Friday, January 13, 2012


By Staci L. Smith

Composition: The combination or structuring of form.  Often used interchangeably with the term design.

 found still life line drawing only
Did you know that I majored in Art for awhile in college?  I went back in my twenties to community college to finally major in my first love, art.  And do you know the first class I had to take?  2-D design.  It was an awful class, sooo elementary.  I was an Art Major  in high school, and it was a great program.  I learned all the vocabulary, I understood the concepts, still, our professor made us cut and paste construction paper in patterns of asymmetry (I kid you not) and use glue sticks.  *sigh*  However, if you did not have the background I did, this class did offer much information (though I still think the need for glue sticks and scissors was unwarranted).  Where is this going?  Let me explain…………………..
pencil still life- choose your own angle

Art- in every form has some rules, and I think they transcend medium.   I have been thinking a lot about what makes great jewelry designs special.   There are many answers to this, surely, but I think there is one common theme.  Composition.
draw something in a style to reflect the subject matter- messy room- pen sketch

I found the answer deep in my memory of those classes.  It may come natural to some, but it can always be learned, and explored further.  It’s what makes the difference between observing something that makes you want to look longer, and explore it deeper, or looking at something and moving on.
(charcoal- single light night study)

I found my old Vocabulary of Form sheet from my 2-D design class and wanted to share some of them with you.  I think just reading these allow us to see how they play into our designs as jewelry makers.

Balance- a feeling of equilibrium in weight, attention, or attraction that is achieved by using various visual elements within an artwork to accomplish organic unity.

Symmetrical balance- a form of balance achieved by using identical units placed in mirror like repetition on either side of a central axis.

Asymmetrical balance- a form of balance in which unlike ways and / or means are used to achieve a “felt” equilibrium
shoe- pen sketch by me 1999

Dominance- the principle of visual organization that suggests that certain elements should assume more importance than others in the same design or composition.  Some features are emphasized while others are subordinated.

Variety- the use of opposing, contrasting, changing, elaborating or diversifying elements in a composition to add individualism and interest; the counterweight of harmony in a work of art.

Harmony- the related qualities of the visual elements of a composition. Harmony is achieved by repetition of characteristics that are the same or similar.

Motif- a visual elements or combination of elements that is repeated often enough in a composition to make it a significant feature of the artist expression; a design that is repeated within a larger design.
paper owl mask made from bristol board, free form

Negative areas- the unoccupied or empty space left after the imagery has been created by the artist.  However, when these areas have boundaries, they also function as design shapes in the total artistic structure.

Repetition- the use of the same visual effect a number of times in the same composition.  Repetition may produce the dominance of one visual idea, a feeling of harmonious relationship, an obviously planned pattern or a rhythmic movement.

Rhythm- a continuance, a flow, or a feeling of movement achieved by repetition of regulated visual units; the use of measured accents.
(ink of my hubby lookin' hot at the beach)

 OK- so you read them, now what?  I am sure you could recognize some of the ways you use these definitions in your work.  But I think you can also now see what you may want to strive for.  Perhaps you have a piece where you want to convey harmony, or tension.  The definitions above may be able to help you achieve your desired outcome.

Being a predominantly asymmetrical designer, here are some rules I live by………………..

1.       Start with the focal and build your piece from there- decide if it will be the dominant feature or part of a pattern, or a motif.

2.        Rule of three:  when designing, use either one large or three small in a row.  Never two small or four.  Using three seems to keep the eye hungry for one more and thus keeps it moving through the design.

3.       Carry at least two elements through the piece to create your “felt” equilibrium.  Either a color or a shape or texture.  Each one doesn’t have to be repeated more than once on each side. 

4.       The rest are top secret (just kidding). 
charcoal still life- balls of many textures and color

I hope reading some of these definitions help with your future designs.  Whether you create jewelry to be visually appealing alone, or want to give it meaning, I think we can all explore composition a little deeper and allow it nurture our designs.
my first publication- designing the earth day t-shirt for KU University

For me it has really been a journey to go back through my old folders, and pictures I have of my favorite projects from school.  I can really see my “style” in the drawings, and feel like I have achieved that same style in my jewelry designs.  I had no idea how much my drawing background affected my jewelry, and how strong my style has been, through many mediums, through many years.  So in reference to the post from Barbara yesterday, I enjoyed looking back. 
*All drawings were by me during college around 1999- don't laugh, I was really proud of them!


mairedodd said...

what a terrific look back... i agree, staci - one should have a working knowledge of the elements of art and principles of design... creating is not merely a right brain activity... i think that is why i feel so spent after concentrating on something for a while - there are a lot of decisions to make... and while the muse is certainly necessary (hoping that mine has thus far not taken offense), it is amazing when you look back at a piece and realize how many choices you made along the way to achieve the effect you did... and yes, yes, yes to odd numbers...

Kelli said...

... I can so relate to your college art course......... I was SO very disappointed! I was ready to tackle the world in that class, and could only do 2D pencil sketches.. hmmmmmmm
I think too though, art and creativity are just "IN" us. It's a need that we must express. And in that expression, a lot of these guidelines and rules occur naturally.
GREAT post,Stac!!

Izzy said...

Awesome post! You should be very proud as you are an extremely talented artist whether it be on paper or in your jewelry.

Artisan Beads Plus said...

What an enjoyable and informative post!! I loved looking at all of you drawings. You made me laugh too..... ;o)
I felt like I got to know you more as you came through in each piece. I do try to remember the vocab. when I create... After all, I live with an art teacher. I'm not always the best student, however!

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