View Full Version : Golden Mean or Golden Section

01-05-2003, 05:13 AM
I was asked about the Golden Mean or Golden section in another thread here in the pastel forum. Here's the link:


I did a search and there are a couple more links here in WC that discuss this very valuable tool for composition so I thought I'd just post it here for people to see . . .besides the composition and design forum seems be be the least used forum in WC for some reason . . . believe me . . go there . .it's worth the read!!

I use design principles like this a lot . .

Anyway here's the links




01-05-2003, 11:57 AM
For the sake of possible interest, I'll share this...as I have one other thread. Its just one other take on the subject...

The universe was considered to be of Divine Origin, all having high order in that design. Such beliefs gave great invitation for exploration to disclose or understand such order. Whether one was in favor of the church or not...there was yet the general belief in God or Divine origin.

For artists...the road led to discover a high order. In fact, I have a book by Leonardo Da Vinci on the anatomy of trees....and he breaks each tree type down by mathematics and that as the tree grows upward, a rule of math and fractions, percents ensues 'till you finally have the perfect tree. Perfect everything.

For us however...unless we really wish to approach our subjects with the need for such mathematical perfections...there are other methods which give us this approximate golden means, and does so actually quite effectively.

Now...lest someone assume by my sharing that I myself use it in all my work...naw. I'm an art teacher...so this is something I know and can teach to others that find it useful. What happens though ironically...is I can take the rule, go back to my paintings and discover that intuitively/internally...I tend to arrange my paintings where the main focus of my intent just happens to fall on one of the ideal locations of the golden means.

Perhaps by observing art works and ideal works for years, or just painting a great many paintings....I don't know. I do run into folks though that are often paralyzed to get about to begin unless they know in advance the work will succeed, and rules seem to be a good starting point to get them off and going.

Basically this method here yet uses math in dividing the work into thirds...yet, I didn't rule it out. I eyeballed it. Used guesstimates.

Here is the first step-

take your canvas and picture it divided into thirds vertically-

then divide into thirds your side to run horizontally-

now...the four areas these lines intersect are the ideal areas for your main subject to be located...

The thing is though...what this is really all about is working to achieve visual mass balance in a painting, and doing so in a way to avoid formal or symmetrical arrangement which though works... is trite, calculated, obvious to work...and BORING!

Even if you arrange your subject by the golden means...you must be mindful of what works or is the driving force behind asymmetrical balance. You can yet place a subject on an ideal golden means position, but lose a good sense of balance by the command a particular note of color has somewhere else in the painting...or the need to have one.

I recommend a simplified wetcanvas archived lesson I put together on composition..explaining negative and positive elements, the importance of understanding how the eye works and art manipulates the viewer's eye to achieve interest AND balance.... here is that link.
"Composition...Seeing it and Understanding it"

Perhaps...because I work with an understanding of the relationship of elements, color and constantly challenge myself to be mindful of a work being both interesting and balancing...I find I do not set out to do a successful painting as needing a rule as the Golden means....yet, ironically...when the work is finished, it will probably find the main interest lining up.


01-05-2003, 01:08 PM
Thank you Crumby and Larry for taking the time to share these links and information.

I find I need to constantly reinforce my concious thinking with these design elements. It strengthens my intuitive painting process. I haven't gotten to the point where I can rely completly on my intuition ...I'm hoping that will come with more practice and with folks like you who are so willing to take the time to share.

01-05-2003, 02:11 PM
Hey thanks Crumby... great info you engineering master you!!! LOL Thank you for the links and the explanation.

Thank you also Larry... while getting good math grades in college, I am not mathematically inclined and prefer the visual eyeball method you have shared. It is funny how things just seem to be in position sometimes without "conciously" placing them there..

Colleen :D:D:D

Epic Dewfall
01-06-2003, 03:34 AM
There is a slant or angle that has been appearing in many of my paintings from lucid dreams. I've been suspecting this slant or angle might actually be the Golden Mean (as that ratio might appear as an angle between zero and ninety degrees).

(in my dreams, trees are a symbol for women)

The same slant or angle has been showing up in my lucid dream paintings as, leaning motor cycles, wheelie stunts, tilting boats and drinking straws, etc.

A kite string would also be such an angle I would guess. I think it must be a dreams way of showing efficient balance.