Monday, February 19, 2007

Weekly Theme-The Shape of Things

Vincent Van Gogh
Self Portrait
42cm X 34cm
Oil on cardboard
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

We are entering a new weekly theme today! I hope you enjoyed getting into the practice of keeping a daily art journal. This week, I'd like to look at how geometric shapes influence how we view art, and how all art (and what we see in general) is made up of these simple elements we refer to as shapes.

Even if you are already able to see the world as a compilation of shapes, you may not realize the tremendous power of simplifying your art based on the dynamics of shape.

Throughout the week, we will take a look at art done by the masters- from different genres and times of history, and break down some of their work down into these shapes. Then, in each daily challenge, I will offer an idea for you to take and try in your own work, related to what we will be discovering in this process. I hope that you will enjoy this weekly theme.

Today, we will take a look at one of Vincent Van Gogh's self portraits, to understand how he used shapes in his compositions. His works are not only bold in color, but bold in shapes, as well.

In the modified view below, you will see the very strong triangular shapes used in this painting. in the diamond-shaped area where the points of the triangles overlap, you will see the outlines of his beard and mustache. Also, notice the triangular shapes, that are left in the negative space of the background.

Now, look back to the unmodified view of the painting above. Do you notice the change in color in the background on both the left and right sides of his hat? These color and value changes help further create the line which makes up that side of the triangle.

In fact, look closer at the painting, and you will see that triangle shapes are used many different ways in this painting, from his lapels to the shape made by his shirt underneith the overcoat. If you squint your eyes and look at the changes in value (lights and darks), you will even notice the areas of his eyes and cheeks, and the mustache above the straight horizontal line of his mouth.

Today, take a photograph that you like and break it down into shapes, preferably the same or similar shapes that repeat. Here are two photographs from my own collection that you can use if you like. You should be able to find triangles in both of these photographs:

Please share your work and ideas about this topic and leave a comment. I am sure you will find lots of great examples of how shapes are used in art. Use it in your own work, and see how the focus on shapes can make your work stronger.

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