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    The Golden Mean/Ratio...

    So I've begun taking some fundamental art history/discussion classes in college this summer, and one thing that has struck my interest has been the golden mean / golden ratio. We touched very lightly on the subject (where it came from, and examples of its use), but I've been unable to really draw any further information out of my instructors or our tests on the details of its application in art.

    Are there any good source material anyone knows about discussing its use in art? How it is figured in terms of an image's composition (like in The Creation of Adam)? How, if you wanted to experiment around, you might best employ the ideas surrounding the golden mean and proportions? Moreover, I'm just interested in the details of its application, how artists use it, etc.

    Thanks for anyone who has any nice links!

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    Myron Barnstone teaches it and has a few videos on his web page.

    Here's one http://www.barnstonestudios.com/z/vi...ideo_demo.html

    also Juliette Aristides talks about it in the beggining of her Drawing Atelier book.

    and check out The Elements of Dynamic Symmetry by Jay Hambidge

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    "Talent is a word found in the mouth of the lazy to dismiss the hard work of those who have achieved."
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    I'm watching those youtube Barnstone videos right now, really great stuff. I'm at the "what is art?" video, and that gives some really good info in just 10 minutes, very clear diagrams, and what he says about subliminally communicating to the audience is really important. He gets right down to business. Good find.

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    Awesome! glad you like them.

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    For quite a good account of both the maths and the history of the myths see Mario Livio's paperback "The Golden Ratio"

    http://www.amazon.com/Golden-Ratio-W.../dp/0767908163

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zazerzs View Post
    Myron Barnstone teaches it and has a few videos on his web page.

    Here's one http://www.barnstonestudios.com/z/vi...ideo_demo.html
    Fantastic info. Thank you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zazerzs View Post
    Myron Barnstone teaches it and has a few videos on his web page.

    Here's one http://www.barnstonestudios.com/z/vi...ideo_demo.html

    also Juliette Aristides talks about it in the beggining of her Drawing Atelier book.

    and check out The Elements of Dynamic Symmetry by Jay Hambidge
    Awesome, I just realized that his studio is about 40 min driving distance from my house. I may have to take a class or two and check it out. Thanks for the link.

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    haha i got pretty into this whole deal last year in art class, and surprisingly wikipedia actually has a pretty good bit of info on it

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio

    enjoy, i'll be checking out all these links others have posted too!

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    Here's more:

    http://www.fredmartin.net/Essays/Geometry5-2005.pdf

    There's also something called "The Painter's Secret Geometry," which you can google.

    Search for "whirling squares" as well.

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    This person does a good job debunking some of the claims a lot of writings make, about painters and the reason of the existence of a Golden ratio. I highly recommend reading this.

    The point he makes is that the golden ratio does indeed exist, but only for a functional reason, not for aesthetic reason, it's nature's way to be efficient. Although some people now claim that that in itself is also untrue, that nature does not use golden ratios per-se (many sea-shells deviate from the Golden ratio). So the only reason for it existence that you can be sure off atm, is a mathematical one.

    http://www.maa.org/devlin/devlin_06_04.html

    Last edited by Kaycy is tanning; October 16th, 2009 at 03:43 AM.
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    Quickest way to ruin art for me is to present it as a branch of maths! I don't believe a word of it, when Barnstone makes out that Rubens worked out all these squares and grids and proportions to draw his wife's face. If the points match up it's just one of those things that make up the mysteries of the universe. Beyond basic guidelines to ensure symmetry, I don't think any of this complex geometry applies in the drawing of a portrait.

    Last edited by dashinvaine; October 16th, 2009 at 12:22 PM.
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    He used known conventions of the time intelligently to produce a desired effect. Its not all a coincidence or something mysterious, it was deliberate and created by a master. To say that it is happenstance just insults Rubens and demeans his work.

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    edit: was rude again

    Last edited by Kaycy is tanning; October 17th, 2009 at 03:42 AM.
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    It's not an insult to Rubens to say he was capable of rendering his wife's face without plotting out sacred geometry as though he were designing the ground plan of the temple of Thoth. It doesn't detract from his artistic abilities or powers of observation. Who ever sat for a portrait for the artist to go 'hang on while I get my calculator and compasses out...' ?

