**Welcome to Class 6**. You have passed the halfway mark. Now, armed with your knowledge, it's time to really put the tools work for you.

Art theorists, educators, philosophers and mathematicians have come up with rules, standards, principles, methods and formulas for composing a work of art. I'm going to share many of them with you in this lesson because there's some good information and insight that may be of help to you as an artist.

The minute you begin to feel overwhelmed or get confused, remember this:

You already know all you need to know. TRUST YOUR OWN VISION AND INTUITION.

So if I say that, then why am I going to include the potentially confusing stuff? Because one or more of them may lead to an AHA moment. It may just be the information you need for it all to make sense to you.

Knowing this may help you to further trust your own vision. You gain confidence when you know that something you feel or think has external validity. And, to reference a couple of classic quotes:

Learn the rules so you know how

to break them properly.

Dalai Lama

It's not wise to violate rules

until you know how to observe them.

T. S. Eliot

So that is why we will study these rules of composition. There's no reason for you to know all the science or math behind them. Just be aware of what's going on with these rules. Like the elements and principles, they are **TOOLS** for you to use to evaluate your art, as you are creating, when you get stuck and when you are finished. Just remember to **trust your gut**. If you feel that you must do something that breaks the rules, by all means, do it.

I do what I can to convey what I experience before nature and most often, in order to succeed in conveying what I feel, I totally forget the most elementary rules of painting, if they exist that is.

Claude Monet

**You too are a creator, not a rule follower.**

**Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?**

The rules & principles outlined in this class arose out of the observation of the natural world and the human body as well as finished art.

Man can make only the rules. He cannot make the laws, which are

. It is the understanding of these laws that enables athe laws of nature

student to draw.

Kimon Nicolaides

It makes no difference whether a work is naturalistic or abstract; every visual expression

.follows the same fundamental laws

Hans Hofmann

There are rules in drawing that cannot be broken.

. But the rules can be bent and new rules invented. Moncy BarbourIt is math

Consulting the rules of composition before taking a photograph, is like consulting the laws of gravity before going for a walk. Such rules and laws are

; they are the products of reflection. Edward Westondeduced from the accomplished fact

Let's start with the most complex and get that out of the way.

**Fibonacci Ratio**

**The Fibonacci ratio is a naturally occuring mathematical sequence.**

There was no Fibonicci. The "greatest mathematician of all time" was Leonardo of Pisa. Fibonacci is short for filius Bonacci, the son of Guglielmo Bonaccio born in 1175. (Now you can impress people at parties with your vast knowledge!)

And even more disillusioning is that Fibonacci did not invent or arrive at the ratio on his own. It is said that he learned it from the Indians (of India) and wanted to share it with the Italians. His name became associated with the number series discovered by the French mathematician by Edouard Lucas (1842-1891) who gave the name **Fibonacci numbers** to this series.

The Fibonacci ratio or series is not just for artists. I first heard about it from my husband in relation to the way the stock market works.

In a nutshell, the series begins with 0 and 1. After that, use the simple rule:

Add the last two numbers to get the next.

1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987,...

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"The Fibonacci series is also tied to nature by way of the naturally occuring flower petals, plant branches and the spirals in sunflowers, pine cones and pineapples, cauliflower, and other natural forms.

For example, some plants branch in such a way that they always have a Fibonacci number of growing points. Flowers often have a Fibonacci number of petals, daisies can have 34, 55 or even as many as 89 petals!

Finally, next time you look at a sunflower, take the trouble to look at the arrangement of the seeds. They appear to be spiralling outwards both to the left and the right. There are a Fibonacci number of spirals! It seems that this arrangement keeps the seeds uniformly packed no matter how large the seed head."

The Nautilus shell is another Fibonacci series. By looking at the shell, we come even closer to seeing how the Fibonacci series becomes the basis for the Golden Mean.

Here's where it gets complicated and all mathy. The Fibonacci ratio leads to the positive root of a quadratic equation which is called the *golden section*, *golden ratio* or sometimes the *golden mean*. There's a lot of geometry and math behind the Golden Mean.

