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 in America, 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.
"James Cowman's user's guide on composition and Dynamic Symmetry, in particular, was one of the greatest milestones on my journey of becoming a better artist. Dynamicsymmetryart.com is undoubtedly the best resource on the subject out there, which I keep recommending to anyone interested in taking their compositions to a new level. It shocks me that even otherwise excellent artists today often know nothing about these old systems and rely mostly on their intuition to create their compositions. It's time that artists rediscover and revive the lost knowledge of the old masters and bring art back to its former glory. Jame's user's guide is a unique and invaluable resource in this effort." - Storm Engineer
"Jim offers something that is almost impossible to find online: a truly one-of-a-kind resource. His information about Dynamic Symmetry is meticulously researched and comes from a place of knowledge and genuine interest, not sales, as so many educational sites do. Reading his surprisingly accessible work has helped me to grow artistically in a deliberate and satisfying way. I return to Dynamic Symmetry Art regularly and always learn something new." - Rebecca Isenhart
"The information provided in The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist has been a tremendous resource for me as an artist and photographer. My photography work has improved tremendously, and all of my clients agree! I'll continue to share this user's guide with all of my peers and other creative artists." - Zine Massey
"I just graduated from the BFA in Graphic Design at the Federal University of Pernambuco, in Brazil, and one of the chapters of my monograph was about composition. As a motion designer, the proper layout of elements is a very important phase in my creative process, so any tool that helps with making decisions on that is very valuable. What I love about your studies is that it's full of images and resources, it's a gold mine in my opinion. Thanks for providing so much information at an affordable price." - Eveline Falcão
"The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist deserves to be a physical book in Barnes & Noble & on my coffee table!" - Elliot McGucken
"The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist is, without a doubt, one of the most comprehensive e-books ever written on the topic of design in art. Whether you're a beginner, intermediate, or advanced art/photography student, this user's guide is indispensable. I recommend it to all of my artists and photographers and have it linked to my website The Artist Angle." - Jennifer Finley "Though I am not a newcomer to photography, I am far from being a professional. So too, it has only been in the past few months that I discovered dynamicsymmetryart.com. I was transformed from being concerned with camera equipment, f-stops, shutter speed, ISO to considering how I would apply the principles of classical art training to my photography.
As I began reading about the old world masters, including da Vinci, Degas, Rembrandt, and Renoir, I learned that Dynamic Symmetry structurally changed paintings from being passive to active and dynamic. Furthermore, I didn’t realize that a small, yet renowned, group of photographers were well known for using Dynamic Symmetry in their photographs of city life and people. My journey began by reading. The Dynamic Symmetry Art website has numerous resources that gave me a crash course in art and composition. I had to learn about the visual properties of different kinds of rectangles and how each can be divided into compositional elements. Then I began using the Dynamic Symmetry grid overlays in Lightroom to analyze and crop my photos. I have found dynamicsymmetryart.com extremely beneficial, and it has contributed immensely with my efforts to improve as a photographer. Thank you for your commitment to art and art education." - Warren Wish
"With the passing of Myron Barnstone, we lost a great resource on the application of the Rectangles of the Masters and the Golden Section in creating art. But the website dynamicsymmetryart.com is carrying on that work Myron so thoroughly believed in and taught. Dynamic Symmetry can be used in the simplest of ways as well as being infinitely complex if one desires. Great minds such as Leonardo da Vinci recognized the power that this compositional tool offers. Dynamicsymmetryart.com is an amazing reference for artists who are open to exploring the benefits of using Dynamic Symmetry in their work. It applies to all the arts and resonates at a primal level of understanding harmony and beauty. Much thanks to James Cowman for his dedication to furthering this information to the public." - Master Artist and Teacher, Dot Bunn, Red Stone Farm Studio