Matt and Laura Grundler | September 2017
The Principles of Design in Visual Arts
My personal go-to was a breakdown of the Principles of Design and simple viewfinder cut out of an index card. First, I’d have students spend time observing, looking at master works, I would pull from the 250 selected works from the AP Art History Course and look to identify works that demonstrate strong contrast, unity, rhythm etc.
Then we’d spend time going outside with our viewfinders to observe and look for possibly strong compositions. Last we’d tie it all with gesture drawing and start sketching multitudes of thumbnails, looking for the strongest composition to scale up into a larger finished work of art. This isn’t a lesson that can be taught in a “one and done”, it’s something that is talked about with every work and revisited constantly.
I’ve been guilty of being trapped in the rule of thirds and taught it without many alternatives; so I’ve had to break free and find more resources. While the rule of thirds is a good start there are many other compositional methods as explained in the youtube video 10 Myths About the Rule of Thirds – Master Composition without it!
However you approach composition, you’ll undoubtedly circle back to the Principles of Design (more than once!) so I’ve included more visuals for you. Feel free to download and use the images in your presentations or print the .PDFs for posters in your classroom.
And make sure you share the work you create with your students on #FabArtsFri or everyday via #K12ArtChat – we’d love to see it!
Wishing you Amazing Compositions,
Laura and Matt Grundler
Principles of Design:
A design concept describing the ways in which the elements of an image are arranged (i.e. balance, contrast, dominance, emphasis, movement, repetition, rhythm, variation, unity).