Art by the Numbers

The Golden Mean or the Golden Ratio is a concept that is found in several disciplines including Philosophy, Mathematics, and Art. Examples of the Golden Mean exist in nature, architecture, and web design. In addition, the Golden Mean has a set value (1.618) and a name (Phi) but doesn’t have any cool dessert connections like Pi.
Because I’m talking about the art version of the Golden Mean I’m going to use one of it’s many other names – the Divine Proportion. In theory, Divine Proportion allows artists to mathematically separate their canvas to arrange the “action” (keeping in mind that in art the “action” might be only be the direction of a figure’s gaze) elements in a way that will capture a viewer’s attention, lead their eye through the canvas, and be aesthetically pleasing … it’s a bit like a complicated billiards shot with paint. Both Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper and Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam are considered to be examples of masterworks that used the concept of Divine Proportion. In at least one point in history, artists believed that painting according to the Divine Proportion pretty much guaranteed a masterpiece. Unfortunately, or fortunately for some artists, that isn’t exactly true. However, by using the idea of the Divine Proportion, artists can create a well balanced composition and that is a good start for creating a masterpiece.
To draw a Divine Proportion rectangle (without using any actual mathematical formulas) is pretty easy but having a ruler helps. And paper and a pencil, of course …
  1. Start with a perfect square. Any size you like as long as there is some extra space around it because your goal is a rectangle.
  2. Divide the square into 2 equal halves so you have a right side and a left side.
  3. Draw a line from the bottom of your center line to the top right corner of the right half of your square.
  4. From that top right hand corner draw a downward, curved line.
  5. Extend the bottom edge of your square to meet your curved line. The upward angled line and the curved line join the bottom edge to make a wedge (pizza or pie slice) shape.
  6. Extend the top edge of your square lightly with your pencil.
  7. Draw a new right hand side that runs along the (crust) side of your wedge and connects the bottom and top lines.
Now – draw your masterpiece! Try to keep the main elements of your design within the ⅔’s of the rectangle that have the most lines with the key images as close to the intersections as possible.
Note: Header image was created by Wolfgang Beyer  and slightly modified.
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