What is the Law of Continuity?
The Law of Continuity is a Gestalt psychology principle that unifies multiple elements on a linear path. They won’t teach you this in art school…no way! Do you really think the master painters would reveal their trade secrets? Do you think they would share these powerful techniques with the masses? It’s not for the masses, it’s for the elite.
If you do a Google search on composition today, you’ll find beginner tips like the rule of thirds, leading lines, or fill the frame, and they are all accompanied with horrible examples. When you search for Gestalt principles you’re met with even more generic examples. They serve a purpose, I suppose, but they are hard to translate into something that can be used in the practical art world of a serious artist. The best examples, that we’ll find the Law of Continuity within, are the beautiful master paintings hanging in museums. Not all of them, but most of them.
Unfortunately, none of the Gestalt principles like the Law of continuity, have been taught to the artists of today. It’s not their fault…we were all kept in the dark; left to fumble around with watered-down tools. Perhaps, by not sharing the secrets of design with us, we can assume they purposely wanted to keep our artistic potential at bay. It’s time to rise above this involuntary ignorance and embrace the power of visual perception!
Knowing Gestalt psychology is like hitting the viewer in the gut with your art. As they view your masterful composition, a powerful emotion grasps them, and the only word they can mutter is an excited, drawn-out, “WOW.”
Understand Laziness and Use it to Your Advantage
The human mind is lazy in a way because it will simplify visual stimuli to find the path of least resistance. When you understand this, and incorporate it within your art, you have the power to control how others perceive your work. Want to create unity and movement? Want to create illusions or visual tension? Want to create something visually pleasing…something remarkable? You can’t without understanding the Gestalt psychology principles and design techniques…you just can’t. Sure, you may get lucky by using your “gut instinct,” but wouldn’t you rather be in full control?
HOW DO YOU USE IT IN PHOTOGRAPHY AND PAINTING?
As artists, we can use the Law of Continuity in many ways to create unique designs within our photos, paintings, sculptures…any visual art. To name a few, we have arabesques, ellipses, coincidences, and radiating lines. If you have never heard of these terms, then your artistic arsenal isn’t as powerful as it could be.
In this first example by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, called “The Nymphaeum,” we can see plenty of movement and unity between the subjects. How did he do this? Did he use the rule of thirds or leading lines? Hmmm…I don’t think so.
Bouguereau used arabesques (see Day 17), the Law of Continuity, to introduce movement and unity in his masterpiece. Notice how the lines sweep around and link up multiple elements. He’s an elite master, in full control of his design!
Here’s a photo I designed with an ellipse (see Day 34, also related to the Law of Closure), unifying the model with the background. See how her arm is on the same linear path as the pool of water? This creates a unity and movement that wouldn’t exist if her arm were straight up and down.
Make no mistake, powerful photographers like Annie Leibovitz(see Day 2) are using these techniques as well. Can you notice the movement in the group photobelow? Perhaps not, because you are still developing your sensitivity to the Law of Continuity…but it’s there. And she didn’t tell anyone about her design secret!
Look at the unity and movement she creates with the ellipses in this! It’s hidden beautifully, but it can be perceived by the viewer. She uses many more techniques like arabesques, the enclosures, dynamic symmetry, and more.
What about this one, by Edgar Degas? He used the power of radiating lines (see Day 35), adhering to the Law of Continuity. Look closely at how all of the different elements are designed in a way to direct a movement towards her hand….the brush handle, her foot, the top of the water jug, the fingers. Beautifully designed with powerful techniques!
Gestalt psychology is all about visual perception, so knowing the Law of Continuity (along with the other principles) allows us to take advantage of the unity and movement it can create within our art.
DESIGNING WITH THE LAW OF CONTINUITY IS A MAGIC TRICK
When creating art with the Law of Continuity in mind, you always want it to be hidden. Just like a magician hides the card up their sleeve, you don’t want to make anything blatantly obvious. If you are using the Law of Continuity, then you should keep it subtle and hidden…just like the masters did.
Do you see obvious hard edge lines creating an arabesque in this masterpiece, by Sir Lawrence Alma Tedema? No, because he cloaks his design with different contrasts, colors, and elements.
If we pull back the curtains and reveal his design, we can see he’s cleverly using the Law of Continuity to create movement and unity between the two women.
Wanna learn more about how to control the way people see your photos or paintings? Consider grabbing the Gestalt Psychology video collection. You won’t find anything else like it in the world, and it will seriously make you see things differently…forever.
STATEMENTS ABOUT GESTALT PSYCHOLOGY PRINCIPLES
Here are some inspiring emails from artists wanting to advance to the master level!
Thank you so much, I can’t wait to get started! A couple of months ago I read an article by New York photographer Chris Knight (also boyfriend of fashion photographer and CreativeLive educator Lindsay Adler) which mentioned the Gestalt theory and triggered my curiosity. Through quite a lot of searching for more information I ended up on your site and to be honest, I’m probably more excited than on the day someone told me very kindly I needed to learn about lighting.
As a photographer I have always (until now) focused on technique, lighting, posing, expression, etc, etc, to improve my images, but always relied on “intuition” and the rule of thirds for composition. So I am very grateful for your information on the matter, especially as it seems to be overlooked by many of my colleagues.
Very best wishes,
Hi Tavis, I have been diving into your work religiously in my off time and I can already tell I’ve struck gold. What you have created is exactly what I was looking for which I couldn’t find elsewhere. I remember stumbling upon some gestalt info in the past but it was related to graphic design and I dismissed it because I couldn’t easily relate it to my own art, but you go through and show exactly how it relates to 2d art in a way that is easy to digest and apply, and the dynamic symmetry has been blowing my mind. It’s one of those moments where I can tell my art is going to take a quantum leap forward as long as I do everything I consciously can to master this methodology. I am truly thankful for your work and effort in creating this, my friend.
Thanks again Tavis!
I was able to download the rest of the Gestalt Video Collection! Watched them all already. Can’t wait to start applying them to my work!
Thank you once again, ?
What Does the Video Cover?
This first video covers the Law of Continuity, a technique used for mastering composition. With plenty of examples and an on-location photo session (photo below) we will demonstrate how to effectively use techniques such as arabesques, coincidences, ellipses, and radiating lines to create a masterpiece. We will also touch on techniques such as positioning the model to incorporate the design, dynamic symmetry and gamut. These are all the same techniques used by master painters and they can be applied to your art to clearly communicate to your viewer with power. This Law of Continuity video is just one tool, of many, which you can use to reach the master level!
*Pre-Requisite – since Gamut greatly relates to the dynamic symmetry of root rectangles (see Day 14) it would be beneficial if you familiarized yourself with it a bit. Not necessary, because the techniques in the video still apply, but it would heighten your level of comprehension. Alternatively, I have several videos on YouTube that explain dynamic symmetry.
Preview Gestalt Psychology Video Collection
This is a mind-blowing, time-lapse of the entire Gestalt psychology video collection.
The best photographers learn from master painters.
The videos are concise, so you will get nothing but super juicy value for a total of an hour and a half. Saving you time, and giving you exactly what you need!
7 HD videos– Law of Continuity, Figure-Ground Relationship, Law of Proximity, Law of Similarity, Law of Pregnanz, Law of Symmetry, Law of Closure
Total Running Time: 1h 32m
Quality: 1080p HD
Download Size: 5.8GB
Quick Links to In-Depth Descriptions
All seven Gestalt psychology videos have their own page…loaded with details.
Click on the links below to be magically transported to the secret knowledge you’ve been missing out on.