    Last edited by dashinvaine; October 17th, 2009 at 07:05 AM.
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    ...and now we see how this became a lost method...

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    I don't see any real evidence that it was ever a practiced method.

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    There is some evidence, however, math is an important part of art. There's a reason why we learn geometric shapes, proportion and ratios to make art look generally pleasing, and when to break it to create a different effect.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jpacer View Post
    I read Livio's book a number of years ago and had several problems with it. Principally in that he tackles the question from the point of view of a mathematician and not a designer. For example he takes this image from The Tablet of Shamash: and determines that it couldn't possibly have been intentionally designed in the section, because the divisions are off by a few tenths or hundredths of a decimal place.
    Misquote. What he actually said was that arguments based on measurements are inconclusive as long as the measurer is free to pick and choose where he takes his measurements, and to ignore all inconvenient choices. The problem being that anyone who thinks that a Nautilus shell is "near enough" to the proportions of the Golden Section will have no difficulty finding ratios "near enough" to the Golden Section anywhere they want to.

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    Watched many of Myron Barnstones videos and now I want to get down cracking.

    Gah! Where's my compass when I need it?!

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    Quote Originally Posted by jpacer View Post
    Looking at a nautilus shell by the numbers you will find that the numbers don't "quite" line up with the Golden Section ratio. Looking at it geometrically, it's clearly a series of "whirling" square shapes generating a logorhythmic spiral.
    So now the "Golden Section" includes not only all of the various "available" ratios, but also logarithmic spirals of any proportion?

    For the record Nautilus shells measure up at an average ratio of 1.33, which does not "quite" line up with 1.618 by a long chalk in my book, but I'm obviously prone to making overly fine distinctions...

    The Fibonacci Spiral and the Nautilus
    http://www.shallowsky.com/blog/scien...onautilus.html

    John Sharp
    Spirals and the Golden Section
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/f7j040k4332143n2/

    The Golden Mean/Ratio...

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    Very interesting.. thanks for the insight John!

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    Quote Originally Posted by jpacer View Post
    What about this drawing by Leonardo da Vinci?


    Attachment 811894


    Or this one by Thomas Eakins?


    Attachment 811892


    If artists of the past spent this much time developing their three-dimensional spaces geometrically, what makes you think they didn't spend as much effort developing their two-dimensional designs/compositions?

    Maybe, but Da Vinci seems to be the outstanding exception that proves the rule. The example pieces only proves the use of single-vanishing-point perspective, but I know Da Vinci was interested, more than most, in measurement, proportion and hidden geometry. His Vitruvian man is proof of that.

    Last edited by dashinvaine; October 29th, 2009 at 05:32 PM.
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    An exception "proofs" a rule. It does not prove it. That is, an exception tests a rule.

    The use of the word "prove" in place of "proof" has caused this expression to be misused as some kind of magic "get out of an argument free" card.

    John, think a lot about epistemology when you start overlaying grid lines on 500 year old paintings. That rhythm you are gridding out does not in any way require the golden mean/ratio in order to function.

    At least Icarus tried!


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    John, I never disputed the use understructures. In fact, I've been researching this stuff on my own for a very long time, and I've read all the Hambidge books and all the books you list except the Aristedes. And a bunch of others you haven't mentioned.

    The issue I have here is the tendentiousness that all us "abstract thinkers" have a natural affinity for. I include Bouleau among us. I've had to train myself to separate very clearly what I think I'm seeing, which is more often than not synonymous with "what I'm looking for" (seek and ye shall find), versus what I am actually seeing, which is often a lot messier. I have had to discipline myself countless times regarding the question of confirmation bias, which is an intellectual failing caused by an egotistical obsession with a great idea. (In my conversations with Chris Bennett, we call this "going up the mountain." One tends to fly up the mountain with a brilliant all encompassing insight, and then trudge back down rather slowly as one begins to appreciate the complexity of the matter. What's that Shakespeare line, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.")

