Monday, May 3, 2010
I suppose I will order these posts from informal to increasingly mathematical systems. The post yesterday and many of my prior posts on design, (searchable under design in my archives) explain how I approach design. Mostly I used logic systems often based on obtaining variety of shape, line direction and proportion. But I have also studied the writings of Edgar Payne. His methods center about the use of what he calls design stems. These are stock compositional arrangements that artists use to assemble paintings. As I write this is it sounds rather uncreative, but I don't believe you will find it so. They are sort of skeletal armatures that help you think about a paintings design, rather than a template you build a painting within.
Payne draws pages and pages of little thumbnails showing the major design stems that artists have repeatedly used in landscapes. After enumerating these stems, he shows how dozens of artists have used them to create paintings.
Here is a design stem. The balance beam, or steelyard. As you can see this is a pretty basic arrangement. Payne lays out about a dozen of these. I suggest you find and read his book, "Composition of Outdoor Painting". I have written extensively on these ideas in earlier posts that you can search in my archives. This book is very popular today and has had an enormous influence, particularly on painters west of the Mississippi.
These design stems are simple relatively loose schematics to suggest the arrangement of paintings. They are not the complete scaffolding that the more formal mathematical approaches install.
Tomorrow I will ratchet the formality up a notch and discuss the ideas of Cyril Pearce, a late 19th early 20th century artist who wrote on design. He has a series of principles that I will enumerate and discuss. That may actually take a few days. I am betting that few if any of you know about this guy.