The distribution of visual weight within a composition. It is the way in which the elements in visual arts are arranged to create a feeling of equilibrium in a work of art. The three types of balance are symmetry, asymmetry, and radial.
A sense of balance is innate; as children we develop a sense of balance in our bodies and observe balance in the world around us. We observe momentary imbalance such as bodies engages in active sports that quickly right themselves or fall. We carefully avoid dangerously leaning trees, rocks, furniture, and ladders. But even where no physical danger is present, as as in a deign or painting, we still feel more comfortable with a balanced patter.
HORIZONTAL AND VERTICAL PLACEMENT
The vast majority of pictures we see have been consciously balanced by the artist. An artist may, because of a particular them or topic, expressly desire that a picture raise uneasy, disquieting response in the viewer. In this instance imbalance can be a useful tool.
When we talk about pictorial balance we are most often talking about horizontal balance (dividing the left and right portions of the picture). Vertical balance refers to the top and bottom division of the picture plane. Generally, placing the point of emphasis higher in the picture will create a more dramatic or unstable composition. Place the center of interest towards the bottom third of picture plane creates a “grounded” composition. Your pictorial narrative will help dictate where to place the center of interest.
TYPES OF BALANCE
The simplest type of balance to create and recognize is symmetrical balance. In the top two images to the right, you will see a symmetrical composition created on a vertical access. These digital photographs were take of architecture while traveling.
Symmetrical balance can be considered static. This is called formal balance. One of the most common places we see formal balance in is architecture from around the world. The formal qualities in symmetrical balance create a sense of permanence, strength, and stability. Although symmetrical balance does create a sense of formality, it doesn’t necessarily create a boring image. Many pieces of artwork have used symmetry, but also create a sense of playfulness or whimsy.”(76-84, Basic Design)
A balance of parts on opposite sides of a perceived midline, giving the appearance of equal visual weight. Because the objects found on each side of the midline are different, this kind of composition is often called informal balance. Symmetry can appear artificial because we rarely see the world in symmetry. Asymmetry appears casual and less planned, although it is often more intricately planned and more complicated than symmetry.
TECHNIQUES FOR ORGANIZING ASYMMETRICAL BALANCE
BALANCING WITH VALUE AND COLOR
Asymmetrical balance is based on equal eye attraction--meaning the eye is drawn equally to the two areas in a picture even though they are different. In the image to the left, the small black square is balanced by the variegated, green rectangle. Each object on the picture plane demands your attention. This creates a see-saw effect between the two areas on the picture plane.
In the image of the stones created by Olivia, you’ll see the same kind of composition found in nature. The photograph taken at Alcatraz in asymmetrically balanced by placing a small dark value square on the left side and a large area of color.
BALANCING WITH SHAPE AND TEXTURE
Asymmetrical balance can also be created by distributing large shapes against large areas of contrasting texture or pattern. In the image to the left, you’ll see the interesting white shape hold our attention while we try to figure out what it represents. The repeated pattern on the left side of the same image pulls the eye back to the left. When we leave out the patterned portion of the image, the white shape appears to heavy leaving the composition unbalanced .
In the black and white photo by Vincenzo you’ll see a large white area on the right side of the photo has been purposefully left overexposed, while the left side is filled with a pattern of vertical and horizontal lines. The pattern first draws out attention, but the white area with the little bit of texture in it pull our eye back and forth from the left to the right side.
BALANCING BY POSITION AND EYE DIRECTION
Another way to balance an image is to place a heavier or larger portion of the image towards the center of the image while placing a smaller equally interesting part further away from the center of the image. Balance by position often lends an unusual, unexpected quality to the composition. The effect not only appears casual and unplanned, but also can make the composition, at first glance, to be in imbalanced. Artists often use eye direction to guide your eye from the larger object to the other areas of the image to create compositional unity.
A form of balance where the elements of the composition radiate or circle out from a central point. Radial patterns are often found in the natural world and are also often found in architecture and religious symbols. This form of balance creates a strong sense of harmony and creates a clear sense of center.
BALANCE BY USING ALL OVER PATTERN
Using all over patterning is often thought of as another form of balance.
By filling the picture plane with a pattern, the artist creates equal weight throughout the entire image. This moves the eye everywhere. This is also called crystallographic balance. Quilts commonly use this techniques.
Moroccan Architecture, Julia M. 2008
Architectural Study, Malisa M. 2007
Symmetrical Surrealism, Caitlynn S. 2007
Alcatraz Study, Olivia M. 2007
San Francisco Alley, Vincenzo B. 2008
Plant at Alcatraz, Kelly B. 2007
Floor at Alcatraz, Kelly B. 2007