, but I think they may only work in isolation. When you start considering them together it gets muddled. You can solve all kinds of bad choices in composition by adjusting other things. For example: I agree that size affects composition and larger is heavier and bright colours are visually heavier than dark ones, but if you have a small bright colour and a large darker one you can makt it work. I also feel that when location of the above two is a factor, it changes again.

I'll skip over a bit here and get to her conclusion: I will conclude that no matter what you do in a composition you can do something else to fix the problem. It is more like an orchestra than discrete instruments. You almost need to have a number of paintings to look at to consider each of these points. I bet you will find examples against them that still work in composition.

Folks, I couldn't agree more with Margaret's remarks and am grateful that she took the time to offer this considered response. The idea of an orchestration appeals to me. The artist is the conductor and the subject, elements and principles are the orchestral members. It is up to the conductor to make it into music. This means some instruments may not be used at all. Others may dominate while others merely support, and so on. I think that Arnheim really intended this but I failed to explain his points within that context. The book is entitled Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. He takes over 500 pages to explain the effects of minutia in drawing/painting and, as an artist, I'm interested in those effects. However, I realize that I can't engage in paying attention to every single psychological effect that I might create either accidentally or intentionally. That would inhibit creative expression. At the same time, being aware of these effects may help in problem solving as I compose and paint. It helps me to identify why something isn't working at all.

Dan Kent correctly pointed out yesterday that all my wine glasses seem to be tipping in these paintings. True! In fact, all the elements are placed on an arc, creating a "barrel" effect. In retrospect, I should either have exaggerated that effect a little more or eliminated it. It's too ambiguous and fence-sitting isn't good. Lesson learned :)

Thanks to ALL of you for contributing to this discussion!


Margaret Ryall said...


You have me totally immersed in compositional thoughts almost to an obsessive degree. Last night I started to look back over the books I read and notes taken when I was in the first years of my practice. I wanted to try and discern how my knowledge was acquired - what stuck with me and what was lost. I found some great advice in my notes that has become part of my practice. Then there were other things that I had forgotten and would benefit from reviewing now that my practice is more complex. I am planning a series of posts on my blog to continue this discussion. I will use a painting that is causing me problems as a test case to model some of the advice.

I always think in metaphors- sometimes too much. You certainly embellished my initial shotgun writing style with eloquent writing. So much learning occurs when you combine the wisdom of many.

Kathy said...

Great, Margaret! I can't wait to see your future posts :)

Alex Perez said...

Kathy, hi
Thank you for your visit and the comment, I see good works here!

Kathy said...

Hi Alex - thanks so much for visiting my blog! Feel free to join in our conversations anytime.