Lucky for us, there's no need to try to understand the math. I just want you to be aware of how the Golden Mean came about because the Golden Mean (also known as the Golden Ratio and Golden Section) is widely used in art composition. This is all you need to know about the Fibonacci ratio: it is the basis for the Golden Mean. The Golden Mean is easier to understand because it is **VISUAL **and easy to discern.

You'll "see" what I mean in this video which visually explains it very well but the soundtrack/music is really weird.

**The Golden Mean**

You may already be familiar with the Golden Mean, especially if you are a quilter. It is created from a sequence of proportional boxes as seen in the green box animation below.

Many artists arrange their compositions according to these measurements and placements. In fact, the sizes of picture frames and ready-made canvasses correspond to the Golden Mean proportions.

You just saw how many things in our Universe correspond to the Golden Mean. It's no wonder that artists and designers employ these ratios, either knowingly or unknowingly. It is what we as humans find pleasing to the eye. They are inherently beautiful to us.

Here is a wonderful video of painter Margarete Bagshaw, who uses the Fibonnacci ratio as the basis for some of her paintings.

Quilter Caryl Bryer Fallert created a series of quilts based on the Fibonacci ratio, aptly entitled, the Fibonacci Series. You can see how the blocks in Splendor In the Grass (below) are based on the proportions in the Golden Mean spiral above.

In the above quilt, the strips are finished widths in the Fibonacci proportions (1-2-3-5).

And here's another Fibonacci inspired quilt by Karen Franzin - *Fibonaccis Crane Stretching*

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Long about now you're probably still wondering why all of this is important. Very simply:

*A ratio is the relation of one number to another.*

*Proportion is a repeating ratio.*

*Proportion has everything to do with composition.*

Proportion is an interesting element of design. Not all people can develop good proportion in designs just like most musicians do not have perfect pitch. However, most know when they are viewing pleasing proportion in a design just as they can discern when an instrument or voice is performing on pitch in a musical performance. Of course, this is good news for all of us because just as one does not need perfect pitch to play music, we also do not need a perfect eye to develop good proportion in our designs. Just like a hand plane or table saw, there are tools that we can use to develop the proportions in our designs. TheCraftsmansPath.com

Proportion exists in:

The proportion of the canvas or paper.

The proportion of the shapes you place on the canvas/paper.

The proportion of colors you choose, etc.

So knowing all this Fibonacci, Golden Mean stuff helps you to find the right proportions for your art. You can use them as reference or framework.

These ratios help you determine placement.

They help you create pleasing horizon lines.

Using these proportions gives you a head start on creating a good composition.

Being an equally proportioned left & right brain thinker, I love all this science behind beauty. Do I use it? No. I use my eye. I rarely measure, trusting my eye more than a ruler or a ratio. Some people are naturals at it. Others know it when they see it but don't know *why *it's good or how to make it beautiful. Others don't see it at all!

Remember the off-key music? Pretty easy to discern. But how do you make music approach perfection? SAME PRINCIPLES!

Rhythm and harmony are ratios. In doing my research for this lesson I read that the "simple major and minor chords consist of the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 8th notes of the scale. "AHA," I said, "I've heard that before...in one of my favorite songs."

The song is by singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen, but the most beautiful version (in my opinion!) is sung by Rufus Wainwright.

No matter who sings it, I think Cohen created ultimate beauty based on the Golden Mean. Many composers (probably unknowingly) created works that follow the Golden Ratio: Beethoven (97% of works), Mozart (91%), Chopin (92%) to name a few. Now I know why some songs send me over the edge. I bet Amazing Grace follows the Golden Ratio.

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OK! Back to class.

**RULE OF THIRDS**

The first and most commonly referred to when talking about the rule of thirds is this grid.

- Divide your canvas/page/quilt background into equal thirds, across and down like a tic-tac-toe grid.
- Decide what your focal point is going to be.
- Place your focal point on (or very near) one of the intersecting 'third lines'. Or at least ON one of the vertical or horizontal lines.
- Complete the rest of your composition with the intention to guide the viewer to the focal point, around and through the composition, and back to your focal point.

