Last night I changed my mind about the next favorite thing I was going to share. Why? Yesterday afternoon I went to the Seattle Art Museum to see the exhibit Gauguin & Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise. As I progressed through the exhibit looking at the paintings and other items, occasionally a woman behind me commented the paintings had been cropped because the images were not centered on the canvas. At first I tried to ignore her, but after she made the comment again at a particular painting, I finally felt compelled to reply that I thought the way that Gauguin had organized the images on the canvas was consistent with the Rule of Thirds.
I was first introduced to the concept of Rule of Thirds back in college when I was working as a graphic artist for the audio-visual department at the university where I was doing my undergraduate course work. My boss was a photographer and we frequently would discuss Rule of Thirds in the design and composition of different projects. If you’re unaware of Rule of Thirds, it can be a very handy in understanding why something works or doesn’t work.
Wikipedia defines Rule of Thirds as follows:
The rule of thirds is a “rule of thumb” or guideline which applies to the process of composing visual images such as paintings, photographs, and designs. The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections. Proponents of the technique claim that aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than simply centering the subject would.
The grid below shows a rectangle broken into its thirds
Rule of Thirds is often covered when learning about photographic composition, but it also applies to many other things such as painting . . . and more recently, web page design. The image below (borrowed from Wikipedia) shows the same image with two different compositions – one without (on the left) and one with (on the right) Rule of Thirds composition.
The work of one of my favorite artists, Edgar Degas, shows examples of Rule of Thirds, which I think makes them more interesting and visually intriguing. Below are just a few examples.
Rule of Thirds can be see in Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night
Even my favorite image of Cary Grant can be an example of Rule of Thirds . . . some might place his face in the very center, but I think it looks much more interesting the way it looks . . . but, I have to admit . . . Cary Grant looks marvelous regardless of the composition of the image. (By the way, it took me years before I realized he was holding a flower)
If you’re not familiar with Rule of Thirds, I have included several helpful web-based resources below.
Rule of Thirds may not factor in to many textiles, but who knows . . . perhaps we can get something started!