By Andrea Melione
Originally appeared in ArtTrader Magazine, Fall 2009 Issue 8
Welcome to Design 911, the regular column that features information on design principles and how to use them to create fun, interesting and eye-catching artwork! This issue we will discuss Gestalt Theory and how to use it in our artwork.
What is Gestalt?
Gestalt is a German word meaning “Form”, in the sense of many things creating a whole. You may have heard the expression “look at the big picture.” Gestalt is one word that conveys the same meaning. How does this apply to design? Well, any piece of art you create has a design, which includes color, composition and theme. Gestalt is a way of looking at those elements as a whole, and whether or not they work well together to create that one piece of art.
One thing to keep in mind while reading this article is that many artists subconsciously think about these concepts while they create art. The key to creating successful and appealing art is to learn and understand these concepts to the point where you no longer need to actively think about them. But for now, try to purposefully integrate some of these concepts into your creative process.
Color: Everyone loves the returns they get from swaps that have specific color themes! These include monochromatic chunkies, black and tan + one, black white and red swap, the pink swap, and so forth. This is because participants have been given a specific color scheme to work with before they even begin. How often do you begin a card or artwork specifically with a color scheme in mind? Color cohesion and harmony is important when thinking about the gestalt of your artwork. Nothing crates discordance in your work more than a poor color scheme or poor placement of colors. As an experiment, try thinking about a definite color scheme to work with before you begin to create your artwork. Say you’re making something for the “Cats with Wings” swap? Chose a specific color scheme before working on your winged cat card! Here is a short list of color schemes to play with. Feel free to add more color schemes of your own:
Composition: An ATC with a strong composition always stands out from the crowd, and a good composition actually helps you when deciding where to put your colors! Below are some composition ideas in ATC proportion. For a project, make more ATCs of these ‘compositions’ to use as a resource library when you’re feeling stumped. These compositions will work with whatever media you use, collage, colored pencils, fabric etc. Remember, asymmetry and odd numbers make for the best compositions.
Theme: Depth of theme can make for a great ATC, and knowing the details of your theme can also help you make good color and composition decisions. For example: you want to make a faerie queen, either drawn, or an altered vintage image. Now try to go beyond that and give the idea more depth. What time of year is it? It may be fun to make a Winter Queen or a Fall Queen. You can take this even further and pick a specific “element” such as water, fire, earth or air. What about a plant? Roses, poison ivy, holly, or oak leaves with acorns. You can do this with just about anything. Once you have the idea for a theme, list the many ways you can interpret it, and then pick the ones that will work well together in the artwork. Here are some interesting and popular themes:
Berry and Flower Fairies
Vintage men, women or Children
Your favorite music
Earth, Air, Fire and Water
So there we have it—color, composition and theme all need to work together to create a cohesive whole in our artwork. Gradually you should be able to create artwork using these ideas subconsciously, or at an instinctive level, but many people need to think about these concepts before creating until a kind of spontaneous process can be achieved effectively. Next issue we will be discussing rectilinear and curvilinear lines and how we can use them in the popular “skinny” 3×7 format. See you next time!