View Full Version : How much do you know about art. #3 Pictorial balance

Johannes Instructor
09-20-1999, 01:30 PM
What is understood by correct pictorial balance and in how many points of view should this be considered refering to weight only?

Talmadge Moose
09-23-1999, 11:34 AM
After teaching pictorial design for about twenty years, and reading about everything I could get my hands on, there is just vast disagreement about design, its elements, and principles. I am working on a workbook of pictorial design, and have tried to simplify the whole business. Here is what I have come up with...Design Elements: POINT, LINE, COLOR, VALUE, MASS OR SHAPE, and RHYTHM. (Actually value is a part of color, but I think it is useful to consider it as a seperate element). Design Principles (what you do to design elements) The Principles of Design: BALANCE (Formal and informal), DIRECTION, GRADATION, PROPORTION, and RHYTHM.
Now, when you consider BALANCE, you give consideration to the balancing of the elements, each one. You balance color, for instance, by maybe not having all your reds on one side of the picture, but instead, distributing them over the picture as a whole. There are no "rules" for doing this. The idea is to consider this color distribution. And do the same with each an all the design elements. Awareness of this structure within design should eventually lead to more sensitivity to Balance, or all the other principles. And as your sensitivity and awareness increase, your compositional or design abilities should result in better work. Even Balanced, formally or informally, if you like.


09-23-1999, 01:29 PM
MOOSE,,,i gotta disagree. color and value does not go hand in hand. distribution of color doesn't rely on distribution of light and dark. in fact, color is not crucial in compositional balance. color can be MADE to play a critical role, but it is not inherently so.

"he who thinks he know all and knows nothing is king in a kingdom of one,,,,,or a critic" - the kobe

[This message has been edited by bruin70 (edited 09-23-99).]

Johannes Instructor
09-23-1999, 02:17 PM
My origial question referred to weight.

Talmadge Moose
09-23-1999, 08:21 PM
Weight would come under my general classification of proportion, the amount of this related to the amount of that. Lots of red here related to another amount of red elsewhere. Weight cannot be a realistic term to use in design, except where you might consider, for instance, a lot of red being heavier than a smaller amount of red. Or maybe equal amounts of red balanced with equal amounts of say, blue. Again which would you consider the heasviest? Probably red, but not necessarily.
Now, about value and color--like it or not value is one of three dimensions of color, the other two being Hue, and Saturation or Intensity. It is really artificial to deal with value seperate from Color, but for purposes of thinking about design it is useful to consider it as seperate. Maybe you are confusing value with tone. And I have never been convinced as to just what tone is. I have read a lot about it, but most of whst I have read just confuses me. I think the greatest danger in dealing with design, or composition, is seeking some kind of rule that will automatically produce great results. I really don't think such an animal exists. There is enough nonsense floating out there about the mysteries of art. It is either a mystery, and we will never understand, or we can seek to simplify things to better understand or work with different aspects of art.

09-23-1999, 09:30 PM
value and tone, by my definition, are one and the same. the lightness/darkness of a thing. it's apparent that you and i are thinking of value on different terms. and you're right about the danger of rules. they're there to be broken( once understood, of course). yet these threads seem of wordy definitions. like the nike ad says,,,"just, do it". once you put a brushstroke down next to another brushstroke of differing value and color, you can throw out all those preconceptions.

"he who thinks he know all and knows nothing is king in a kingdom of one,,,,,or a critic" - the kobe

09-25-1999, 09:37 PM
words,,,right, sandi.......milt

10-02-1999, 09:46 PM
TM,,,you've said the smartest thing here,,,milt

"he who thinks he know all and knows nothing is king in a kingdom of one,,,,,or a critic" - the kobe

Talmadge Moose
10-03-1999, 12:05 AM
It is all subjective. There are no rules to follow to achieve balance. But if you make yourself aware that there might be such a thing, and think about the balancing of colors, or objects, or masses, or lines, or whatever, then you are sensitive to the idea, and by being sensitive to it, aware of it, you just might achieve balance anyhow. Don't sweat it. If it helps, use it. If it confuses you, just forget it and move on. If you can't use it, lose it.

