Saturday, June 12, 2010

I may spontaneously combust :) The Golden Ratio - Part One

Okay....I just want to say that I am in no way an expert on this, but some other artists have asked me about it, so this is what I have gotten so far. ...I am going to break this down into parts because honestly I have to take the merging of my left brain and right brain into bite sizes or I may spontaneously combust :)

If you are artsy then you probably learn the way I 3d!  I have to put something into practice to really understand it so I would suggest you take the basic principles and just try it.  I will try to explain the best I can.

The basic principle of the golden ratio is based on the Fibonacci sequence which goes like this 1, (1 +0) = 1, so you have 1, 1 then 1 +1=2 so you have 1, 1, 2,  then 1 +2=3 and so the sequence goes 1,1,2,3,5,8.etc you might dimly or clearly remember this from school.  It turns out that the Fibonacci sequence is everywhere in nature and that is why it is so appealing to the eye when used in art.  We often do it in our art quite naturally.  If your painting looks good to probably have used the golden section.  So why bother learning it?  I have two primary reasons that I wanted to learn this concept.

Firstly, I thought it would help me to understand composition better - if a painting wasn't working - I could use this as a tool. 
Secondly, for me, it is a way to be closer to God, to fulfill my purpose on this earth.  God gave us intellect and self -awareness.  I think we are supposed to merge the trinity of ourselves, mind, body and spirit.  One of the reasons the classic Contrapposto pose is so significant in art is because that step is symbolic at least in part of what seperates us from the animals, it is our gift and our responsibility.  The pine cone develops within the Fibonacci sequence naturally - we can do it naturally and also with awareness, we can also buck against it...I think that is when we feel unhappy.  To be aware of is really very beautiful.  It's our free will if we want to be in harmony or not....okay I will let you take it from there....

So I started this painting with the intent to plot out sections.  After I plotted sections out, I sketched the figures, I was in love with the form of the woman on our right.  What was it?  I realized I had "accidentally" sketched her in her own golden ratio.  If you look at her you will see that the length from the top of her head to her neck plus the length from her neck to her waist is equal to the length from her waist to her knees.  That is why she looked so beautifully balanced to me.  Since I found the ratio in her I just adjusted my plotting, using her as my guide for the other women and also adjusting colors according to sections. 

I ended up learning a lot from that little discovery and have a new painting I am working on in which I was able to incorporate the ratio much more adeptly, tying the source of light, more angles etc.  I will blog about that in my next little chapter.

If you do try this - I would love to hear your discoveries - see pictures etc.


  1. Thanks for teaching us a new (old) way of painting...I'm very right brained and still don't get it though. I get the numbers, but don't get what you're doing with them. I just got a blog myself- and will be posting art as I'm working on has just consumed so much of my time to get it together right now.

  2. I can't wait to see Lori! I know...I think when I post the second post it will be clearer because I actually "show" it, also I just didn't get it till I actually tried it ....I think a lot of artists are like's like our hands talk to our brains and our brains then talk to our hands :)

  3. Carrie I adore your work. Like Lori I'm trying to absorb this too. I think I did spontaneously combust. I have often wondered why some of my figures are better than others. Now I know. (for me,luck) Also I found that the free video by Dan Nelson @ Was helpful too. But my brain does hurt when trying to grasp all this info. Somedays I just have to let what comes out at the end of the brush be just that. Looking forward to your next installment..

  4. Thanks Joji - I will check out that video...just try it ...nobody is going to know if you did it right or not and once you try it with your hands it gets easier but I understand you have to want to try it and I did not want to try it for a long time.