Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Nickel and dimeing Penny

Sam, it's all about getting the proportions right. The graphics dominate the composition on both the pink Penny sketch and the initial pencil sketch, but they are both background elements. I wanted the primary impact to be all about Penny, and then the viewer would experience the background elements in succession. This is also why I didn't go dark on the Captain Hammer symbol. She holds both the darkest darks as well as the lightest lights. This is staging, and surprisingly it's something I learned from working in architecture. You don't want someone to experience a building as a whole but rather the experience should slowly unfold one stage at a time.
I did a Storm illustration years back, and I staged it by concentrating on her eyes. The fact that she has caramel skin and piercing aqua blue eyes made the job easy. This guy fell in love with the piece and immediately bought the original. It was about a day or so later when he mentioned he had just noticed that she was topless. I'm rarely that successful, but that is staging.

The mathematics of art and composition is a wonderful place to visit from time to time, but I wouldn't recommend you try to live there for any extended periods. When I was in high school I was fascinated by the connections between art and mathematics. Ms. Helga, my art teacher, taught me a great trick to subdivide the head into its proper proportions. She called it the rule of halves. You start with a sketch of the head, or better just the outline of a great A egg. If you divide that shape in half this gives you the placement of the eyes. If you then divide the remaining lower part in half, this gives you the placement of the nose. Finally, having what remains gives you the placement of the mouth. This was like a nuke of knowledge going off in my head.

That started a serious quest to find any other principles of mathematics which could be applied to art, and that search took me from the Fibonacci series all the way to divine proportions. Quite frankly most of the stuff was fascinating but very confusing and difficult to apply to picture making. I eventually came across the J. Hambridge book Elements of a Dynamic Symmetry and that opened a world of knowledge.

For a while I became obsessive about ensuring my compositions worked within those principles. That obsession faded to a casual pursuit got me accustomed to the divine proportion grid, and now I naturally incorporate it into my work. It's much like color theory, or riding a bike. At first you have to be carefully vigilant and it seems more about thinking than doing, but after awhile all that thinking becomes background music. I still sometimes use it formally to solve problems or to just ignite a tired brain.

I've placed the divine proportions grid over the Penny portrait to more gracefully illustrate this meandering discourse.


Vinh-Luan Luu said...


That's all i have to say.

Jake Ekiss said...

Heh, Luan called me in to see this as I hadn't checked my reader yet. Dude, holy shit. This thing is Fibonacci compliant!? My mind is blown.

Sam Ellis and MissleMan said...

Thanks Brian,
I still like the idea of Dr. Horrible turning his back on Penny, and the Hammer crushing her as well, click link for alt.

Neal said...

I quit.

Sam Ellis and MissleMan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Keron said...

That's Awesome!

Brian said...

At some point I will pick my jaw up off the ground, until then tread lightly please.

Leonardo Di Biase said...

I find the divine proportion fascinating, and it crops up everywhere in the natural world. Let's face it if the proportions were good enough for Leonardo and Michaelangelo to use they're probably worth working into a piece of contemporary art now and then.

I just found your blog through a link on Drew Johnson's and it's been a very enlightening read.