Another use of the **rule of thirds **comes ito play with horizon lines. The most pleasing horizon lines divide the canvas/paper/quilt into thirds.

The horizon line controls the viewers eye level.

A low horizon line is more calming and creates a greater sense of space.

A high horizon line makes the elements in the foreground appear closer. A high horizon line is more dynamic.

Combined with perspective, horizon lines give you the ability to create depth in your work.

There's another use for the Rule of Thirds - **VALUE** (tone). A compositional rule of thumb is to use one third of this, two thirds of that and a little bit of the other, referring to lights, darks and midtones. A formula for dramatic effects that catch the eye: one third midtone, two thirds dark, and a little bit of light, or reverse the dark & light for a siilar dramatic effect.

Remember to squint to make it easier to see the light and dark tones in an image. And also remember that light, dark and midtones are all ** relative** to a work of art. What is light in one paininting or collage may be midtone in another.

And speaking of the rule of thirds, there is also **the rule of threes**. Use three things or another odd number. The rule of three is also a basic writing principle - that everything is better in groups of three. This is a tried-and-true pattern. You can see this most easily at work in fairy tales. Threeâ€¦little pigs, 3 bears with Goldilocks, 3 blind mice, billy goats gruff, etc.

Visually, the basic idea of the rule is that details and objects that are arranged or grouped in odd numbers are more appealing, memorable, and effective than even-numbered pairings. While it is easier to create symmetry by balancing elements in twos, odd numbers create harmony and force movement and visual interest.(Cecilla Walker)

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**OTHER COMPOSITIONAL DEVICES**

**The Grid**

One of the first things you did in Compose+Yourself was use the grid as a compositional device. The grid is a very easy framework to work with. It can be straightforward, ie. one element in each box, or you can have one element span several boxes as seen in Skein's grid-based collage above.

What compositional elements and principles does a grid reinforce?

Grids are such great tools for composition, they are included as an option screen in digital ditigal cameras.

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Painter Carol Marine sums up her advice on composition in one easy to remember sentence. She calls it her Number One Rule. She borrowed it from Greg Albert's (*The Simple Secret to Better Painting*):

"Never make an two intervals - of distance length, spacing, and dimensions of shapes - the same."

No even spacing, no same sizes, no same proportions of color or texture , etc. Variety is not only the spice of life, but it's the secret to good composition.

But what about classical design and composition? It is certainly pleasing to the eye. It follows Fibonacci ratios. It is symmetrical, balanced and...classic. The most enduring and dramatic examples of classical design are in architecture and it's power to captivate relies on scale. Otherwise, classical, symmetrical design with it's regular intervals and uniform repetition is rather boring. Static. Pleasantly pleasing but not for long. Remember, we humans like variety.

How did Leonardo DaVinci create a dynamic composition within his classically symmetrical framework?

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**One More Thing**

My favorite ways to control the action in art was written by Marvin Percy Bartel, Ed.D., Emeritus Professor of Art, Adjunct in Art Education, Goshen College. He has a list of eight principles of art and composition that I wish I'd written myself. You can read them HERE.

**Joan Schulze** is my guest expert for this class. Joan was one of the artists who inspired my foray into fabric collage. She was an early adopter of image transfer and collage as a style of quilt making. Looking at her work in light of the class, I now see how closely her quilts and now her more recent paper + fabric Haiku collages are based on the Golden Mean, the rule of thirds and Fibonacci ratios. She has a quilt in the current 2013 Quilt National show - the #1 show for art quilters.

JoanSchulze click to listen

**HOMEWORK & PLAY**

**Homework Pass Week!!!**

If you haven't completed your Bearden and Matisse collages, use what you learned this week to help in creating even better collages.

If you have done your Bearden and Matisse collages, then use this time to do some of your own work. Try to refer to and synthesize everything you've learned in these six classes.

*See you next week for Class 7, Trust the Process. *

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