Mid-Semester Project Chelsea Roehl

Figure and Ground

Figure and ground covers the idea that there is a figure within a piece and the "ground" or background. Sometimes the figure blends into the ground and sometimes the ground is the figure. Artists can play around with this and create optical illusions. Sometimes a piece has no figure and is only background, leaving the viewer's eyes to wander about the piece.

This piece by Elizabeth Schowachert is an example of all ground, laden with texture and bright colors. The shapes almost appear as figures, but they remain a part of the background.

"My Perfect Fairy Tale" Elizabeth Schowachert

Frame and Surface

Framing and surface are both important elements to consider when creating a work of art (or taking a photo). The way you frame an image affects the feel, focal point, and dynamic nature of the piece. By paying attention to how the human eye naturally observes an image and following the golden ratio rule, one can create much more exciting and pieces with interesting compositions.

The artwork Early Summer William Trost Richards, American, 1833-1905 uses trees in the foreground and light to frame the subtle lake and background. The light, placed using the rule of thirds, draws the viewer's eyes to that point and then allows them to wander. The deer also rest on another cross section and therefore are another focal point within the serene nature painting.

"Early Summer William Trost Richards, American, 1833-1905"

Mark and Line

Marks and lines add the image to the blank surface. By using a mark or a line, the artist can create a simple figure or a complicated scene using different techniques like cross hatching or stippling. By putting more marks closer together, it creates a density on the paper, or making multiple lines can add shading or volume to an object.

Winnie the Pooh artist E.H. Shepard used marks and lines to create endearing and adorable images. He placed just enough lines to make the character and added bits of background to give a sense of place using marks and hatching techniques.

E.H. Shepard's piece from "That Sort of Bear"

The Grid

The grid plays a prominent role in the art world. Whether it's used for perspective techniques or integrated within the artwork itself, the grid serves multiple purposes. The grid was commonly used within renaissance paintings that first started implementing linear perspective. In some of the paintings the viewer could see the lines leading to the vanishing point which was usually disguised behind a building or some other sort of focal point. The grid is extremely useful with getting perspectives right and creating a scene that follows the rules of reality.

The painting by Pietro Perugino, executed in 1481–1482 titled the Delivery of the Keys to Saint Peter utilizes the grid with the single point or linear perspective. The lines on the ground converge to a focal point behind the building and leads the viewer's eye to that point. The painting then has a foreground, middle ground, and background, in which the subjects get smaller following the laws of perspective.

"Pietro Perugino, The Delivery of the Keys to Saint Peter, 1481–1482""


The repetition of similar shapes, objects, lines, colors, and elements can create a pattern. Whether it's simply a bunch of squares or highly stylized elements, a pattern reuses these items over and over again. Patterns are often used in fabrics or textiles as they command the viewer's attention. The renaissance or baroque periods were known for their ornate wallpaper patterns in the paintings and woven into the clothing.

Agnolo Bronzino was known for painting Eleonora di Toledo col figlio Giovanni in a very ornate and intricate dress. It was one of his trademarks of his paintings. The strict attention to detail and touchable realism added to the detailed pattern of the fabric encasing the noble woman. If the dress was not as ornate, it would feel more like a normal renaissance portrait but because of the mystery of the patterned dress, it keeps people discussing and talking. Especially because they unearthed what they thought was Elenora's body, expecting her to be buried in her favorite dress, and it was not there.

Agnolo Bronzino, "Eleonora di Toledo col figlio Giovanni", 1544-1545


Texture adds a new dimension to pieces and sometimes controls the entire painting. Texture creates a sense of touch, and invites the viewer to imagine what it feels like with their eyes. It brings to the piece volume, and in some instances turns a piece from 2D to 3D. Texture can create a sense of inviting softness or depending on the texture used, an uncomfortable jarring feeling.

The painting by Jason Martin t,itled ‘As Yet Untitled’ is an example of a painting existing solely as texture. The golden color mixed with the grooves and waves creates a sense of motion and rythm. Although the painting (almost sculpture, maybe in a relief sense) has a singular tone and color, the metallic quality allures the viewer. The texture makes you want to touch it and creates lines that allow the person looking at the piece to follow them to the edges.

Jason Martin titled ‘As Yet Untitled’ Gold 2010 Mixed media on aluminium

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