Proportion And Scale

Proportion and Scale.
Proportion is the relationship of sizes between different parts of a work. For example, how wide it is compared to how tall it is. Some proportions, such as the golden ratio and the rule of thirds, are thought to be more naturally pleasing. Scale is the size of something compared to the world in general - an artwork might be termed miniature, small scale, full scale or life-size, large scale or larger than life, or monumental.

The Golden Ratio, Section, Mean, Rectangle, Spiral, Etc.

The golden ratio is a recurring relationship found in math, art and nature, and is thought by many to be inherently aesthetically pleasing. In its many forms it boils down to approximately 1.618: a rectangle with dimensions 1 x 1.62 could be called a golden rectangle. More elegantly and interestingly expressed, two quantities, a and b, are in the golden ration if a is to b as a + b is to a.

golden ratio

The golden ratio is said to be the basis of the proportions of many works of art and architecture, including most famously the Parthenon. However, like conspiracy theories, once you start looking for golden ratios, you can find them everywhere, to absurdity. Whether the artist intentionally employed the ratio, and whether it helps make the work more aesthetically pleasing, can sometimes be open to debate.

The Rule Of Thirds

As a compositional rule of thumb, the rule of thirds states that it's a good idea to imagine the picture plane divided into thirds horizontally and vertically, and then to align or place key elements along these guidelines or at their intersections. Placing the subject and/or the horizon off-center allows more room for important areas and can create interesting asymmetry. If the subject is moving, emphasis can be given to where the subject is coming from, or where the subject is going to.

A centered composition is more formally balanced and at rest, and places all attention on the subject. Placing a subject at center can also be used to make the subject more confrontational and in-your-face.

The same idea may be applied to three-dimensional art. A vase might look more pleasing if it swells to its widest 2/3 of the way up rather than at the middle.

Good artists will neither slavishly follow this "rule" nor automatically center everything in the middle of the canvas or viewfinder. Rather, they will consider what they want to convey, experiment, and then choose the composition and proportions that best help express their intent.

rule of thirds example by Robert Flye

Robert Flye, Still Life with Three Bricks, 2020. (That third brick? That third brick used to serve this website until I tried to revert back from macOS Catalina in the middle of a global pandemic . . .)

Relics by Slinkachu

Slinkachu - Relics, 2010

Miniature scale

Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson

Robert Smithson - Spiral Jetty, 1970, mud, precipitated salt crystals, rocks, water, coil 1500' long and 15' wide

Monumental scale

Jim Denevan

Jim Denevan

Fibonacci Spiral

Fibonacci Spiral

Nautilus shells, 1947 by Edward Weston

Edward Weston - Nautilus shells, 1947, Kodachrome, 9.75 x 7.75 in.

Broadway Boogie Woogie by Piet Mondrian

Piet Mondrian, Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-1943, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 in.

Some say Mondrian based his grids on the golden ratio.

Tall Bottle by Bernard Leach

Bernard Leach - Tall Bottle, porcelain, 30cm

time well spent

closeup view Jack Troy cup, links to Jack Troy artist page

time to explore

link to newest page of ceramic artist links, including link to Scott Parady, pictured

time flies

Link to monthly image blog