The Laws of Nature

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Balance: Left vs. Right

These are paintings from my Wine Series (gouache on Arches paper, 19" x 15") and I'm using them to illustrate another point from Arnheim's book. My previous post was a synthesis of Arnheim's ideas about visual weight and description when establishing balance in a drawing or painting. Continuing with the balance theme, he examines the influence of the left cerebral cortex of the brain which is dominant in most people upon our perception of elements placed in the left and right halves of the visual field of a work of art. BTW - the left cerebral cortex controls speech, writing, and reading. Here's a paraphrase of three points:

If there are two objects equal in size and one is shown in the left half and the other in the right half of the painting, the one on the right will look larger. In order to make them appear equal, the one on the left has to be increased in size.

Most people read pictures from left to right. Therefore, it's easier for us to see, for example, a rider traverse a picture from left to right. If the rider traverses from right to left, the viewer must overcome resistance and invest more effort to read the painting. It slows down the viewer.

The right side of a picture is more conspicuous and carries greater visual weight. To compensate, the artist must pay more attention to the left.

If I had to "nutshell" Arnheim's book, it's really about how the artist must create optical illusions to get his/her point across. This author tells us how the "normal" brain works and what the artist must do to compensate for that. I'll share a little more on the next post.


Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog Kathy because of your wonderful comment to my blog. I'm absolutely blown away by your work, skill and teaching! I'm following this blog and your 20 minute challenge. WOW!!!

Caio Fern said...

you are really good .
it is pleasure to hav discovered your blog .

seeu you Katharine

M said...

These three points make total sense to me and through instinct and practice I discovered them. I'm still working on the the nine points in the previous post. Some make sense to me, some I'm thinking about.

Unknown said...

Welcome, Pamo and Caio! Thanks for coming to my sight and for your generous complements. Hope you can take the Twenty Minute Challenge!

Margaret - I'd like to know your insights about the nine points on the previous post if you'd like to share them. There's a lot of "meat" there!

Gary Keimig said...

good points and wonderful paintings, Kathy.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Gary!

Todd Bonita said...

Hi Kathy,
Thanks for the kind words on my blog, that means a lot coming from you, I think you are such an intelligent painter. I found myself spending way too much time reading your posts a few days ago. By-the-way, I love the picture of you painting the eggs on that large canvas, it really shows the scale and made me wow!
All the best,

Unknown said...

Hi Todd, Thanks so much for the generous comments and for visiting my blog!

Mary Paquet said...

Kathy, thanks for providing so much valuable insight to your blog friends. I found myself wondering about the second of the three quotes. Would we conclude that it's good to cause people to stop and look at the painting? I was looking at your three paintings and found myself spending more time with the second one, which to my way of thinking is weighted by the wine bottle on the right. Humm -- very interesting!

Unknown said...

First of all I finally found my jaw after it fell to the floor upon viewing those amazing paintings for your wines series. Second, I loved reading this information about left vs right!

I wonder if the opposite applies to cultures who read right to left. I used to read Japanese comic books that read that way when I was growing up in Japan...I'm going to be very conscious of how I look at things for the next few days.

Unknown said...

Great analysis, Mary! I think you hit the nail on the head.

Sheila - good point. Arnheim is a Westerner, so his insights might apply only to those of us who read from left to right. I really don't know. Has anyone seen a study on this??

Carolyn Abrams said...

Great information and food for more observation. Thanks for sharing. i'm not sure where i would find this kind of information. Great wine series!