Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Disribution and equilibrium, also an industrial meat grinder
I am going to begin summarising some of the ideas presented in a book entitled "Composition, an analysis of the principles of pictorial design" by Cyril Pearce R.A. This volume published in 1927 is long out of print and now in the public domain. Amazon had but a single copy and it was about a hundred dollars, so I can't send you to read it. The prose is stilted and very dated so I am going to lift a few illustrations from it and summarize his ideas in my own words. There are a number of books on composition and a few of them are unique, it is surprising to me how many different approaches there are to the subject.
The first principle Pearce presents is called distribution. The illustration above shows a card with flat weights of lead distributed upon its surface. The arrangement is in equilibrium, that is, it balances. If the weights are imagined as areas of tone or value the visual arrangements made will be in equilibrium, or they will not. Below are some more examples of arrangements .
Figure 2 is an example of an informal arrangement in pictorial distribution, several shapes of value are arranged about the center point giving equilibrium but no particular artistic interest.
Figure 3 demonstrates that it is possible to move the elements further from the center and still maintain equilibrium or balance. Figure 4 is an example of imperfect equilibrium. As a design it is random looking and not particularly pleasing. There is something in us that craves balance. Figure 5 is an example of the same sort of design modified so as to have balance. It was necessary to add "weight" on the other side of the balance point to get this one to work.
Here are some pictorial schemes that have equilibrium. Figure 6 is an example of the simplest sort of balance, that is, a weight set near the center balance point. Figure 7 has the darks pushed out towards the edges of the rectangle. Figure 7 is an example of a more formal and symmetrical arrangement.
The point of all of this is that it illustrates balancing a picture by distributing the masses as if they were weights. The image balances from its center, like the illustration above of the disembodied hand holding the poisoned weights aloft.