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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Placing Our Images: Golden Section and Thirds

There's something aesthetically pleasing about a golden section. It is so aesthetically harmonious that for centuries, artists have used it for placing their centers of interest and other important images. It's based on a ratio of 1 to 1.618 which is found in growth patterns in nature as well as designs in plants, sea creatures and an abundance of natural images. Look at how a golden rectangle is formed by adding a golden section to a square:

Make a square. Find the half-way point on its bottom
edge. Place the point of the compass there and the pencil
of the compass in the upper left corner.

Draw an arc that extends in alignment with the
bottom edge. That's the ratio that creates the golden section.

Extend the bottom edge to the end of the arc, then
complete the golden rectangle. This new rectangle now has the ratio of 1 (vertical) to 1.618 (horizontal). The original square is also the rectangle's rabatment.

Here I've divided the horizontal into thirds. Look at how close in size the
thirds are to the golden section.

We don't need to figure the golden rectangle or find the golden section for placing our images though. There are two easy systems which will enable us to get our images in that aesthetically pleasing location without all the figuring just by eyeballing.

One is the called the "eyes of the rectangle," illustrated in the top diagram below; the other, "rule of thirds" illustrated in the bottom diagram. The "eyes" are found by drawing a line from corner to corner, then locating the spot half-way between the center and any corner. The thirds are obviously done by dividing both long and short sides into thirds. At the intersections are where images get placed.

These sweet spots are very close to the golden section and often occur at the rectangle's rabatment. Look at the following three examples by nineteeth century European artist Anders Zorn. Using the methods above, you can find how Zorn placed his important images within the area of the rabatment, the eyes and/or the thirds of the rectangle.

Anders Zorn, Impressions of London

Anders Zorn, Baking the Bread

1889, Oil

Anders Zorn, The Thorn-brake

1886, Watercolor


Susan Carlin said...

I've really wanted an explanation of the "Golden Mean" for quite a while and your sketches really helped. I wish I were with you in the room so you could point to the elements in Zorn's work that illustrate your points, though. I'm feeling dense. Thank you for moving me further along in understanding.

Dianne Mize said...

Good point. So I revised this post to point out rabatments and eyes of rectangles in Zorn's work. Does this help?

Susan Carlin said...

You're the best, Dianne. Thank you.

Dianne Mize said...

Ah thanks. My pleasure.