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Chapter 9 Summary—English


Lesson 1: Visual Balance
Balance is the principle of art concerned with equalizing visual forces, or elements, in a work of art. Visual balance causes you to feel that the elements have been arranged well while imbalance causes a feeling of uneasiness. Visual forces can be arranged equally on either side of a central axis. A central axis is a dividing line that works like the point of balance in the balance scale. This axis can be vertical or horizontal. Formal balance occurs when very similar elements are placed on opposite sides of this axis. It is the easiest type of balance to recognize and create. Symmetry is a special type of formal balance in which two halves of a balanced composition are identical, mirror images of each other. Symmetry appeals to us, but it can be stiff and formal. Many artists avoid boring the viewer by adding small differences, creating approximate symmetry. A complex variation of symmetry is radial balance, in which the forces or elements of a design come out from a central point. Radial balance appears often in nature and is used frequently in architecture and pottery.

Lesson 2: Informal Balance
Informal balance seems more realistic than formal balance because it is closer to what appears in nature. Rather than consisting of equal halves or sides, it relies on the artistic arrangement of objects to appear balanced. Informal balance, or asymmetry, involves a balance of unlike objects. To achieve informal balance or a more casual effect, artists must consider the visual weight, or attraction, that elements in a work of art have to the viewer’s eyes. There are six factors that influence visual weight. (1) Size: A large shape or form appears heavier than a small shape. (2) Contour: An object with a complicated contour seems heavier than one with a simple contour. (3) Color: High-intensity colors have the most visual weight. (4) Value: The stronger the contrast in value between an object and the background, the more visual weight the object has. (5) Texture: An object with a rough texture seems heaviest. (6) Position: A small object far from the dominant area of a work can seem just as heavy as a large object close to the dominant area. By taking these weight differences in account, artists create works that appear naturally balanced.

Lesson 3: The Expressive Qualities of Balance
The type of balance an artist uses to organize a work of art affects the feeling expressed by that work. To express a message of dignity and stability, an artist may use formal balance. Official buildings are often arranged with formal balance to imply that the business conducted in them is serious and solemn. By using approximate symmetry, artists can still convey stability but avoid rigid formality of pure symmetry. Radial symmetry usually appears in decorative arts but can be used in paintings to focus attention on an important part of the artwork. Informal balance is used to give works such as landscapes a natural quality. Architects also increasingly use informal balance. When used in single-family homes, this type of balance communicates the idea of casual living.


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