Composition: Understanding it - Using it! (1/4)
Author: Larry Seiler, Contributing Editor
When looking at a picture, there exists an unconscious action in the viewer's mind to divide the space in half; to want the visual object's to find balance much the same way equal weight on the end of a teeter totter balances.
The more common method is to place objects of equal mass or weight on each side of the balancing mid-point. This was the practice of the medieval era, and the balance is referred to as "formal" balance or "symmetrical."
While there is absolute certainty that symmetrical balance works, it is considered the obvious solution and in the art world- boring! Asymmetrical balance, also called "informal" balance, looks for unique relationships that appear at first glance as though it ought not to work, yet does. Such creates much appeal and interest, and calls attention to the viewer's eyes. For example, to the left, we have a larger mass closer to the mid-point, with a much smaller positive element far away from center. This is similar to an adult sitting closer to the center of a beam in order to teeter-totter with a child.
Here we see on the left a mass of cool color obviously out of balance as visual weight. The color orange is the opposite of blue on the color wheel, or blue's complementary color. Note how being an obvious difference to the larger mass or a "minority" of sorts, if-you-will, the color orange demands attention. It does not require much to do so, and in demanding that your eye be led to the upper corner away from the much heavier bluish mass, it creates an odd sense of balance. An asymmetrical balance.