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# BALANCE - SYMMETRY

Balance is concerned with the distribution of visual interest -- what is where
in a composition.
There are two systems for controlling balance:
Symmetry

a mirror image

Asymmetry without symmetry
In this lesson you will:
Make a symmetrically balanced composition.

It is necessary to
balance many
things in a
composition: visual
interests (this
lesson), unity and
variety, figure and
ground, realism
and abstraction as
well as many
logistical concerns
(time, space, cost,
etc.).

BALANCE
Balance is a skill that everyone uses almost all of their waking
hours. It is balance that allows you to stand up and walk around.
You balance your checkbook and hopefully find a balance
Balance in design is similar to these kinds of balance. You have
already had to balance between unity and variety, and in the last
project balance figure and ground. Your physical sense of
balance will play a part in your ability to balance the visual
information in a composition.
Visual interest is what you balance in design. Different colors,
shapes sizes, etc. create different degrees of interest. It is the
distribution of this interest that you need to control. We will
study the abstract (non-figurative) aspects of balance to make it
easier to understand how balance works. Subject matter changes
the situation because different objects can call more (or less)
attention to themselves because of their content and
relationships to other objects in the image.
Balance can also be described as achieving equilibrium. The
problem with this definition is that artists rarely want things to
be equal. It usually means that no part of the composition calls
too much attention to itself at the expense of the rest of the
image. This increases unity, but decreases variety, and hence

it makes for "good" shape relationship. however. meaning with or together. Balance is usually a desirable characteristic of a composition. This type of image has great appeal -..two eyes. SYMMETRICAL BALANCE A vertical axis is required to achieve balance with symmetry. Our axis of symmetry is vertical and this makes a good model for symmetry in visual information. etc. SYMMETRY Symmetry means a mirror image -. Many people automatically gravitate to symmetry. Symmetrical balance guarantees left to right balance. This should be taken into consideration when designing with symmetry. The word symmetry comes from the Greek roots syn. It is easy to over emphasize the center. Most images seem more stable if the bottom seems slightly heavier. when it is desirable to deliberately throw the balance off in order to call more attention to some aspect of an image. But there is more to balance than that.. There are times. The results look formal. two ears. meaning measure.one side is the mirror image of the other. You will find that it is the dominant organizational concept. For this lesson we will attempt to achieve balance as a way of learning how to control attention in a piece of art. which is the most important aspect of balance. Look around at consumer products and graphics (printed materials) to see how many use symmetry. organized and orderly. Top to bottom balance is also important. We are symmetrical after all -. Symmetry can occur in any orientation as long as the image is the same on either side of the central axis. There are two systems for achieving balance: symmetry and asymmetry. There is a strong emphasis on the center axis in symmetry since all of the information is reflected from there. Symmetrical balance is formal balance. Symmetrical balance is also called formal balance because a form (formula) is used -. To do this we must have exactly the same weight on both sides of our bodies.a mirror image about a vertical axis.interest. Part of the reason is that we have struggled throughout our lives to perfect our balance in order to stand. etc. and metron. walk. If . ride a bike.

The top and bottom can be the same as the left and right. Fine artists rarely use pure symmetry for this reason. Your sense of balance. This limits symmetry's application to abstract images since objects in the real world are not truly symmetrical. Balance between the center and the outsides of the image must also be considered. especially early Christian religious paintings. Near symmetry is more versatile than pure symmetry.the top seems too heavy the composition can look precarious. or they can be different. This is an interesting variation on symmetry but can make for an awkward balance. It is also occasionally used for formal fine art images. symmetry ceases to exist and balance must depend on other concepts (asymmetry). INVERTED SYMMETRY Inverted symmetry uses symmetry with one half inverted like a playing cards. When the sides become too different. Fortunately our own sense of balance is usually good enough to feel when the balance in a composition is wrong. Try folding a leaf down the center and notice that the opposite sides do not exactly correspond with one another. NEAR SYMMETRY Near symmetry is based on symmetry but the two halves are not exactly the same. TYPES OF SYMMETRY Symmetry means that the sides are exact mirror images of each other. Pay attention to your own sense of balance and you will do well. The most regular and repetitive image occurs when they are the same. It is used in many graphic images since type throws off the symmetry but the balance is still achieved. . like anything else. Biaxial symmetry uses two axes of symmetry -vertical and horizontal. It is more applicable to commercial designs. BIAXIAL SYMMETRY A symmetrical composition can have more than one axis of symmetry. can be improved with practice and experience. These guarantee balance: top and bottom as well as left and right. Slight variations will probably not change the balance but there is more potential for variety and hence more interest.