Johannes Instructor
10-05-1999, 09:33 PM
Pictorial balance (weight) refers to the correct placement of masses in a way that the viewer does not feel that the painting tilts on one side. More or less the same amount of square inches of mass should appear on both sides of the painting being one side slightly predominant to avoid monotony. Not only does this refer to the sides but also from top to bottom as well as depth wise.
Value of the masses plays a very important role as well. If there is a predominate dark value on one side even though the area of the masses are the same it will still tilt. Balance is very important in traditonal and modern art. Some of you mention that rules are not important. Most painters of modern art feel the same way and that's why they go down that path. However I have yet to see a good traditional painting with vital composition rules broken. In my opinion all the "good" paintings I have studied do follow many of the basic rules. I strongly feel that if an artist wants to break rules that's fine but at least he should know why and what he's breaking. and not do it from ignorance.

Phyllis Franklin
06-29-2000, 06:59 AM
Found a thread that I had been looking for. Wanted to bring the subject back up and review the thoughts presented. Sounds like these are all things to consider when we are painting. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif


Yep this is Phy...llis
Sounds like Lizz.
Visit the Virtual Cafe Guerbois Today! (http://www.artistnation.com/members/paris/cafe)

06-29-2000, 11:53 AM
Enjoying this thread. I think intuition is also a big factor in much of this. Some people truly have it..they can just paint, and things work. I'm not one to OVER evaluate any concept, although if you've seen SOME of my posts (you can easily pick out the ones--too much coffee, lack of sleep!!).
Blind emotion can be a factor in self-expression, where there is very little or ZERO actual critical thinking or evaluative thinking involved in the expression. I would have to say that just throwing paint at a canvas..is certainly expressive..but some of the criteria that many of us find important...is just out the window. Lots of ways to express ourselves. the word subjective encompasses a broad range of art.
My point being..some artists just have a feel for the rules of composition..and I've seen great examples of paintings where rules were disregarded, and quite interesting work has resulted. Expressionist work is very strong,and often, classical rules of design and composition (to include color, placement, weight, balance and all the rest) are of no concern to the artist. dekooning's work is very interesting..very expressive...lots of rules broken....strong impact, but large pieces tend to have this.
If we worried over all the text-book stuff we'd be poised in front of our canvas-with brush in hand all day, afraid to put paint to canvas.

06-29-2000, 01:07 PM
"...Breaking these rules is important to the creation of new art, but one has to know and
understand the rules beforehand. Otherwise our experiments are aimless flailing, rather than serious exploration."
This is a quote from my artist's statement. I think its interesting that so many of us share this specific viewpoint. Anyone have a different take?

I'm off to explore that thread, phyllis! http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

"The painter and the canvas are alone, and if the canvas does not fight back, it is meaningless."
-Edward Millman

06-29-2000, 01:14 PM
I disagree. Anyone can "break the rules" whether they "know" them or not.

I think, however, the more you understand art (including the "rules"), the more powerful and subtle you can make your expressions. Sometimes rules can help in that understanding other times you have to learn through experience. The rules try to give us a short cut. But like all short cuts there is a trade off involved.

Who honestly thinks that someone who has memorized and understood all the rules of art will paint a masterpiece? I bet no one thinks this because we all realize how varied and complex the influences are that go into creating a masterpiece and rules cannot define those completely.

It's been my experience in general that there are at least as many exceptions to rules as there are rules.

They are useful in their place...


06-30-2000, 12:06 AM
Oh dear, if I have to figure out what you guys are saying....I may not live long enough to paint another painting!

To quote one of my favorite artists..."when I paints, I just paints"

06-30-2000, 06:53 PM
You're right Carly.....This is too deep for me. A rain puddle in the desert is deeper than I am. As far as rules go, I have 3 rules that when followed have served me well. They are; 1.Keep your brushes clean. 2.Keep your art studio door locked. 3. Do everything your wife tells you to do.

