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Principles in Context

Principles in Context

This lesson will be a recap on all the principles and how they will function in a design.
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Video Transcription

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Hi everyone. My name is Mario and I'd like to welcome you to today's lesson, Principles in Context. So today should be very exciting. We're going to take a virtual field trip to an art gallery and look at some examples and pick them apart using all the principles that we learned up to this point. So I'm going to go over it with you sort of Madden style and see how it goes. So feel free as always, to stop, fast forward, and rewind as you see fit. And when you're ready to go let's get started.

So let's start off by going over our principles once more in case you forgot, and they were unity, balance, scale, contrast, proximity, rhythm, and emphasis. And I'd like to start us off with our first piece which is going to be the Mona Lisa. I think we're all familiar with this. It was painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the 1500s.

And right off the bat I can tell you that there's a lot of contrast being heavily used here. And actually if you take the Mona Lisa and just sort of subdivide it into a shape, in this kind triangular form you'll notice that it's kind of split in the middle here and it creates this almost yin yang here between the darker elements. Dark elements over here. And it creates again this high contrast with her light skin and the dark clothing.

And that actually brings us to our next principle which is balance, and the amount of detail between the light and dark valleys are pretty equally distributed and it creates this nice asymmetrical balance and unity. Now proximity here is going to be important in the placement of background elements to communicate to the viewer the distance between the foreground and the background which is really important. And although rhythm is really hard to spot here, there's actually quite a bit of it going on in particular with the hair.

See some nice repeating elements here and the fabric as well, and a nice sort of thing going on here. And it actually guides the viewer around the Mona Lisa. Most of us are inclined to start with a face with eyes and we sort of trail down the hair, around the fabric, follow again these nice repeating elements, through her arm, more repeating elements, this nice beat motion and fluidity going around. So your eye kind of goes around the Mona Lisa, which is again the emphasis of this piece.

So let's continue down the gallery and move on to our next piece, which is The Night Watch by Rembrandt. This was painted in 1642 and just like our last piece, contrast is the principal that's being used extensively here and the darkest and lightest values surround the focal points in this piece which are the two gents here in the foreground. And they create a nice balance just within themselves, again going back to that nice yin yang effect. The black and the white, your eyes go straight there. And the proximity between these two help make them the distinguishable characters amongst this crowd.

And there's a good visual weight here and it's sort of subdivided horizontally across the canvas. And you'll notice most of the action is going on down here, but there's still a nice even distribution of values, whereas most of the darkest values are up here. So some good asymmetrical balance going on and good distribution of weight. Now rhythm here might also be hard to spot, but I noticed a lot of repeating elements here and this angle in particular. It might not be apparent, but it's guiding your eye this directions again to the overall focal point or emphasis which are our two gentlemen here front and center.

Next up, Water Lilies by Claude Monet. This was painted in 1917 and it's a completely different style here, it's more expressive and almost looks kind of pastelish and conte and a bit messier than some of the other pieces we've looked at. And I think there is a nice sense of balance and unity here. Nothing seems to be particularly out of place and the colors play really well together.

Now the values are divided here to kind of these darker regions and then nice light distribution. And the lilies are grouped in similar colors and values, so proximity is being used here with all these lilies going on. And that's really important because it's going to allow the viewer to identify certain elements within this painting, which is really important in a painting in this type of style. And it's actually used quite effectively despite how expressive or abstract a lot of the elements in this page look, because it'll let you identify lilies from just the green muck or the water.

And in this piece I feel the lilies have a nice rhythm with the repeating shapes, and it creates a sense of motion in this piece just like flowing water would. And although it might not be as obvious in this piece what the emphasis is, I think for me at least the emphasis seems to be in this region over here just because of the contrasting colors. But again, the lilies sort of guide you around most of this piece.

Moving on to Pablo Picasso's. This painting was done in 1937 and it's called Guernica. And there's a lot going on here and admittedly I'm not sure where to look. My eyes go straight to this odd eyeball looking light bulb because of the repeating angles which I think provide some rhythm there, and the other reason would be a lot of repetition in these angles. And even if they're not as obvious or direct there's just this nice flow and this motion that's continuously going this direction.

And even though there's a lot of chaos going on here I'm still able to see a lot of the various things and objects here due to the nice contrast between shapes. There's a lot of black on white going on here that really cuts up some of these shapes. And here everything is in close proximity with each other except for maybe this guy over here, which makes me think that maybe he's in trouble or for whatever reason can't get away or join this stampede on this side of the page.

And what do we think about unity in this piece? It's kind of all jumbled together I suppose, right? By the way, as we go through these pieces there isn't necessarily going to be one right answer or one use of the principles that we've learned. Art is subjective and subject to your own interpretation so it's totally OK to disagree with me and have your own opinions about how principles are being used here, especially in such radical pieces.

Now our next piece here Alone Beside the Train by AsiiMDesGraphiC, this was done in 2011. And the first thing I noticed here was the beautiful rhythm in the train tracks that work well with the scale to create a sense of movement, depth, and really nice perspective, and also guides your eye to our focal point or emphasized region which is this girl in the white dress. I noticed how contrast plays a role here. The ground and tracks are a lot darker than the lightened areas of the track above.

And the proximity of the trees also creates this dark curtain that frames the focal point front and center stage. And the balloon as well is a nice contrasting element up top here. Everything is nicely unified and you can see that there's nothing out of place. And you'll notice that if we subdivide this piece that asymmetrical balance is being used in this case. Pretty cool stuff.

And next we have a familiar logo designed by the same artist as the last piece we looked at. And it's very obvious here use of proximity with the text and colors being grouped together and the scale of those elements to create a sense of variety between some of these bigger and smaller portions. And there's very obvious use of contrast here, white in the background separating the colors in the foreground. But this feels a bit off balance to me. There's a lot of empty space up here that I felt could be used or maybe just cropped a little differently. But otherwise it's clear what we are supposed to look at here. So over all it does its job and serves its purpose quite well.

Our final piece in this virtual field trip of ours, this is called Asylum Madness Returns by Ark4n. And this is a 3D render that was done last year and this is quite a trippy piece. There's a lot of contrasting elements like the dark tile, lights in the ceiling against the ceiling, dark windows and lighter walls, but everything seems unified and balanced. And even though the shapes differ around the piece as a whole, there's actually some nice symmetry going on with the shapes.

If you were to subdivide this in some fashion you have these mirrored shapes, basic shapes overall. Now here rhythm and scale are being used effectively to convey motion, depth, and provide direction for your eye. So rather than using contrast this time around as the main principal to create emphasis like some of the other pieces, scale is being used really nicely and rhythm to guide your eye towards the end of the spiraling hallway.

Well everyone, that ends our virtual field trip. I'll end with our principles just as a reminder and I hope you enjoyed taking a look at some of these pieces of artwork with me. I think it's fun to apply some of the things that we've learned to these pieces and share our opinions on how the techniques are being put to use. I hope now you have a more critical eye for different forms of visual communication around you. My name is Mario and I'll catch you next lesson.

Notes on "Principles in Context"


Image of Mona Lisa, Public Domain

Image of The Nightwatch, Public Domain

Image of Water Lilies, Public Domain,_1917-1919.JPG

Image of Guernica, Creative Commons

Image of Nike Logo, Creative Commons

Image of Alone Beside the Train, Creative Commons

Image of Asylum: Madness Returns, Creative Commons