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Posts Tagged ‘Left-Right’

More Edgy

In the last post I said, “Up is very satisfying.” Let’s test that by flipping the drawing.

Jan2015StripesBallsFlip
Hmmm. Doesn’t this view lack the tranquility of the original? It’s edgy, isn’t it. Interesting, but here we tend to land on the stripes, which are disjointed, broken and, well, edgy.

The more  I look at this, the more I like it.  It feels more complex than the original, more modern.

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/compositional-drama/
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13ShipInIceAn arresting image.  A ship in the Antarctic is trapped in ice.  Some of the people on board will be rescued by helicopter and some will remain behind to take care of the ship.  All this depends on the weather, which is severe.

The caption reads:  “This image taken by Andrew Peacock, a passenger on the Akademik Shokalskiy, shows the ship stuck in the Antarctic ice on Monday near Cape de la Motte.”

The composition is uncanny.  The photographer clambered around on solid ice until he found this ice formation curling over the view of the ship and, just coincidentally, a couple of people are standing there to look down at the ship.  It’s too good to be true, but let’s assume it is true and these three elements—ship, people and ice formation—are not collaged together in Photoshop.

What makes this image so compelling? First, it’s optimistic.  Second, it echoes the famous Hokusai woodcut. The two are related.

13ShipInIceFlipTo test for optimism, just flip it horizontally. Same information, different mood. Where before, the ice formation was static, now the ice formation is on the left and it appears to be coming down on the ship.  It’s ominous.  Where before, the people on the left made us sympathize with them, now on the right, they are in a dark, gloomy mood.

The photographer may not have thought of Hokusai when he framed the shot, but surely he saw the association when he looked at his many frames from that day and picked this one.  The ice curls and sits on

HukasaiWavethe page just like the Hokusai wave in his woodcut, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa,” 1823-29.  Except flipped.  In the Hokusai, the wave ominously towers and curls on the left.  It moves towards the right and feels fast, powerful and threatening.

When we flip the Hokusai, putting the wave on the right, it looks static.  It just stands there, is not going

HukasaiWaveFlipanywhere, not threatening anybody.  Looks funny.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/31/world/europe/delayed-rescue-attempt-antarctica.html?hp

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13BoyerLesRondes4flip

This does not work, does it!

It looks comical to me, like an attempt at an abstract painting based on oh-well-let’s-put-some-shapes-together.  Isn’t that what abstraction is, just shapes that don’t represent anything?  Soooo, wrooooong!  If it were a matter of throwing some shapes together, then this thing would be good.  Nice shapes, good colors. But so off, so mindless and heartless. The eye just does not want to move through this flipped version.

Now consider the original.  What a relief!  What an engaging composition!

13BoyerLesRondes4

(See previous post for clues to the genesis of the painting.)

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12BowBottlelDrapeGaby1flipIt’s predictable, isn’t it.  You knew this was coming.  When there’s a composition with a strong diagonal, the flip can’t be far behind. Here it is.

Same information.  Different feeling.

 

———————————–

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You can explore urban myths about the origin and placement of Apple’s apple at

http://urbanlegends.about.com/b/2012/06/23/the-legend-of-the-apple-logo.htm and

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/05/upside-down-apple-logo/

But the left-right flip is even more telling than the up-down issue, which was finally resolved.

I bet the flipped version of the apple was not even considered.  Would you find this apple appetizing? Optimistic? Sympathetic? Appealing? Friendly?  Future oriented?  Steve Jobs, who was a student and avid practitioner of calligraphy and a fanatic about visual accessibility, would never have sketched this version.  Would you?!

Yet, there it is, same information.  Same factual, leafed, bitten apple.

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I’ve always been grateful to Haydn for inventing the symphony but have more often than not found his compositions a bit too tame.  Until last week, that is, when I heard his Four Seasons performed under Carlos Kalmar’s direction at Millennium Park.  At its 1801 premier in Vienna it was a success, but I can’t imagine that performance to have been as bold as the one we heard here in Chicago last week.

But back to visuals.

The woman at left was posing for a friend whose fumbling with a camera required multiple takes.  This gave me time to pull out my pocket Sony.  I immediately saw this composition and am showing the photo without later cropping or tweaking.  My take on the scene will never make it as a having-a-good- time-wish-you-were-here postcard, will it.  It’s funny, I hope that’s your reaction.  It also has a warmth that the left-right flip lacks.

The flip is also funny, but in a weird way.  Pessimistic, gloomy, just plain wrong.  If this had been the scene in front of me—and that’s entirely possible—it’s unlikely that I would have “seen” it and taken the shot.

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I don’t want to be predictable, but if you’ve been following these posts, you know that whenever I get to talking about dynamics, tension and counterpoint in an image, the Lift-Right flip cannot be far behind.

Look at this. I flipped Linné’s original drawing, horizontally.   Isn’t this a funny image!

How can that be?! Same factual information.  Yet in the original (see previous post) the lone leaf sticking out of the margin looks mysterious and important.  Here in the flip, doesn’t it look ridiculous, clunky and contrived?  The bare stems in the original were energetic and full of promise, but here in the flip, they go nowhere, they seem to die on the page.  The peak in the horizon line is tired here, where in the original it feels up-beat.

I don’t theorize about this in class or give specific instructions. But we often play with cropping, i.e. placing strips of white paper over a finished drawing to see what happens.  That’s an important seeing exercise because it focuses on “what makes an image.”  These marvelous compositions in my students’ work come about because I encourage them to practice seeing  how elements on the drawing page relate to one another and the edge and the negative space they create, rather than just what they depict.

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