Create Appealing Compositions ~ As Easy as Phi 1.618
Golden Mean, The Divine Proportion, Golden Ratio, PHI = 1.618
The ability to create appealing compositions is at the heart of painting original pieces of art.
Though there is very little written about the Golden Ratio, artists who can powerfully work with the Golden Mean in their compositions are able to create pleasing original paintings. The Golden Section or Ratio is found everywhere ~ in the design and beauty of nature and human beings, and it is also found in paintings that are composed with an essence of proportion that allows viewers to feel a sense of harmony. The Divine Proportion was used extensively by Renaissance artists and continued on through the Age of Impressionism until the Modernist movement shunned the concepts as they rushed to create something new. Fortunately for us, the knowledge and practice of the old masters and their ancient “secrets of proportion and placement” is enjoying a renaissance today.
Artists today who are aware of beauty, balance and design, know about the Golden Mean. In the early 20th century, artists extensively used the Golden Mean. It was an integral part of creating original work and was taught in Art schools as well as used in fine art and archtecture. They understood that there was a rhythm to life and how nature works. The proportions of the Golden Ratio are encoded throughout the natural world; in the chambers of the Nautilus shell, in the waves that rush up on the shore, in the proportions of the face, and in the way trees grow. It’s built into the brain of a woman who feels that sense of harmony when she looks a room and moves a couch an inch over, and then feels that her decorating is complete. We see it today in the proportions of flat screen televisions that bring the golden mean proportion into American homes. Now the old screens seem boxy and constrictive. The same will feel true with painting canvases. The old standard sizes of canvases may someday seem like your old boxy television sets, and the wider “golden mean” canvases may give you a sense of expansive space.
The method I use to lay out the golden mean for a painting is to take width of the painting (for this example I am using an 18×30 canvas) which is 18 inches and divide it by 1.618 which equals 11.12 and then mark the canvas 11.12 inches in from the side. Divide 11.12 again by 1.618 and mark 6.87 inches from the same side. Continue 4 more times. Draw lines from the top down from all the marked spots. Repeat dividing, marking, and drawing lines from the opposite side of the canvas. Then do the same with the length of 30 divided by 1.618 and mark 18.54 inches. Then divide 18.54 by 1.618 and place a mark at 11.45 on the canvas. Continue 4 more times and then do the same on the opposite side. Draw lines down from all the marked spots. The canvas will be covered with linear boxes all equal to the overall proportion. This may sound like a lot of work, but doing this will make a difference in your painting.