Design & Color, Winter 2017 week 6

The sixth session of the Design and Color class for Winter 2017 was held on Wednesday, February 8. The class had more cardboard creations to share, which led to a brainstorming on What if’s for each project. We viewed another collection of inspiring What If images, and Dick critiqued the latest homework, and talked about how to Exploit the designs for next week’s homework.

Homework assignment – Exploit geometric shape modular design program

Having completed the first five phases of problem-solving, and with the critique still fresh in our memory bank, it’s time to exploit all that has been gained in the process.

Download (PDF)

Additional homework assignments

  1. Fill out the DesignOpts worksheet in the Additional / Supplementary Materials section below to create your own idea generator. Bring it to class next week.
  2. Pay attention to design around you this week. If something strikes you as a “wow”, inspiring, problematic, or particularly ugly, take a picture or note it. Bring in your observations next week.

Class recap – some key ideas

Critique – On a Roll

We began class with sharing the latest round of On A Roll creations. There were only two submissions this week, with Leonard having crafted a boat, and Mary fashioned a flower, which will become part of her centerpiece arrangement from previous weeks. One similarity stood out for both their designs however, in that they had both incorporated techniques used by other students in previous classes: Leonard used weaving, and Mary experimented with the cardboard “mash” Linda had previously used while making a bowl.

Dick asked each student to come up with a ‘what if’ for both Mary’s flower and Leonard’s boat. He noted that there is a long history of artists and writers forming groups (often referred to as a salon) that meet regularly to share comments, thoughts, and chat about their work. By sharing and discussing your work and that of others, new connections and “a-haa’s” are formed which may or may not have come on their own. This type of sharing is an example of synthesis – not “stealing”, but gathering inspiration and combining new ideas from different sources.

Some of the what if’s for Mary’s flower:

  • Add smaller flowers opening at different stages of growth
  • Insects pollinating the flowers
  • Add colors
  • Try bigger flowers, or change petal shape/size
  • Stem could be flexible, curved, or more “organic” in shape

Some of the what if’s for Leonard’s boat:

  • Add people on the boat, or in the water (maybe a man overboard?)
  • Make the waves crashing around the boat, such as a storm
  • Add colors to the boat and/or sails
  • Did you check if it could float?

Dick talked for a bit about some of the formal elements in Leonard’s design, noting that the box formed a very straight horizontal line, along with the boat placed on top of it. Verticals and horizontals are seen as being “static” (visually they are very stable), while anything that is in between (at an angle) gives the impression of being “in movement” (visually it is more dynamic). For more information on this topic, Dick made mention of a wonderful book by Heinrich Wölfflin, Principles of Art History, which discusses in depth theories and observations on the development of style through different periods of art. See this post from an Art History class for more information.

If Leonard changed the line of the box by creating waves that were at a more diagonal angle, or put the boat at an angle (such as moving up or down on the crest of a wave), then this would give the audience a different message about this boat, one that would be more active, dramatic, and maybe even dangerous. Pay attention to what your message (or Theme) is, and then choose the appropriate composition, color palette, line work, value range, etc. that reinforces that message. As Dick said, “What kind of mood [are you going for], what kind of Interpretation [are you choosing] … are you a Realist? A Romantic? Where do you come from? Know who you are, and what your message is, and then show that.”

Pyramids modular design

After the sharing of cardboard creations, Dick facilitated an examination and discussion of one of his modular designs (first image below). This pyramid incorporates the only two ways color luminosity can be achieved, i.e. halation and vanishing boundaries. Halations are evident in each of the four sides of the pyramid by having the middle band of colors a mixture of the base and tip colors. The vanishing boundaries occur in the base and middle band colors as the triangles are similar in hue and equal in value.

Dick uses this format to explore phenomena of color interaction, as shown in the following samples. For much more detail, see his statement, and instructions for creating this format, in the additional / supplementary materials section below.

Critique – Geometric shape modular design program

For the critique, Dick focused on a few points that applied to most everyone’s work.

  1. ARRAYS: “What different kinds of arrays can you make?” He asked the class to list a sampling of the various ‘families’ one could make by choosing specific parents:
  • Value arrays (high value, low value, equal value)
  • Complementary
  • Analogous
  • Full chroma
  • Full chroma + tint/shade/tone

There are many more to consider. Dick’s point was to consciously choose your arrays (be able to identify your arrays), and then ask WHAT IF?

2. SHAPES: Look at the shapes you are making in both the form and background. Do not neglect the background, or treat it as a “second-class citizen”: make sure that the ground is fully integrated with the figure to ensure a cohesive and unified piece. Again, read this post (that was also linked to in last week’s post) for more information on the figure/ground relationship.

3. Identify your THEME, then choose the formal qualities that support that theme. If you want a STRONG design, how would you show that through:

  • Color
  • Value
  • Shape
  • Line
  • Etc.

For example, a high contrast in both value and color will give you a very dramatic piece, while equal values and toned colors will contribute to a very subdued piece. How would the other formal elements reinforce those two different themes?

4. The issue of “depth” (or making an image appear to be 3-dimensional) came up, and Dick listed the four ways to convey depth and space:

  • Size
  • Atmospheric color
  • Placement
  • Overlapping

Dick covered this topic in a Drawing Foundations class, where he also pointed out that only one of these four is unmistakable to a viewer: ‘As students shared their answers [to a drawing test], Dick shook his head, proclaiming: “All of these [answers] are ambiguous”, because they did not take into account how many different ways the viewer could interpret the scene. We went over the four ways to show depth and space (size, overlapping, placement, and atmosphere/aerial perspective) and how three of those principles could still lead to unclear impressions. There is only one principle which unequivocally demonstrates depth (or that something is behind another object), and that is overlapping.’ (Drawing Foundation, Week 9)

To sum up, Dick stressed that “You’ve got to be able to diagnose what it is you’re doing”, repeating that our goal is to be able to critique our own work without needing someone else to point things out to us. Identify your arrays, know what your Theme is and what kind of Interpretation you intend, and know how to convey your Theme through the formal elements of visual art. As Dick said, he won’t always be here to tell us what he sees in our work, and his intention as a teacher is to make his students become less dependent on him. Know your options!

View all homework submitted online

Class photos

Class materials

Presentation: More What Ifs

Dick shared another collection of What If images with the class, showing several examples of creative marketing, unusual vantage points, and the real WOWs: Nature’s incredible variety within the animal kingdom.

The first slide provoked the observation, “What about surface qualities? What different kinds of surface qualities are there?” Dick mentioned a few based on the slide we were looking at: reflected, transparent, and metallic. See this post from a Drawing and Composition class for a thorough discussion (in both written and video form) on how to observe and render different surface qualities.

Additional / supplementary materials

Download (PDF)

Download (PDF)

Download (PDF)

Download (PDF)