Nellie"s Needles

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Emphasis In A Compostion

There are a number of ways that attention may be attracted to an important area of a design to give it emphasis.

  • by using contrast (hue, value, or intensity)
  • by lines leading the eye to it
  • by intricate/unusual details within area
  • by grouping objects/shapes within area
As a general rule, a focal point is the result of one element differing from the others.
This piece is essentially an overall pattern consisting of spirals on a foundation of geometric shapes. The one element that is the most different is the centrally located block. There are a number of factors that contrast it to all the other blocks.
  • It is the only white in the quilt
  • It is isolated in the center
  • It contains written numbers and letters
  • It has intricate and unusual shapes grouped within it
As much as that focal block has going for it, it was a challenge to not detract from it with the other fabulous round robin blocks that I was committed to use in this composition. Segmenting five of them to make repeating colors and patterns made it easier. Adding paint to two others helped blend them into the mix. All the other background pieces were chosen or created to fill in or to support/balance the whole design.

The block with the medium-light aqua deconstructed spiral on a bright yellow background was my primary concern. The cut up pieces are placed diagonally to draw your eye through the center of the quilt. I'm grateful there are yellow stripes in that center focal block to carry more smoothly across it. Even without the stripes my intention would work because yellow and white are so close in value. I also added spots and strips of yellow throughout the composition to balance and support that sweep of brightness across the quilt.

To counteract/balance that strong diagonal flow of color there is a definite diagonal patterning that crosses it between the other two corners. The result is in an "X" through the quilt with the focal point in the visual crossover. There is also a strong horizontal pattern created by the frame around the center section. I've also kept most of the brightly colored small circle/spirals in the vertical center of the composition. These vertical and horizontal patterns form a cross "+" through the center. In effect, this is a radial composition.

However, it's not "read" the way a usual radial pattern is seen ... multiple elements pointing to one item. My eyes focus on the white center block first, then are drawn up the yellow path to the upper right corner, back to the center top by the orange and light blue, then they follow the brightly colored circles down through the center to the bottom edge of the quilt. The two lone circles and the bright, light blue just to the right attract my attention to make me linger a bit before the strong yellow pulls my gaze to the bottom left corner and then back up to the white block in the center.

I haven't meant to dictate how this piece should be "read". However, I'm curious to know if your eyes follow different paths from mine.


Kay said...

I love the way this has worked out, Nellie. I don't think I read it quite like you do. I see first the light block in the center, but the two strong diagonals lead me to the upper left and then the orange strips framing the center pull me around the circle and down the left hand side. I see the diagonal in the lower right too, and only lager pick up the yellows. I guess this seems more horizontal or diagonal than radial to me. There's almost a figure 8 movement going on. Anyway, I think you succeeded brilliantly in the "stick your neck out" experiment. Thanks for the whole series of posts.

Vicki W said...

This is a really nice piece and I've learned so much just reading your design process. Thank you for sharing so much detail as you worked through it! For me the elements that guid me around the quilt are the two orange L brackets. So, yes, I wouls say it's a radial composition to me. (For what that's worth since I'm not vry experienced on design principles myself!)

Karoda said...

Nellie I read it the same way as Kay...I see the center block then follow the sashing above it and down the left side. From there I have to force my eyes to see the bottom row and then the top. Now that is on a computer screen...if in person I know this is the type of piece I would have to see from afar, then up close then from afar again because of the action happening in it.

jenclair said...

Center, to yellow blocks with blue spirals, to orange with blue spiral, down to yellow w/blue spiral, then to light blue with red spiral...then to details like the small circles.

How interesting to see the way an individual's eyes follow similar, but not exactly the same, patterns.

arlee said...

Interesting, i see a square pinwheel with the "brackets" being its arms, flinging off the brighter squares and using the triangles as fulcrum points!

Sequana said...

At least on my screen, no matter how else my eyes travel, they always end at the upper left on the small plain blue.

This has been a really instructive series to follow. Thx for taking the time to do it.

Anonymous said...

I was looking at your composition piece and you indicated the attention should be focused on the center white piece for your stated reasons.

I guess I'm messed up or because of my years in aviation I have been taught to scan 30 inches around the focus point, or maybe it's because I like uniformity. What I'm attracted to immediately on that piece is the two "Butterfly tongues". For some reason they really draw me to the work.
Incidentally that is really pretty. I like the background because it's not too busy.

your brother,

teodo said...

I like this quilt more and more.
The central block catches immediatly my eyes and the composition is so well balanced that I keep on looking at it trying to see something beyond.
I must confess that I've liked this quilt from the first time I've looked at it.
ciao ciao

jude said...

from the center to the 2 lighter spirals, right to the spinning corners that hurl me right back to the center again.

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog; I am stunned and amazed at your lovely work; and, how did i miss it??? I must have been living under a rock.

Your quilts have inspired me to create again.


Karen said...

I focused on the center block and then follow the arrow shape like a pointer up to the two spiral blocks (blue and orange and the red and blue) then quickly my eye finds the matching red and blue spiral at the bottom right. From there I follow a counter clockwise circle. There is pleasing movement in your quilt. I love this family of colorful spirals! I turned out beautifully. What a wonderful design lesson you have shared, thank you!

Penny said...

I thought the two triangles to either side of the white square automatically lead me eyes up to the top left. Then they cross to the yellow squares on the top right and follow the other diagonal to the spirals in the bottom left.

Beverly said...

mmm- first I see the center block, then up to the light square with the reddish spiral, then down to the same block in the bottom right. Then I find my eyes traveling all around, looking at the myriad details.

Thank you so much for posting the design process- it has been fascinating to watch and read.

Anonymous said...

my comment I left the other day isnt here - I'll try again! Like your brother I didnt focus on the centre block - i saw the blocks either side of it first and the diagonals drew my eye to the bottom RH corner. then I noticed the blue spirals. I felt the diagonal from right to left was the strongest in initial impact. I didnt even 'see' the centre block until i read your text! I was interested to read what others focused on - i had to go back to look for the orange brackets for example. I thought you did a great job of getting people to move around teh quilt. I really like this - Id like to make something as day!