Asymmetry and Balance

Introduction to Asymmetry and Balance

“No human face is exactly the same in its lines on each side, no leaf perfect in its lobes, no branch in its symmetry. All admit irregularity as they imply change; and to banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality. All things are literally better, lovelier, and more beloved for the imperfections which have been divinely appointed, that the law of human life may be Effort, and the law of human judgment, Mercy.”

—John Ruskin

Transparency in 2D design is simply the quality of being able to see through (or partially see through) one or more layers in an artwork. Like texture, transparency can be real or it can be implied or suggested. Opacity is a similar term but refers to the inability to see through a layer. A window with the curtains drawn is opaque whereas a window with the curtains open is less opaque (completely transparent). I’m going to start you all off this week discussing these concepts first just to see what thoughts about the matter you can develop on your own. I’ll post content below the discussion this week once I see one or two comments.

Learning Objectives

  1. Familiarize yourself with the concepts of asymmetry and balance in art and to what ends artists use it.  
  2. Show that you can identify works with asymmetry and balance as predominant themes or techniques in the work.
  3. Create your own work that demonstrates use of balance and/or asymmetry.

 Asymmetry & Balance

Don’t confuse symmetry with balance.”
Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

Symmetry is easy. It’s the same on one side as it is on the other. Asymmetry in art, however, isn’t so easy. Asymmetry can be your best friend is done correctly, but it can alienate the viewer if it’s not used wisely and with intent. As unintuitive as this sounds, asymmetry that has been used wisely looks exactly like balance.

As usual, looking at lots of art that is trying to keep asymmetry and balance under control. Things that are too symmetrical will sometimes make you feel a little flat (it’s worth thinking about why the Asian form of the mandala might be an exception to this rule…there are always exceptions). Works that are too asymmetrical with no concern for balance will lead the viewer to feel off center. This may be what you want, but if so, it should be done intentionally.

The two paintings on the right are by an artist named Karine Leger. Her work often focuses on the themes of asymmetry and balance.

About Karine Leger

“Karine Léger’s approach first involves the need to deconstruct in order to lay the foundations for an introspective reconstruction. In the studio, bits of torn and cut-up paper and photographs form a growing pile on the work table. Individual pieces from the pile will be meticulously selected for colour, texture and shape, to be arranged and rearranged, assembled and reassembled, in a quest for the right balance. Each of her paintings consists of simple clean lines and a restricted palette.

Through the simplicity of her structures and the clarity of the forms, her paintings suggest a skyline or a geometric terrain. There are places where the line becomes mountain, where the gesture evokes the tide, a breath of time passing. The layers and monochrome touches add a profoundly moving dimension to these pieces.

The work of Karine Léger is a pretext for a meeting of shapes and shades which seem to emerge from a hidden light source. It creates a contemplative space for the viewer to lose – or indeed find – themselves for a moment.”

Asymmetry in 2D Design

A brief discussion of the use of asymmetry in basic design. 

Using Asymmetry to Create Drama

This is a very quick example of an artist adding a transparent blouse to a drawing of a woman.

Asymmetrical Balance

A short, 2 minute explantaion.

Another Short Explantion

6 minute explanation of the concept of balance in art. 

Technical Know How

You’ll need to watch the following videos to understand how to use Photoshop to complete your assignments this week. I’ve started a few YouTube playlists where you can find these videos and more.

Abstract Asymmetry in Photoshop

This teacher’s lectures are worth a watch. They’re short and he uses Photoshop to explain things. 

Color Balance 

This is skipping ahead a little, but balancing color is as important as balancing shape. 

Working with the Shape Tool in Illustrator

Future illustrators, take note! This is a critical skill in Adobe Illustrator. 

Align and Distribute Shapes in Illustrator

A useful tool in Illustrator and Photoshop. I use this feature all the time to help with fine tuning my layouts. 

Assignments

Identify

This week, find images that exemplify the concept of “balance and/or symmetry”. You must link to the original source (as original as you can find) for each pin and you should provide context and an explanation of why you think each image is illustrative of this week’s concept. Put this explanation in the notes field of each pin. 1-2 sentences will suffice. The original artist must be identified.

Choose images that reveal the use of balance or asymmetry as a primary and crucial part of the work.

⊕ For this week, create a Pinterest Board called “Balance/Symmetry” and add 20 images to that board using the guidelines above. Submit your link in the form below.

Share and Discuss

Get into Slack! 

Emulate and Create

EMULATE

Emulate a Karine Leger painting. You can use Photoshop, Illustrator, any of the mobile Adobe apps, Sketchbook or whatever you happen to be using to create a replica of a specific work from her website that displays the concept of balance or asymmetry. You can change as much as you like, so long as I can tell that it’s an emulation of one of her pieces. 

CREATE

Create your own abstract piece that uses only simple shapes to display your understanding of asymmetry and balance using your tool of choice. Your image size should be a minimum 3000 x 3000 and 120 dpi. Save it as a flat .jpg and upload in Google Classroom.