You’ve come into the Bent Brush to paint a plate for your mother’s birthday gift. You are excited to be taking this time to yourself to be creative, while creating a handmade gift for your Mom, but as you stare at the blank white plate in front of you, you have no idea what you want to paint on it. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. For many ceramic artists, staring at the blank canvas of a bare piece of bisque is intimidating. We know most of our customers did not go through art school! It’s why we offer so many events and classes to appeal to everyone’s creative taste.
But if you haven’t had the time to come in during an event or to take a class, here’s a little art school lesson to help you get your creative juices flowing. In the most successful ceramic work, the principals of design are used every step of the way. The principles of design describe the ways that artists use the elements of art in a work of art, and in truth, you probably learned them when you were in high school. These function together to create a unified, unique, and comprehensible design that appeals to most people’s senses and create harmony.
Ironically, if you look up principals of design online, you’ll find that some people name five principals and some name up to eight! Since we just want to give you a starting point when you are painting your pottery, we stuck with five principals of design as a guideline.
The five principals of design
Balance: Balance refers to the arrangement of the artwork in a way that does not allow any one element to overpower another. Large areas are not left blank without an equally full area to balance the piece. Work can be asymmetrical and still remain balanced.
Scale and Proportion: This principle refers to the size of elements in a design. Proportion refers specifically to the size of an object in comparison to other objects in a design. Each design element has to be designed to scale.
Pattern, Repetition and Rhythm: Repetition is used to create patterns within a design, where a particular element is repeatedly utilized. This repetition may be clearly visible, or may be underlying, and could be noticed after a clear understanding of the image. Repetition is used to create rhythm. Rhythm is used to create order in a design composition. Often different forms of repetition are used to create variety. Variety pertains to the different types of elements used in a piece–for example, small and large elements, as well as black and white elements.
Emphasis: Emphasis is used to grab the attention of the viewer. An element of design can be emphasized by the use of color, gradation, contrast, texture, shape, or placement in comparison to remainder of the design. Of course, for the element to be emphasized, the presence of other elements and principles of design is essential.
Unity: Any design should elicit harmony and should look unified. Unity refers to how well one element functions with the remaining elements. The various principles when combined to create a design should work in harmony with each other. Unity is achieved by the use of all or any of the aforementioned principles of design.
Now that you have a basic grasp of the principals of design, use them to inspire your creativity! These are the foundation on which the most famous works of art and design have been created, and you too can use them to produce works of art when you come in to the Bent Brush! We look forward to seeing you soon!