Photograph above taken in Saratoga, NY with a Leica MP240
An Email Addressing the Practical Use of Dynamic Symmetry in Art and Photography
"I read your article on the basics of composition and the use of Dynamic Symmetry, but I am currently struggling to believe it's a realistic tool used in real life painting and drawing since it's rigid and feels more like an analytical tool. So I would like to inquire if you personally know of any painters that use the Dynamic Symmetry grid for painting and composition.
Because I have followed the artist (named removed) work for some time, which you used as an example on your website, I asked them if they used this grid before creating the painting, and they said "no" and that it just happened to fall on this Dynamic Symmetry grid. Thus, to me, it reinforces my thinking that it can be used as an analytical tool but not as a useful tool to paint in a real life situation and compose your painting."
There are many artists that won't speak openly or honestly about how they design their art. Much like the magician that won't reveal how they perform their illusions (the magician’s oath and code of ethics), artists have always carefully guarded the most important secret when it comes to creating masterful work - that being composition. This philosophy is known as the "painter's secret geometry." And because very few people have the skills to be able to decode design, it's not difficult for the artist to maintain the "illusion" that producing great art is intuitive and spontaneous.
While it does take time, skills, and patience to learn how to analyze art, a masterpiece is always measurable. And despite the fact that many artists aren't forthright about their use of Dynamic Symmetry or the armature of the rectangle, as discussed in Charles Bouleau's book "The Painter's Secret Geometry," that is in no way a reliable indicator that they haven't applied it to their designs. In fact, in all the years I have been analyzing artworks, I haven't found one example of any master artist who didn't employ at least some elements of the golden section in their compositions.
Furthermore, Dynamic Symmetry is not impractical or rigid and applying a proper system of design is imperative for creating a successful work of art. In today's culture, many artists mistakenly use the word "rigid" when they really mean structure. However, a masterpiece must always have a well-composed underlying arrangement of elements otherwise the artwork will appear chaotic and ultimately fail in its attempt to affect the viewer emotionally.
Unfortunately, because of the 20th century Modern Art movement, many artists and photographers have been falsely led to believe that any technical training inhibits "creativity" and "intuitively" placing elements in a composition will yield a respectable body of work. I can assure you, it doesn't and it won't. This nonsensical "teach by not teaching" ideology has left the art world and most contemporary art students in a constant state of emotional struggle and self-doubt.
More importantly, the modern artist that thinks they can get away without studying and applying solid design principles to their work, whether they draw, paint, or take photographs, are only fooling themselves. As Kenyon Cox once said, "Without design, there may be representation, but there can be no art." So, not only is Dynamic Symmetry a realistic tool, it's a necessary tool if an artist or photographer ever expects to create work that is worthy of being called "art."
One final point. I have been following the artist you mentioned in your email and have spent a great deal of time analyzing their art. And like you, I too have reached out to this particular artist to ask them about their use of classical design in their work. While they did not openly admit to using Dynamic Symmetry, they didn't deny it either. In other words, they didn't want to reveal their "composition secrets" to the general public. However, with that said, I can state unequivocally that the artist is indeed using Dynamic Symmetry and the armature of the rectangle.
Because of the quickly growing atelier movement in this country, to successfully compete as an artist in the 21st century it's necessary to let go of the widely accepted, irrational belief that masterful artwork can be created relying solely on one's feelings or intuition. It can't.
In conclusion, my suggestion to you, as well as every other artist and photographer that wants to achieve a certain level of quality in their art, is to thoroughly study all aspects of design so you can possess the knowledge and skills required to analyze an artist's body of work and have the ability to come to your own conclusions. I hope this helps to answer your questions and concerns.
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