means without symmetry. When the top/bottom and left/right are the same. or a fourth. however. only one eighth is unique. ASYMMETRY Asymmetry. A biaxial image is only unique in one fourth of its format since that fourth is repeated in all the corners. Make the project as large as possible from a 9 inch by 12 inch piece of colored paper. Up to four colors may be used. Snow flakes and kaleidoscopes have three axes of symmetry. The shapes can overlap or be trimmed to make new shapes. Start with thumbnail sketches. so does the unity. but rather that variety is wanted to generate interest and to give the artist more freedom. As the repetition increases. That is why they are used so often in the applied arts. triangles and/or rectangles. also known as informal balance. It is not that order is not wanted. Radial symmetry is a related concept and can use any number of axes since the image seems to radiate out from the center. There should be no reference to subject matter. The strong sense of order and repetition make symmetrical images more acceptable to many people. One of the four colors can be used as a border. Biaxial symmetry may be used. if the whole design is drawn. Remember that there will be repetition so only half. of the image needs to be drawn. It is for the same reason that symmetry is rarely used in the fine artist. The composition must have a vertical axis of symmetry.More than two axes are possible. It is easier to see the composition. Plan on designing the major shapes and to . At the same time they lack variety because only half is unique. In other words symmetrical images are usually well balanced and formal with good unity. but can lack excitement since they are so repetitive. PROJECT Student example #1 SYMMETRICAL COMPOSITION Make a symmetrically balanced collage using only circles. UNITY AND VARIETY Symmetrical images have a strong sense of unity because at least half of the image is repeated. You will study asymmetry next. like a star.

Try stacking several sets of colored paper. Make some of the shapes quite large to increase variety. proportions and relationships before you are satisfied. to indicate the different colors. DISPLAY This project and the next (asymmetry) will make a set like the . Try taking pieces off. Try to make all of the colors operate as figure in the design. or desirable in this type of project.Student example #2 Student example #3 experiment with the details once the collage is under way. Use your sense of balance to determine if the image is correctly balanced. Move all of the parts of the composition around like you did for the ambiguous figure/ground project. Using colored pencils or felt pens will let you see more clearly what your design will look like. It is interest that you need to work toward getting. Unity and balance are more or less assured. A collage is not done until the last piece is glued in place. trying different combinations. Also try to make all the colors act as ground so that there is not one background. It should not look top or bottom heavy or be too crowded in the center or along the edges. Be careful of white shapes that fade out into the background. When you are satisfied with the composition. Decide what colors you will use. measure. Working this way is called using a collage rough. Use what you learned in the last project to control the figure/ground relationship. Filling in the thumbnail sketches can make it easier to see color and value relationships. mark and carefully glue the image together. The collage rough becomes the finished project when you glue down the pieces. Use different values. varying the order and the amount of each that shows until you find a color scheme that will work. or lines and dots. If they are not missed. either glue pieces from the top of the stack down or from the bottom up. Try to make all of the colors equally visible. but vary the amount of each to get more variety. COLLAGE ROUGH A full sized rough is not usually necessary. Also try adding more pieces if part of the image lacks interest. leave them off. Since there may be many layers of paper involved.

visual balance refers to a "felt" optical equilibrium between all parts of the painting. There are two forms of visual balance. or spring out from a central line. When components are balanced left and right of a central axis they are balanced horizontally. Symmetrical Balance . When they are balanced above and below they are said to be balanced vertically. balance is not achieved through an actual physical weighing process. To balance a composition is to distribute its parts in such a way that the viewer is satisfied that the piece is not about to pull itself over. And when components are distributed around the center point. and asymmetrical balance. this is referred to as radial balance.this scale or see-saw. These are symmetrical balance. also known as symmetry or formal balance. In this respect. also known as asymmetry or informal balance. but through visual judgment on the part of the observer.

