Rhythm & Balance

By Domen Lombergar

Balance is the perception of visual equilibrium, and relates to our physical sense of balance. It is an appeasement of opposing forces in a composition that results in visual stability. Most successful compositions attain balance in one of two ways: symmetrically or asymmetrically. Balance in a three dimensional object is simple to understand. If balance isn’t achieved, the object tips over.

Symmetrical balance means having equal “weight” on equal sides of a centrally placed fulcrum. You can also call it formal balance. When the elements are arranged equally on either side of a central axis, the result is Bilateral symmetry. The axis can be vertical or horizontal. It is also potential to build formal balance by arranging elements equally around a central point, resulting in radial symmetry.

There is an alternate to the symmetrical balance called approximate symmetry – here equivalent but not identical formulas are placed around the fulcrum line.

Asymmetrical balance is more complex and difficult to foresee. It involves placement of objects in a way that will allow objects of varying visual weight to balance one another around a fulcrum point. You can imagine this best by foreseeing a literal balance scale that can represent the visual weights in a two dimensional composition. For example, it is possible to balance a heavy weight with a cluster of lighter weights on equal sides of a fulcrum. It is also possible to visualize objects of equal weight but different mass on equal sides of a fulcrum. You can even place unequal weights by shifting the fulcrum point on our imaginary scale.

Rhythm can be easily explained as timed movement trough space; an easy, connected path along which the eye follows a regular arrangement of motifs. The presence of rhythm creates certainty and order in a composition. Visual rhythm may be best understood by relating it to rhythm in sound.

Rhythm depends largely upon the elements of pattern and movement to achieve its effects. The parallels between rhythm in sound/ music are very exact to the idea of rhythm in a visual composition. The difference is that the timed “beat” is sensed by the eyes rather than the ears. You can create rhythm in a number of ways. The actual characteristic flow of the individual line is called linear rhythm. Accomplished artists have a common manner of putting down the lines of their drawings that is a direct result of the characteristic gesture used to make those lines, which, if observed, can be seen to have a rhythm of its own. Patter isn’t important to linear rhythm, as linear rhythm is more dependent on how the viewer’s eye moves in time.

Repetition comprises the use of patterning to achieve timed movement and a visual “beat”. This repetition may be a clear repetition of elements in a composition, or it may be a more subtle kind of repetition that can be observed in the underlying structure of the image.

Domen Lombergar is a surrealist artist obsessed with cyberpunk and occasionally publishes photoshop video tutorials

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