FAT 2: Visual Research (part 1)

As for my FAT 2 assignment, I decide to draw 2 spreads of picture book illustrations. The story is mainly about a fish lost itself from its group. During the journey of finding its way back school (shoal) of fish, it meets several of sea creatures. The age group will be around 4 to 7. In order to make this book easier to read, I decide to use some simple geographic shapes.

To deepen my knowledge in shape design and its relevant theory, I need to investigate in this particular field. Some useful knowledge in Rudolf Arnheim’s Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of The Creative Eyes might give me a good start. By stating that “shapes seems to influence weight,” Arnheim (1969, p. 25) suggests that some typical geometrical shapes provide remarkable appearance  e.g. square, circle, triangle, etc. Note also that many of the Wassily Kandinsky’ works (Fig. 1 to Fig. 3) show the strong accents in using identifiable shapes. These most identified shapes stand out from the rest of less definable graphical elements when putting into a composition. Arnheim (1969, p. 25) explains this phenomenon as a result of compactness, which means “the degree to which mass is concentrated around its center – also produce weight.” In Fig. 4, Arnheim points out that a small circle perceptually counterweight at the rectangle and triangle at the right-hand side.

Fig. 1, Wassily Kandinsky, Composition VII, 1923, http://www.ibiblio.org

Fig. 2, Wassily Kandinsky, Black and Violet, 1923, http://www.ibiblio.org

Fig. 3, Wassily Kandinsky, Yellow, Red, Blue, 1925, http://www.ibiblio.org

Fig. 4, Rudolf Arnheim, Illustration from Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of The Creative Eyes, 1969

Shape and Grouping Perception
I attempt to use the law of similarity to describe one of the scenes.  More precisely, I could make good use of the similarity and subdivision to enhance the readers’ visual perception. The similarity and subdivision indeed function oppositely. Taking Fig. 5 as an example, Arnheim suggests that the similarity keeps all the squares together while the subdivision divides the squares into two different sizes of groups, by which we can see two big squares opposite four smaller squares. Arnheim (1969, p. 79) emphasizes that “any aspect of percepts — shape, brightness, color, spatial location, movement, etc. — can cause grouping by similarity.” In this instance, I could make good use of shape and color to perform my grouping perception.

Fig. 5, Rudolf Arnheim, Illustration from Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of The Creative Eyes, 1969

Compare Shape with Color
When I investigated further, the shape itself in fact is a better mean of identification if compared with the color. Arnheim (1969, p. 333) asserts that “the distinctive of characteristics of shape are much more resistant to environmental variation” although  it offers various kinds of qualitative differences. Therefore, we could identify a human figure from a different point, despite the change of lighting and environmental colors. So to say, “shape is almost entirely unaffected by changes of brightness or color in an environment, whereas the local color of objects is most vulnerable in this respect.” (Arnheim, 1969, p. 333)

Shape and Structural Skeleton
A structural skeleton within a given shape might effectively determine its visual characteristic. In terms of shape, Arnheim  (1969, p. 93) refers to two major visual properties: “(1) The actual boundaries produced by the artist: the lines, masses, volumes, and (2) the structural created in perception by these material shapes, but rarely coinciding with them.” The skeleton mentioned not only guiding us to complete our drawing on shape step by step, but also determining a visual force of a given shape. Our fixation tends to focus on the area of greatest interest to the viewer. Most of the time, we could not conclude a shape’s visual character through its contour, but only from the inner structural skeleton. In Fig. 6, there are a series of changing shapes of triangle. It’s hard to tell their structural skeleton from the changes of contour. However, it is clear to view by putting axes into these shapes (Fig. 7). The symmetry and rightangularity are used for these shapes respectively. Arnheim (1969, p. 95) further elaborates that “the structural skeleton consists primarily of the framework of axes, and the axes create characteristic correspondences.” These axes somehow provide us dynamics or direction to follow.

Fig. 6, Rudolf Arnheim, Illustration from Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of The Creative Eyes, 1969

Fig. 7, Rudolf Arnheim, Illustration from Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of The Creative Eyes, 1969


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