As I logged in to upload some photos for a post I planned to finish some other day, I noticed that this is my 100th post since I began the blog a few years ago. Amazing!
As I upload the following images, I am saying to myself: Don't publish this yet. You haven't even done any painting! Well, I am going to break my own rule this time. The planning process for my upcoming work has taken an interesting turn. It's about to get real, real technical, so hang on to your hard drives.
Last year, I took a series of photos of my Dad teaching my daughter, Brielle, how to paint. That cool, diffused light was what attracted me most to this image I chose to work with:
Now, in my previous life, I would have made the decision to use this reference and begin work right away. Not this time. I've been studying design a lot lately. I've put myself to sleep at night with my laptop open to the work of Jeremy Lipking, John Singer Sargent, Nancy Guzik and Micheal Klein, studying their paintings with only one thing in mind: composition and questions of why they did what they did.
I realized recently that a large majority of my focus over the last few years has been regarding technique. I'm sure it was the right focus for the time being. Now, I feel that it is time to turn my focus more readily to design. Pure design. Design for the sake of design itself.
I've taken out quite a bit of time to also study more about Phi. There is an amazing website totally devoted to Phi here. At first I thought I'd learn a little more about the Phi-nomenon and then move on to some other principles of design, but I got so intrigued by Phi, I have yet to move on. There is so much to discover about the universal rules of excellent design. The principles of Phi alone do more than just show what good design looks like. They actually prove the existence of Intelligent Design. Nifty.
So here is where we start to get technical. OK, first I must remind us all that while I did not study fine art in college, I did study design. I'm not sure I came away from my college experience with an understanding of design, per se, but I did come away with something that has been invaluable to me ever since: a strong foundation in the TECHNICAL skills needed to fully utilize today's best design software for personal computer use. We're talking about a good computer, a decent camera, photo editing software such as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop and design software such as Adobe Illustrator. While these tools are all extremely helpful to my efforts, they are obviously totally unnecessary (otherwise, we'd have never had any masters of design before a few years ago). Everything I did and will do can always be replaced by a sketch book, a ruler and a good old fashioned pencil.
First things first, I had to make my own Golden Spiral and Golden Section files in Illustrator so that I could have transparent files to open in Photoshop and lay over my photo references. They look great, but are, admittedly, technically very crude. So don't go measuring.
A lot of time and playfulness happened between the time I first opened the photo in Photoshop and took the screen shot below of my workspace. Basically, what I found myself doing was slowly discovering variations of beautiful design within this one image. As my file began to grow many, many layers (so many I had to actually start labeling each one), the design you can see below gradually began to reveal itself. I was amazed. As I worked along, I started adding width and cropping length. I added a shoe, some plastic, a shadow, a roll of tape and I moved the bucket. The addition of the shoe and the tape were thanks to other photos I had in the series. I'm glad I took more than one!
I worked and reworked every section of the composition until I settled on the image below (yet subject to change). Here are some neat things to notice:
The top right corner is the light source. Light represents God and Unity, and according to the Fibonacci Sequence, so does the second row of the Golden Section. Zero (or nothing) plus One (or God/Unity) equals One. Continue this pattern of adding the sum of the first two numbers to the second infinitely, and you have 1.6..., or Phi. The symbol for Phi is beautiful: Φ
Through my experiments, it became obvious to me that the man is not the focal point, but the little girl is. This is how I finally determined the placement of the first and largest Golden Spiral.
Because of the beautiful design that begin to emerge with those lovely spirals, I chose to move the bucket down and add the roll of tape for better balance. I also played with the transparent plastic, using it's value mass to compliment the overall design.
Note the way the following things fall perfectly in line with the lines of the two sections and the six spirals (not all six spirals are seen in their entirety): The man's nose tip and the girl's nose tip, the man's eye, hat top and chin, the architecture of the window and trim, the tiny golden section in the little girl's eye, the man's elbow tip and arm muscle, the tip of the paintbrush, the top of the painting, the shadow at the bottom right, the two feet lined up on the same plane with a third edition of the bucket which is also lined up with the two noses, and last but not least, the Phi symbol found in the opening of the bucket.
Below is the design itself without the distraction of the photo:
I hope my process of discovering design long before any painting has occurred inspires you to push your own design methods a little further. When I do finally get started painting on this one, I'm going to be all wrapped up in technique and thoughts of value and color to remember that without a strong design, my efforts could be in vain. Sometimes we get decent design by accident, I do believe, but AWESOME DESIGN is planned with intelligence and patience.
If this painting of mine fails, it won't be because my design was poor. It will likely be that I tried way too hard to paint a copy of a photograph rather than a real life experience. It will be a challenge for me to not fall into that temptation. Wish me luck!
The website I am using for most of my research on Phi so far, is courtesy of http://www.goldennumber.net, Gary B. Meisner, Copyright 2001-2013. As background, Gary holds an MBA in Finance and Marketing and BS in Accountancy from two top-ranked business schools.