Sunday, January 27, 2013

A principle of art

Someone asked: What do you mean by the idea that all fields have principles and knowing them helps one learn in that field (even art)?

A physics principle is like: All energy is conserved. This helps one figure out how to approach physics problems related to energy. It helps him create math equations that correspond to the physics problems.

In art, lets say the problem is that you want the art viewer to feel calm when looking at your painting. What principle helps here?

What makes someone feel calm? Order.

What makes someone feel the opposite (nervousness)? Chaos.

What does order and chaos mean in a painting? Well, one example is that curved lines is more ordered than lines with sharp edges. So, to make a nervous feeling, use lines with sharp edges. And to make a calm feeling, use curved lines.

Why does curved lines mean order, and why does jagged lines mean chaos? The answer is in the field of math. A curved line is defined by one equation. A jagged line is defined by multiple equations -- for each sharp edge (aka discontinuity) there are two equations representing the lines on each end of that discontinuity. The more equations, the more chaos. So the more discontinuities in a line, the more chaotic it is. And that chaos is registered by us neurologically.

So the principle is: Order causes calm -- so the reverse is, chaos causes nervousness.

But there is more to it. Too much order is overwhelmingly boring. And too much chaos is overwhelming too. So, in a chaotic painting, use at least one ordered element, and in an ordered painting, use at least one chaotic element.

An interesting consequence of this is that if an artist is calm, he'll create calm paintings. And if he's nervous, he'll create nervous paintings -- which is sort of an emotional resonance between the art creator and the art viewer. This is not to say that an artist cannot create a calm painting when he's nervous (or vice versa). The artist could know what I've explained, or he could have a customer asking for a calm painting, in which case he can override his subconscious.


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