    For example, in your Tiepolo diagrams... I agree with a lot of your lines, and I think a lot of them are nonsense. And so what of the ones I agree with anyhow... there isn't a picture in the world that can't be diagrammed in some fancy way or another to show linear understructure. Diagrams are just opinions. You give me the worst POS picture, and I can make you a host of pretty diagrams from it. I'll make you flow charts, area graphs, outlines, linear connections, rhythms, heat maps, etc. etc. etc.... its all just a bunch of babble unless it has functional application. Functional is the key word. And in order to get at function, purpose must be ascertained. And the only way to get at purpose is to go back and time and get a Tiepolo interview on tape as he's composing.

    And again, what relation is this to the original question of golden sections?

    All you are showing is that pictures graphically relate. And that some of these relations are formalized through geometry. Its a fun train to run, but where is it going?

    At least Icarus tried!


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    John, I think it will be a good lesson if you could show how you achieve effects such as you purport to explain in the Degas, in your own works using the principles you espouse.

    If you cannot match the effects you find in the Degas using the principles you claim to be the operative and essential elements in the Degas, I think it is safe to assume that your analysis of Degas is incomplete, yes?

    The greatest lesson I have learned in compositional analysis is that we cannot see what we do not know.

    Do you know how much you don't know? No you don't.

    Epistemic Humility = Good idea.

    At least Icarus tried!


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    Hehe. Yeah. I often theorize on different things in art but later come to conclusion that if I can't use this theory to improve my art practically then it's rather pointless to continue thinking in that direction. If I know much more than I can then probably there must be something wrong .

    Last edited by Farvus; October 30th, 2009 at 02:03 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    John, I never disputed the use understructures. In fact, I've been researching this stuff on my own for a very long time, and I've read all the Hambidge books and all the books you list except the Aristedes. And a bunch of others you haven't mentioned.

    The issue I have here is the tendentiousness that all us "abstract thinkers" have a natural affinity for. I include Bouleau among us. I've had to train myself to separate very clearly what I think I'm seeing, which is more often than not synonymous with "what I'm looking for" (seek and ye shall find), versus what I am actually seeing, which is often a lot messier. I have had to discipline myself countless times regarding the question of confirmation bias, which is an intellectual failing caused by an egotistical obsession with a great idea. (In my conversations with Chris Bennett, we call this "going up the mountain." One tends to fly up the mountain with a brilliant all encompassing insight, and then trudge back down rather slowly as one begins to appreciate the complexity of the matter. What's that Shakespeare line, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.")

    For example, in your Tiepolo diagrams... I agree with a lot of your lines, and I think a lot of them are nonsense. And so what of the ones I agree with anyhow... there isn't a picture in the world that can't be diagrammed in some fancy way or another to show linear understructure. Diagrams are just opinions. You give me the worst POS picture, and I can make you a host of pretty diagrams from it. I'll make you flow charts, area graphs, outlines, linear connections, rhythms, heat maps, etc. etc. etc.... its all just a bunch of babble unless it has functional application. Functional is the key word. And in order to get at function, purpose must be ascertained. And the only way to get at purpose is to go back and time and get a Tiepolo interview on tape as he's composing.

    And again, what relation is this to the original question of golden sections?

    All you are showing is that pictures graphically relate. And that some of these relations are formalized through geometry. Its a fun train to run, but where is it going?
    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    John, I think it will be a good lesson if you could show how you achieve effects such as you purport to explain in the Degas, in your own works using the principles you espouse.

    If you cannot match the effects you find in the Degas using the principles you claim to be the operative and essential elements in the Degas, I think it is safe to assume that your analysis of Degas is incomplete, yes?

    The greatest lesson I have learned in compositional analysis is that we cannot see what we do not know.

    Do you know how much you don't know? No you don't.

    Epistemic Humility = Good idea.
    Just had to preserve these in case Kev goes on another of his delete-athons.

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    I have been following this thread trying to learn and absorb it.

    I would like to see this in reverse. Instead of seeing how a painting used the geometry, I would like to see how someone uses the geometry to build a painting. There is something to be learned here. I am naive when it comes to composition. This looks like a very interesting place to start playing with theories and ideas.

    For example, I have a buttload of 6x6's that I do practice paintings on. I mostly do still life because they don't move and I work slow. Would I start by putting the grid as you have it on my canvas and start arranging the item(s) according to the lines?

    @jpacer - You come across as a guy who is very excited about this subject to me.

    @paperclip - your article on the Golden Ratio and color is very interesting. I bookmarked it.

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