Speaking of intellectual depth, let me pose this next "deep" question for discussion. Are intellectually shallow artists (such as myself), more inclined to paint and enjoy viewing art classified as realism than they are to paint abstract pieces?....bob http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

06-30-2000, 07:45 PM
Originally posted by bobsart:

Speaking of intellectual depth, let me pose this next "deep" question for discussion. Are intellectually shallow artists (such as myself), more inclined to paint and enjoy viewing art classified as realism than they are to paint abstract pieces?....bob http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

Bob, you can't ask a question like that. You'll have the eggheads on this thread blowing gaskets and circuit breakers and God knows what else trying to answer it. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

There's enough hot air being generated on this thread to float the Hindenburg....and you all know what happened to that....but I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

07-08-2001, 09:32 AM
Could we talk a little more about this topic?

07-11-2001, 07:34 PM
"Balance" means that there are present a range of tones from very dark to very light, with the midtones, of course. Also, that there are present; Blues , reds and yellows...simple but true.

07-13-2001, 11:02 AM
Originally posted by Johannes
What is understood by correct pictorial balance and in how many points of view should this be considered refering to weight only?

I have intentionally made paintings heavier with subject matter on one side than the other. I balance this out with the use of color/tone, or composition, or both. Forgive me if I use my tea set again, but it is a good example of weight balanced by the use of color/tone. The subject/mass itself is heavier on the left, but the use of lighter colors/tones on the right adds weight to the right.

07-13-2001, 11:16 AM
In this painting, I used composition/placement not color/tone, to balance the weight. The shells on the right are very heavy compared to the one smaller shell on the left, but I have placed the shell on the left farther from the center of the painting to create more balance so that the scale doesn't tip so badly.

07-13-2001, 11:34 AM
In this painting, I have used composition/placement and color/tone for balance. The composition is a more of a pyramid shape, and that helps, but I also moved the sword off center to the right because the mug on the right, is so much 'lighter' in weight/mass, than the jug on the left. The lighter color/tones in the sword placed off center helps the balance as well. I tried to see the central vertical line of this painting as I would the middle of a seesaw.

09-05-2001, 02:37 AM
How much do I know about art?

It's spelled a r t-and it's a whole lot of fun.
I myself rely on, "If it looks good-keep going."

I never want to get too technical with "values,"
or "weight."

I don't think an art client is not going to buy
because the value or the weight is "off."

Rules? What rules?

Fat over lean, clean your brushes when finished
are the only two I can think of.....

For me, having an image result in the way I expected
it to is what I strive for.

Good luck all.


Keith Russell
09-07-2001, 04:02 PM

Rules are great, if you are trying to figure out what you did, in order to be able to repeat the process. Otherwise, they simply require you to memorize a whole bunch of stuff you won't need, if you're not simply repeating yourself over and over and over.

I've told this story before, but it definitely applies here.

One of the Beatles (I think it was George, maybe Paul) attended a music production class at a university maybe a decade or so ago. The engineering students were studying the mixer settings that the Beatles had used for the Sgt. Pepper album. The students had spent the entire semester learning about how the various settings used by the Beatles affected the resulting recorded sounds on the record, and how to achieve those sounds.

The instructor asked George (or Paul) what they had had in mind for the sounds, and how they had managed to get the sound of the album.

George (or was it Paul?) replied, "we just turned knobs until things sounded good."

Sometimes, things really are that simple.


09-22-2001, 12:52 PM
Instinct does work best, but the question was 'How much do you know'... If your stuck, it's good to know the 'rules' to follow or to break...Some times a composition is uncomfortable and you sense that something is wrong but don't know what. Sometimes moving something over just a bit, or making it lighter or darker, can make it better. The rules of art are based on trial and error of the ages. Why not learn from the mistakes of others?