Principles of Design for the Art Quilter

The principles of design tell the artist how the elements of design relate to each other. Through the understanding of the principles, the artist is able to evaluate a composition. Principles help solve problems!

This poster hung in my classroom and in almost every other art teachers classroom in my district. Along with the elements of design, the principles of design are the common language of art. In my last post I described the elements of design:

Elements are words used to describe the “parts” of work of art.

I told my students to think about an element like the windows, tires  or doors on a car. The principles describe the car itself. A sports car,big truck or a family van. It is important for the artist to take the time look and evaluate how the elements of design work together to create the desired outcome. 

And now for the story of “Tom” and “Mimi”

“Tom” is a quilt that I made a couple of years ago. It is going to  be in a show called “Under the Western Sun” at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in late April. The show will travel to New Mexico and Utah. It has also been on display at the Lincoln Center Gallery in Colorado in an international show of art quilts called “New Legacies”.

This quilt was made after “Tom”. It is a portrait of Tom’s wife Mimi. It has not gotten into any shows.Using the principles of design, I can identify the problem with Mimi. 

Note: Principle of design is in bold.

Both compositions use a similar color scheme which creates a strong contrast between the warm and cool colors. The lines created by the quilting and small bits of cloth create interesting patterns and visual rhythm.  So where’s the problem? They look similar, but Mimi doesn’t cut the mustard. 

The emphasis is off center in portrait of “Tom” making  it a more pleasing composition than “Mimi”. Look carefully at the curved lines of quilting. These serve as a visual pathway leading to a focal point. Compare this to the portrait of Mimi where the lines of quilting do not provide a clear visual pathway. The point of emphasis is poorly placed in the center. 

Balance a important role in a successful composition.  I think that balance alone is why Mimi doesn’t work. Mimi is a symmetrical composition. The visual balance is even. The figure and the background have the same visual weight. There is an even divide of space between the background to the left and right of the figure. Even  the figure does not take up enough space. 

In Tom’s portrait the figure takes up at least two thirds of the space.  It dominates the composition. If I had made in a portrait orientation and cropped out more of the background I would have much better portrait of Mimi.

If it isn’t working, try using the principles of design
to identify the problem.

Until next time….

You can see my work……. 
International Quilt Festival – Chicago, Illinois: April 2017 

Under The Western Sun
Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Golden CO
April 27 – July 25 2017

National Quilt Museum, Paducah Kentucky
June – September 2017

Sacred Threads
Herndon VA
 July 7 – 23 2017 and Traveling through out the country!

Southern Utah Museum of Art
Cedar City Utah 
June 30 – August 26 2017

The View
St. George Museum of Art
St. George Utah
April 28 – August 16 2017

Untethered Thread
Poway Center for the Arts
Poway, CA
June 1 – June 24, 2017

Interpretations: Conversations
Visions Art Museum
San Diego, CA
October 21 2017 – January 7 2018