I always thought that abstract artists just create anything they feel in the moment. Well, they do… However, there’s a lot more that goes into the composition than just placing paint onto a canvas. There’s a sort of freedom that comes with abstraction – the style and approach is completely up to the artist; but, to make a piece of work unified, there are necessary elements and principles to consider.
On my journey to discover more about graphic design solutions, I’ve started by assessing abstract art and have made an attempt to recreate an artist’s style while analyzing the components typically used within their work.
The abstract artist I found myself most drawn to is Christine Ay Tjoe. Interestingly enough, she graduated with a graphic design and printmaking degree at the Bandung Institute of Technology in 1997! So, her knowledge of creating compositions while using design solutions is not new to her, and it shows.
Once I felt comfortable with Ay Tjoe’s abstract style, I chose one painting – To See the White Land – to focus on for my own creation.
I became instantly drawn to this work because she uses bold colors, but balanced her composition with negative space from the foreground and between the organic shapes and lines. Ay Tjoe successfully uses both active whitespace, and passive whitespace to make sure the distribution of elements in the composition has necessary visual weight, which brings balance.
Active Whitespace – Space used to move the eye from one element to another.
Passive Whitespace – Space used to bring breathing room to the work, creating balance and space that’s easier to look at.
My attempts to mimic Ay Tjoe’s style began by drawing back to the design elements – line, shape, figures versus ground, texture, and pattern defined in Graphic Design Solutions by Robin Landa. Of course, elements aren’t the only thing that bring a composition to its final stage. Design principles like hierarchy, alignment, unity, and – like I’ve already mentioned – space.
As far as elements and artistic styling go – I used photoshop’s tools with different brushes to create visual textures, opacities, and layers to ensure I achieved the depth of colors and figures necessary to accomplish Christine’s technique. To See the White Land is an oil painting on canvas, so creating a paint-like look – digitally – was essential for me with the organic shapes, lines, and blending of colors that Ay Tjoe uses in hers.
While focusing on design principles, I noticed that her balance with negative space also influences hierarchy within the work, creating a focal point. This can be done with triangle hierarchy, or the golden mean. What I really wanted to do was create movement within the composition by doing the same.
Triangle Hierarchy – Used to control the viewer’s eye – what they see first, second, third, and so on.
The Golden Mean – A mathematical equation that creates proportions for an overall progression of sight lines.
While this was my first attempt of this study, I didn’t quite achieve the golden mean to its entirety (it is an equation after all), but you can see what I was going for here with movement, and focal points.
This experiment has truly helped me to understand first-hand how design elements and principles are used in creating design work. What do you think, is there anything that you see in my composition that I missed addressing?! After all, art and design can be unique to the viewer as much as I can try to persuade a particular view.