September 14th, 2012



Venice, The Doge's Palace (1881 Pierre-Auguste Renoir)

Thus spake Oscar Wilde, "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life." And he cited that the beauty we see in everyday things around us are not because they exist as such, rather because poets and artists created their beauty in ways for us to see these things around us altogether differently.

In trying to define my own view of life, I turned to the most unlikely of mediums for a non-artist, that of the principles of art. While I cannot myself create it, I do so appreciate it. If the archetypical artist is a tortured creature beholden to great emotional fury which allows them to wield beauty from a prism of crosshatched visible refracted frequencies, perhaps in much the same way my cool, logical exterior affords me the ability to create beauty in life, also out of seemingly nothing but a trick of light and air?

I was astonished to discover the Principles of Art mirror the very philosophies in life I attempt to adhere to:

  • Movement
  • Movement shows actions, or alternatively, the path the viewer's eye follows throughout an artwork.

  • Unity
  • Unity is the wholeness that is achieved through the effective use of the elements and principles of art.

  • Harmony/Repetition
  • Harmony and repetition is achieved in a body of work by using similar elements throughout the work. Harmony gives an uncomplicated look to a piece of artwork or sculpture; repetition is repeating elements and stressing similarities.

  • Variety
  • Variety is the quality or state of having different forms or types, notable use of contrast, emphasis, difference in size and color.

  • Balance
  • Balance is arranging elements so that no one part of a work overpowers, or seems heavier than any other part.

  • Contrast/Emphasis
  • Contrast and emphasis is created by using elements that combine with one another.

  • Gradation
  • Gradation is using a series of gradual changes in an element (smooth to rough, large to small, light to dark, etc.).

  • Proportion
  • Proportion is a measurement of the size and quantity of elements within a composition.

  • Pattern/Rhythm
  • Pattern and rhythm is showing consistency with colors or lines.

Action, a path, wholeness, harmony, repeatable processes, variety, balance, a combination of dissimilar elements, gradual change, proportion and consistency - everything a rewarding life requires; life imitating art. And yet art is diverse enough that one could incorporate all of these elements into a picture which some might find reprehensible, so surely the subject, or goal in the case of life, is equally as important.

Quoting the Book of Amos (Can two walk together, except they be agreed?), this guest poster discovers he was pursuing balance, but what he desired was harmony, "Harmony means agreement; accord; harmonious relations. That's what I wanted, my life to have harmonious relations. Isn't that what we all want, for our families, career, goals and lifestyle to all work together and not compete with each other?"

I know that's what I want. Variety and diversity don't have to be the bane of harmony. Just like in works of art you can bridge different forms or types - contrast, emphasis and difference with repeating elements stressing similarities if you have the vision and the right tools, the right attitude - a desire to make it happen. What cannot be overcome with a desire to work together to ensure its success? Take any slew of differences and repeat them at regular intervals and you have a pattern - uniform and holistic. These same patters can be found in cultures and ideologies of life if we take the time to step back and see them.

But why does it have to be balance "or" harmony? Can it not include elements of both? Philosophers are funny people - and artists in their own way; they define for us order from chaos and also create ways for us to see these things around us altogether differently. They hold onto their view as if it were sacrosanct, despite conflicting philosopies - think rationalism versus empiricism. Yet like Kant, we don't have to choose just one, having the freedom to pick and choose the best of each and apply them liberally in any situation - in this day and age we can rely upon many lifetimes worth of ideals in which to embrace.