Patternmaking

Our brain perceptually rewards us for perceiving "good" patterns. Responding to sensory patterns is a primary brain function. Patternmaking is creating orderly, coherent relationships...

From left to right: Chuck Close, Robert Nanteuil (detail from an engraving), Pierre Bonnard

The overall composition of every work of art is not a single entity, but a combination of a number of individual patterns. The most important of these are the luminance (light-dark) pattern (above left), the linear pattern (above center), and the color pattern (above right).

David Hockney. Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices. 1965

These basic structural patterns work best when they are relatively simple, balanced (in equilibrium), and suggest wholeness or completeness. As a rule, the pictorial space should be filled. White space is more often seen as mere emptiness (wasted space) – unfinished rather than functional space. In order for white space to work, it must be perceived as a figure, balanced as if it were a figure, and be appropriate to the concept (see image above by Hockney).

The emotional qualities or mood of a work become strongest when all the patterns have affective responses (emotions or "moods") that are either exactly alike or are quite similar.

Philip Pearlstein. Female Model on a Platform Rocker. 1977-78

The artist is less interested in the rocker and the person (in the image above) than in the shapes and the pattern interrelationships that result from them and their interaction with the light flowing over and around them. 

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