because there are unlimited arrangements that may be devised using asymmetrical balance. On the right radial balance is created by the flowers which spring out of the center of the vase. this should allow him/her to balance them as a whole. pure symmetry for a composition can easily become too monotonous and uninteresting to look at. however. value or distance from the center. It is a "felt" equilibrium or balance between the parts of a composition rather than actual. It is the same on both the right side and the left side of the nose. Symmetrical balance can be achieved in two ways. The two sides of a composition are varied and are more interesting to view. As a result. judge or estimate the various elements and visual weight. Symmetry is the simplest and most obvious type of balance. Pure symmetry has its place in certain art works. The pedals radiate out from a central point. yet appear to leave the same visual weight. Approximate symmetry on the other hand has greater appeal and interest for the viewer. One way is by "pure symmetry. A good example of pure symmetry is the human face. The way to use asymmetry is by balancing two or more unequal components on either side of the fulcrum by varying their size. safe feeling and a sense of solidity. If the artist can feel." In pure symmetry identical parts are equally distributed on either side of the central axis in mirror-like repetition. It creates a secure. Asymmetrical Balance Asymmetrical balance is when both sides of the central axis are not identical. a more interesting composition will occur in the work. Examples of The Effective Use Of Balance Radial Balance This flower resting a tea cup on the left is a good example of radial balance.Symmetrical balance is when the weight is equally distributed on both sides of the central axis. Even though they are varied somewhat. because of its identical repetition. The use of asymmetry in design allows for more freedom of creativity. they are still similar enough to make their repetitious relationship symmetrically balanced." and the other way is by "approximate symmetry. .

States are held together on the same principle. the perfect equilibrium never being found. any violent deviation from which is accompanied by calamity. new forces arise. a strife in which a perfect balance is never attained. . The worlds are kept on their courses by such opposing forces. to be the aim of life to strive after balance. no State seeming able to preserve a balance for long. the balance is upset. XV BALANCE There seems to be a strife between opposing forces at the basis of all things. and the State totters until a new equilibrium has been found.Horizontal Balance Vertical Balance Do you see the vertical balance suggested in the painting on the left? Look at where the foreground ends and you will quickly see how it is balanced by the building in the background. It would seem. and so the vitalising movement is kept up. however. The painting on the right is a little more obvious in it's vertical balance. or life would cease. Notice how the three objects in the top part of the painting balance the apparent heaviness of the one object (the plate of pancakes) in the lower part of the painting.

It will naturally be in pictures that aim at repose that this balance will be most perfect. For straight lines are significant of the deeper and more permanent things of life. more permanent things find expression in the wider. The rococo art of the eighteenth century is an instance of the excessive use of curved forms. flatter tones. no matter how turbulent its motive. and of infinity. Vice may be excess in any direction. as in good tragedy the horror of the situation is never allowed to overbalance the beauty of the treatment. the eye is disturbed and the effect too disquieting. it is vicious and is the favourite style of decoration in vulgar places of entertainment. 220 Between Straight Lines and Curves Let us consider in the first place the balance between straight lines and curves. and in any case it is nobler and finer than the vicious cleverness of rococo art. . the result would be dull and dead. the bias will be on the side of straight lines. if perfect repose is desired. Between Flat and Gradated Tones What has been said about the balance of straight lines and curves applies equally well to tones. if for straight lines you substitute flat tones. and. curves the farthest removed from the straight line) seem to be expressive of uncontrolled energy and the more exuberant joys of life. warm and cold colour oppose each other. but this severity was originally. But if the subject demands excess of movement and life. while an excess of gradations makes for prettiness. one composed entirely of straight lines would be preferable to one with no squareness to relieve the richness of the curves. light and dark. In more exciting subjects less will be necessary. and for curved lines gradated tones. softened by the use of colour. if not for the gross roundnesses of vicious modelling. of course there will be less necessity for the balancing influence of straight lines. And on the other hand. while the rich curves (that is. The excessive use of straight lines and square forms may be seen in some ancient Egyptian architecture. straight lines and curves. But a picture composed entirely of rich. of the powers that govern and restrain. Of the two extremes.And in art we have the same play of opposing factors. if the subject demands an excess of repose and contemplation. But the balance was always kept on the side of the square forms and never on the side of undue roundness. the more severe should be the straight lines that balance them. But if the balance is very much out. no doubt. that err on the side of flatnesses rather than roundnesses. The richer and fuller the curves. and would become very irritating. Even the finest curves are those that approach the straight line rather than the circle. but some amount should exist in every picture. like all excesses in the joys of life. rolling curves is too disquieting a thing to contemplate. 221We have seen how the Greeks balanced the straight lines of their architectural forms with the rich lines of the sculpture which they used so lavishly on their temples. but asceticism has generally been accepted as a nobler vice than voluptuousness. Were the balance between them perfect. The deeper. And it is on this side that the balance would seem to be in the finest art.