Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Spice of Life?

VARIETY!  Isn't it?  Jane Davies here. I am a big fan of variety as a principle of abstract composition.  Yes, I know, you have to balance Variety with Unity - the principle of Things Hanging Together To Make A Coherent Whole.  What I have discovered is that if I focus on variety, I have more fun and my pieces are more interesting; unity, somehow, takes care of itself.   I can choose one simple unifying principle - work in a grid structure, or use a limited color palette - and then give variety the spotlight.   Here are a couple of ways to give your art more variety:

Lines.  Try making as many different kinds of lines with as many materials as you have.  Here are a couple pages of my sketchbook where I explored line:

Shape.  Stick with simple shapes, but see how many ways you can create them.  Here is a sampling of squares:
I used straight brush painting, dry brush, stamping, lifting, stamping, masking, and scribbling in a stencil to make this variety of squares.
And an experimental composition in which I'm using only squares as elements.  The repetition of the square serves as the unifying principle, so I can focus on variety.

Another way to practice Variety is to set up a grid structure, and make a different mark or image in each square.  This is not intended to make a composition, only to challenge you to stretch your visual vocabulary.  Here are a few examples of student work:

And finally, here are a few examples of student compositions based on the idea of variety within a grid structure:



I hope you'll spice up your life by exploring variety next time you take out your sketchbook.


  1. I love it Jane! I use my sketchbook to challenge and try new things too! It's how I keep from growing tired of journaling!

  2. My favorite is the page of rectangles. The principle of allowing for variety by utilizing the same shape is such a good one, and applicable in so many ways.


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