Learning Objectives

  1. Familiarize yourself with the concepts of frame and surface.
  2. Show that you can crop a work to change the position of the Golden Mean.
  3. Create your own work that demonstrates  use of the Golden Mean as well as the attention to surface.  

Slack Discussions

Make sure you’re in Slack as often as possible. You might have to start your own discussions sometimes. I’d like to see each of you occasionally sharing things, asking questions, and generating interaction on your own.  

This may be uncomfortable for some of you. You might be used to doing “only what you’re told” in a class. Art doesn’t work that way. Making art is a taking of initiative that requires some risk!

20 Resources to Learn Photoshop

Noupe Magazine recently published an article on 20 Best Resources to Learn Photoshop  in a few days. Local artist Jennifer Moss teaches an online Photoshop course here at UAF. It’s an open course so you can actually go take a look at all of her tutorials. It’s a great class for understanding the basics. Also, Professor Miho Aioki teaches an online class called “Digital Imaging” and that class is also open online (meaning you can look at all the lessons, syllabus, and student posts; you just can’t interact with the course unless you’re enrolled).

Please take a look at all of these resources and let me know if you have questions about any of them.  

Check Out this Great Infographic on Composition from @Lulie on Deviantart
The Secret to Composition (Infographic)

The Secret to Composition (Infographic)

Vocabulary Check

Drag and drop the correct term into the blank spot.  For those of you in the education field, you’ll like this site:

Introduction to  Frame and Surface

This week  we’ll be discussing the concept of frame and surface. When I say “frame” I’m not talking about the frame you put around a work when you’re done. I’m talking about the choices you make about aspect ration (how high and how wide and image is) in concert with where the main focal point is within the boundaries of the artwork. To understand what I mean take a look at this image:

The image on the bottom (a photo of Igor Stravinsky) by the photographer Arnold Newman evokes a very different feeling than that of the uncropped image on the top. There is a dramatic shift in focus due to cropping and framing. The spiral image you see overlaying the set of images on the right is a often called the “Golden Mean” or the “Fibonacci Spiral.” It’s a mathematical pattern found in nature and many art critics have observed that the shape can be found in most successful artworks. In the uncropped image on top the viewers eye travels to the face of Stravinsky, whereas in the cropped image the eye travels from his face to the enormous black void of the piano lid and back again. Our emotional response is thus very different in the second image than it is in the first. Understanding this concept is fundamental to asserting your unique vision in an artwork.

Surface, like frame, is often a factor in art that is chosen before the artist gets started, and the surface you choose will exert pressure on any art you create. Painting on heavy canvas creates a much different work than creating one on polished aluminum or plexiglass. The concept of surface still exists in the digital world, either through mimickry or through the choice of vector versus raster graphics or choosing textured brushes versus smooth brushes.

Deliberately choosing your frame and your surface is part of becoming an artist working from deep understanding rather than simple intuition or guesswork.

Basic Concepts

You’ll need to watch the following videos to understand  some of the basic concepts behind framing an image and choosing texture.

Frame: The Golden Ratio and Composing an Image

You should absolutely watch this video.  All art is bounded by a frame; every artist chooses his or her frame when placing the primary figure in the work, even if the figure is abstract. I’ll be asking you to place a golden mean grid on an image and this video demonstrates that idea.

Surface  in Art

The surface you choose in a work of art is as important as the frame that bounds a work. Implying or evoking texture in digital art is as important as the choices you make regarding surface in the plastic arts (canvas, wood, metal, etc.). We’ll revisit texture later in the semester as an isolated factor in composition.

Framing and Composition

More about the idea of choosing placement of an image and controlling the framing of an image.

Creating Surface Texture in Drawing

Don’t be afraid to create some of your assignments with pen and paper and then scan them, finishing the image as a digital piece.

Technical Know How

You’ll need to watch the following videos to understand how to use Photoshop to complete your assignments this week.

Layer Organization Tips and Tricks

Tutvids goes really really fast. I suggest watching the video straight through one time and then open Photoshop on one device and the YouTube video on the other. Then each time he shows you a step, pause the video, try it yourself, then repeat that step until you’ve done everything in the video. Ideally, you would also try the techniques one more time without the instructional video just to cement your learning.

Cropping and Ratios in Photoshop

Choosing a frame for an image means understanding the crop tool in Photoshop. Here are some useful things to know about cropping. There’s more to it than just clicking “crop.”

Adding Surface “Textures” in Photoshop

Knowing how to save and export files is pretty important and can be confusing. This video will help clear some of it up.

Texturizing Objects in Illustrator

This video is really full of technique and information. Again, it’s a video you’ll need to watch more than once and practice multiple times. A very good video for those of you who are serious about illustration or game design as a career.



This week, find images that exemplify the concept of frame (cropping concepts or Golden Mean or Rule of Thirds) and/or surface (texture, light, density, etc.). 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 that week’s concept. Put this explanation in the notes field of each pin. 1-2 sentences will suffice. The original artist must be identified.

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

Emulate and Create

You’ll be submitting 4 images this week.  


For the emulate exercise, go through the exactsame exercise that I did at the top of the page.

  1. You’ll need to download a transparent png of the Spiral  (right click to save).
  2. Choose an image from another artist and show how  the Fibonacci Sprial can be positioned over the image to control where the viewers eye travels.
  3. Then, crop the image and re-overlay the Fibonacci Spiral to show how the focal point has changed based on the cropping you did of the image.
  4. You’ll also need to know how to invert the color of the Spiral if you’re working with a darker image. To do that, in Photoshop, select the Spiral .png layer and either use the keyboard shorcut “command + i” on a Mac, “crtl + i” on a PC, or click Image –> Adjustments –> Invert.  This will change the black lines to white lines.
  5. Save and upload both versions of your image.


For your create exercise simply choose one of your own artworks (digital of a photo of a work) and go through the steps above, repeating the process of cropping and overlaying the Spiral. Upload the before and after as a single image or as 2 images.  

**Protip: Don’t change the ratios of the spiral! Don’t “smoosh” or “elongate” it just to make it fit. No artist creates an image that fits the rule of thirds perfectly.  To change the size without changing the ratio, hold the SHIFT button down then click and drag the corners of the spiral to change the size.