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Updated: Mar 24

The Gestalt Principles of Grouping and Hierarchy

GESTALT THEORY in art Gestalt theory, a theory about perception, holds that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. It describes our ability to: Recognise patterns and make associations; group objects that are close together into a larger unit; relate and group objects of similar shape.

  • Gestalt principles explain how the eye creates a whole (gestalt) from parts.

The power of white space for grouping derives from the Gestalt principle of grouping. Here are the six principles identified by the Gestalt:

  1. Proximity. Elements that are closer to each other are more likely to be grouped together. You see four vertical columns of circles, because the circles are closer vertically than they are horizontally.

  2. Similarity. Elements with similar attributes are more likely to be grouped. You see four rows of circles in the example, because the circles are more alike horizontally than they are vertically.

  3. Continuity. The eye expects to see a contour as a continuous object. You primarily perceive the Continuity example above as two crossing lines, rather than as four lines meeting at a point, or two right angles sharing a vertex.

  4. Closure. The eye tends to perceive complete, closed figures, even when lines are missing. We see a triangle in the center of the example, even though its edges aren’t complete.

  5. Area. When two elements overlap, the smaller one will be interpreted as a figure in front of the larger ground. So we tend to perceive the example as a small square in front of a large square, rather than a large square with a hole cut in it.

  6. Symmetry. The eye prefers explanations with greater symmetry. So the example is perceived as two overlapping squares, rather than three separate polygons.


Updated: Feb 21

The fundamentals of pattern recognition:

Pattern collections are very personal style statements and fabulous opportunities for self-expression. We are looking to develop their skills with color, texture and personal style.

Dots, Lines, Grids, Patterns.

Every pattern begins with just one dot. Dots are the smallest element of patterns. They can be combined, manipulated, etc, to make stripes, and then stripes in turn can be combined and manipulated to make grids. Grids form the repeat of our patterns. A Grid reveals system to create a structural pattern.

When several dots with a single shared characteristics are arranged in a stripe, the dot has been repeated, even if other characteristics of the dots are different. When the repeated dots have more than one feature in common, the most dominant common feature is selected to describe the repetition.

When all shape of dots move together they create lines. The more interesting your dot is, the more interesting your pattern will be. Strips could be in geometric forms or organic. Strips can be very iconic figures such as zebra strips. Strips can be very solid so make sure you have a good idea how to emphasise them in a grid.

How to build a basic pattern: by repetition of geometric shapes

We can build a pattern by using tessellation of four main geometric shapes; squares,rectangles, hexagons, triangles.

Only those certain shapes tile seamlessly and they are easiest to work with.

Making Tessellated Designs:

You can manipulate basic tessellated shapes to get a creative result by repetition.

For example of a tile design by using contrast of straight vs curve lines ;

1. Create two repeating pattern tiles that illustrate opposing forces. (such as Straight vs Curved lines)

2. Each tile should be 5" x 5 " square.

3. Use two different colours only.

4. Explore formal contrast to to inform your composition and conceptual contrast to inform your concept.

The Stages of Strong Composition

1. Figure & Ground Relationship

2. Structure (grid)

3. Focal point (contrast)

4. Balance

1. Figure and Ground : Figure and ground relationship is about the way our eyes travels though the art work. What's in the front what's at the back. The main aim is to create harmonious relationship between figure and background. A real artist works effortlessly between the figure and ground to create amazing patterns.

A)Reversible: Figure in ground, your eyes goes back and forth easily and intentionally what's in the front and the back. They are vibrant and gives energy to the artwork. Reversible figure and ground relationship has equal visual weight in both sides. Figure has same visual weight as ground.

B) Ambiguous: Figure is enmeshed in ground.

C) Interwoven: Figure informs the ground and vice versa.

2. Structure: Division of space. When you are creating a composition, you are dividing the surface that you are working on different areas. There areas can be composed organic or geometric shapes. Imagine dividing a square into 5 x 5 little squares and you have different elements to divide them in 25 different squares. This is called spot repetition.

1. Start by dividing your foundation into a square grid. ( example, 5 x 5 cm)

2. Place motifs that each one gets a row and column itself. Vary each motif rotation to make a tossed print.

3. Once the units are in place than you can improve by increasing the variations of scale, rotation, colour, size, thickness contrast.

1. Grid for structure

2. Tossed print with grid structure.

3. Final tossed print

3. Focal point (path): Exploring opposing forces. Let's brainstorm a lot of forces of contrasts.

By Size,


Updated: Feb 21

When you're looking at a painting critically with a view to giving a critique here are some of the things you might need to consider, such as;

Composition: How have the elements of the painting been placed? Does your eye flow across the whole painting or does one element selfishly dominate? Is the main focus of the painting n the center of the painting (both vertically and horizontally), or off to one side? Is there anything that draws your eye into or across the painting?

Intention: Do you agree with their statement or interpretation of their painting, remembering that what the artist intends and what the viewer sees aren't always the same thing?

Emotional Response: Does the painting generate an emotional reaction in you? What is the overall mood of the painting, and is this suitable for the subject?

Size: Remember to take a look at the actual size of the painting and try to visualize it that big rather than the size of the photo on your computer screen.

Medium: What was used to create the painting? What has the artist done with the possibilities presented by their choice of medium?

The title of the Painting: What is the title of the painting? What does it tell you about the painting and how does it guide your interpretation? Think about how you might have interpreted the painting if it had been called something else.

Subject Matter: What is the painting of? Is it unusual, unexpected, controversial or intriguing? Does it lend itself to comparison to work by a famous painter? Do you understand the symbolism in the painting?

Colour: Has color been used realistically or used to convey emotion? Are the colors warm or cool and do they suit the subject? Has a restricted or monochrome palette been used?

Texture: What kind of texture has been used? Visual ? Tactile?

How to Critique?

Since everyone strives to make their work better, comments are most helpful when you can offer your peer analysis that goes beyond “I like that” or "blue is my favourite colour."

To approach the process of critique, we will be using any or all of the following strategies:

  • Observe the physical, tactile qualities of the image.

  • Describe the materials used, the quality of line, how abstracted the representation is the image a realistic representation or more stylized, expressive or notational?

  • If the subject is an animal, how much of the animal is depicted: its entirety or a distinctive feature or two that conjures or stands in for the whole?

  • Does the image depict volume and mass or is it flat? What are the predominant colours or texture?

  • Is the image high contrast or low? Transparent? Discuss the associations and connotations of an image It’s impossible to separate or isolate the tactile materiality and the way a mark is made, from carrying or implying significance.

  • Another way to talk about the image is to focus on what associations or connotative meaning it brought up for you. For example, you may interpret an image’s transparency as subtlety or something ephemeral. Or maybe translucence suggests layering and depth.

When deliberately and intentionally placed in context in a composition, the power of message and interpretation may be released and amplified.

We could discuss dynamic composition, looking at ways of establishing hierarchy, connotation and narrative.

Explore and develop creating hierarchy and narrative in your own compositions, and this first-hand experience will help you to establish a criteria in order to talk about the work of others. Make time with other humans to develop your own creative work. Any chance you have to show and discuss live work, to be in the same space with other humans, is best of all. We all spend a lot of time online, but there is no substitute for the spontaneity, nuance and inspiration generated by working, discussing and critiquing your work—and that of others—in real time and physical space.


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