» The Rule of Thirds and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

The Rule of Thirds and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

mozart

Mozart as a young man.

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The rule of thirds has been simplified down to four key points and/or four lines. Talk about limiting your composition. Talk about tremendously limiting your growth as an artist. That’s equivalent to tearing out 80 keys of a grand piano, leaving Mozart or Beethoven  only the eight they would need to play twinkle-twinkle-little-star…for the rest of their lives. That’s not going to cut it! Most people know how to play twinkle-twinkle-little-star, just as most artists have heard of the rule of thirds. How are you going to stand out from the others if you are regurgitating exactly what everyone else does?

Beethoven

Beethoven writing a composition…not twinkle twinkle little star, I assure you.

As Leonardo Da Vinci says, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” though I know being the designer and master draftsman he was, he didn’t mean that you should handicap yourself. To squash all traditional knowledge laid before you and boil it down to a book called “Composition for Dummies” which harps about the fantastic possibilities of the rule of thirds (yes, there is such a book). If you’re a serious artist, it’s time to take the blinders off and learn composition the right way. Throw away the rule of thirds. Take it out to a field, shoot it, bury it, and don’t look back!

da-vinci-1

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  • Mark Cannistraci

    “it’s time to take the blinders off and learn composition the right way.
    Throw away the rule of thirds. Take it out to a field, shoot it, bury
    it, and don’t look back!”

    The rule of thirds was never meant to be applied (horribly, I must say, in all cases) to a rectangular landscape picture whether it be a painting or a photo. If you dig far enough back in some old books, you’ll find that DaVinci’s Rule of Thirds was a tool that best describes and demonstrates the proper RATIOS of the human face. Follow the Rule of Thirds when painting (or drawing) someone’s face to keep everything in its proper perspective.
    The technique of dividing the canvas into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, and placing key components of ones work into this grid works to a degree by forcing the observer’s eyes to focus on the elements the artist wants them to focus on and not all the frivolous fluffery used to fill in the empty space on the canvas. It’s effective but, not the same “Rule of Thirds” that I was taught in art school.
    I don’t like the way DaVinci’s Rule of Thirds has been co-opted into something that it was never intended to be used for. But the artists of today have no regard for the masters of the past or the discoveries they made, much less pay them the homage they deserve by using the techniques the way they were meant to be used. The tools may be old but, they were created to do a specific job in a specific way for good reason. The rule of thirds has been lost or at least corrupted to the point of non-recognition in my book. And my book is the one that was written by the masters. Not these art-majors of today that are better known for a book they wrote rather than the art they’ve created.
    I know that sounds harsh but, tell me I’m wrong.

  • tavis

    Hi Mark, thanks for writing. Glad you were able to find my site and discuss a topic that more artists should be involved in. Do you have references for “Da Vinci’s Rule of Thirds” because I’m curious to where you heard that. A lot of confusion has been based around certain artists using the rule of thirds where in fact they were using dynamic symmetry. Several paintings I’ve analyzed shows how it can be confused, so I just want to make sure that it’s not happening again. Da Vinci was using the golden ratio, which is commonly mistaken for the rule of thirds. Using thirds to break down the human face might be a quick short hand at locating features, but if you use PHI calipers you’ll find that they line up far better. You can use phi calipers on the Mona Lisa, which I plan to do in an article, and you’ll see how Da Vinci uses this ratio to achieve his proportions…not only in the face, but throughout the entire painting.

    When you are referring to the horizontal and vertical lines for a place for “key components by forcing the observer’s eye”, you are missing the whole point of design. It’s impossible to control the viewers eye merely by plotting your subject in a certain location. Design and composition are more than that. It’s vital to see that, which is why I refer to “blinders”. You have to consider the whole, including the “frivolous fluffery.” It’s all part of the design. Master painters wouldn’t paint their subject, then arbitrarily throw in background objects to fill the negative space. They designed by displaying the foreground and background as one. Using coincidences, arabesques, ellipses, etc are techniques that can be used, but it’s crucial to see the image as a whole instead of strictly worrying about your subject and where you plot them. That’s why I say to take the rule of thirds out to a field and bury it. Plotting on a crosshair does nothing for composition because so many other elements tie into the whole. The rule of thirds misleads us to believing that if we plot it on a crosshair, then our composition is complete. I truly wish it were that easy, but if it were, we would not consider Da Vinci or Bouguereau masters.

    I agree with you that many artists have no regard for the tradition of masters and learning their discoveries. Also, many of their discoveries, such as design, has been kept a secret. So maybe they weren’t disregarding it as much as they weren’t aware of the techniques. That’s why it’s important for us to get this information out to other artists. That way they can determine for themselves whether or not their art will gain anything by learning design.

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