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Design or composition

process; the act or organizing the visual elements to effect a desired aesthetic on a work of art

How artists create compositions

(1.) consciously draw upon design principles. (2.) choose to consciously violate them.


a term used to describe the willfully plural and eclectic art forms of contemporary art

Unity (and its relationship with variety)

oneness or wholeness; a work of art achieves this when its parts seem necessary to the composition

Ways to achieve Unity

Grid, Color harmony, Continuity; Keeping one or more aspects of the works constant

visual unity

unified by color, shape, composition or some other visual design principle

conceptual unity

common theme or concept throughout it.

Emphasis on variety

when artists exaggerate differences rather than similarities


refers to the distribution of weight in art; the actual or apparent weight int the elements of a composition

actual balance

literally balanced; it can stay upright on its own

pictorial balance

apparent or visual weight of the elements in works that are basically 2D


a similarity of form or arrangement on either side of a dividing line or plane.

symmetrical balance

whole of the work has a symmetrical feeling

asymmetrical balance

variations to the right and left side of the composition are more than slight, yet there remains an overall sense of balance; right and left sides of a composition bear visibly different shapes, colors, textures, or other elements and yet the are arranges or "weighted" in such a way that the work feels balanced

bilateral symmetry

pure or formal symmetry; everything in a composition to either side of an actual or imaginary line is the same

horizontal balance

elements on the left and right side f the composition seem to be about equal

vertical balance

the elements at the top and bottom of the composition are in balance

diagonal balance

the elements on either side of a diagonal line dividing the composition are visually equal

radial balance

design elements radiate from the center point; frequently used in ceramics, jewelry, basketry, stained glass, and other crafts

Affects of Imbalance

can create shock and discomfort; can be used to capture a sense of movement

How emphasis creates a focal point

some feature of a work normally captures the viewer's attention; artists use emphasis to focus the viewer's attention

How to create a focal point

Accentuate certain shapes; Intensify colors; use directional line; strategically place objects and images; isolate an object or subject


eye is continually distracted from one point of interest


Regular repetition; orderly progressions; rhythm can move a viewer visually as well as emotionally; repetitive pattern can be used to lead the eye over the landscape of the work


refers to size; the relative size of an object compared to other objects of its kind, its setting, or human dimensions

Hierarchical Scaling

Used as a way of indicating importance; BIGGER=MORE IMPORTANT; often used in ancient and medieval art

Distortion of scale

alerts the viewer's sense of scale, creating visual shock and humor; can challenge the viewer to rethink the subject and the historical aspects of the object

The Canon of proportions

a set of rules about the body parts and their dimensions relative to one another that became the standard for creating the ideal figure

Golden mean or the golden section

the small part of a work should relate to a larger part of the work as the larger part relates to the whole

Golden rectangle

a rectangle base on the measurements of the golden rectangle

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