While it would seem easy, at first, to arrange the five variables of two dimensional design - only five! -
as you get into it, you soon discover the possibilities are endless. For within each of those five variables, are many many more. Think of ALL the possible shapes there are in the world! All the possible lines, all the colours and textures. There are even at least 11 easily detectable values:
©, beginning with 0% black, and then adding 10%, 20% and so on up to 100%. Notice the effect of simultaneous contrast here by the way: as your eye goes towards the right hand end of each square, it appears that the value gets lighter....and towards the left hand end of each square it appears to get darker. This is an illusion created by the contrast of the darker (or lighter) adjacent value and is a nice example of the power of simultaneous contrast - which you can create with any of the four variables of colour (but that's another whole blog!). It is something that I cover in most of my workshops because it's so useful.
Back to values: We can clump them to some degree. But even working with just three values and three shapes there are six design possibilities...and if you increase to four values and a design with just four shapes there are 4 x 3 x 2 possible arrangements.
Twenty four value studies to choose from!! I wonder what would happen if I suggested that in a workshop!!! I think I'd be thrown out on my ear! "Don't take Elizabeth Barton's class, it's too hard!"
Humph!!! Actually IT grad students looking for a thesis idea could develop a little program where all you do is stick in your 4 shapes and four values and ...voila!!...24 value studies are printed out - now wouldn't that be neat!!
But of the five variables, I think two stand out above the others as being most important to address first in basic design: value and shape.
teach a workshop I emphasise making a Value pattern of the Shapes in
the sketch. If you don't make the value pattern, the sketches are composed of lines; you are looking at dark lines threading their way around a white
background….but is that what most people are thinking of making? NO.
They are trying to translate those lines into shapes in their minds and
assess whether or not this is an interesting composition/arrangement. It’s
much easier if you shade in the values so you can see SHAPES, after all
most of the time, we're cutting out Shapes from fabric.
And remember - you can be a shape shifter! Shift your shapes until they're interesting!!! Equidistant rows of shapes are not attractive - except to the Sargent Major of course!! We're attracted by the novelty not by uniformity. The big secret to artistic success is to make something that people really want to look at - again and again.
And now for the very attractive shape of a cup of tea! If you have been, thanks for reading. Elizabeth