CalArts: Funds. of Graphic Design-W4: 4.6 Image Contrasts

So, we’ve looked at how multiple visual contrasts work with type.

So now, let’s have a look at how some of these multiple visual contrasts work with images.

I’m gonna use some of the images that I just have lying around from the very first image making class.


So if we looked at something like scale and form, for instance,

and before, we looked at a large circle and a small square.

If we just transpose those for black and white images, 
we could put a large picture of an apple and a small picture of a corkscrew there.

And one of the things that you’ll notice about suddenly having objects and having images that can be read rather than more abstract forms, is that we immediately build relationships between these objects and what they mean.

So it’s not just a formal compositional relationship. 
It also becomes about a relationship of meaning.

We think that perhaps the corkscrew is going to stick into the apple, or we look at scale relationships in a certain way.

So we can’t help but read the objects as objects and not just compositional elements anymore.

So if we try and add a little bit of direction to this composition, for instance,

we can see now we’ve got a couple of different objects floating in space.

And what you can see is much like the shapes, certain shapes will have a little more dynamic attribute to them in terms of composition.

So you can see the scissors have quite a lot of direction to them. They’re quite pointy, they’re quite diagonal. 
The apple, which is a circle, remains a concentric shape that pulls you into the center.

So already, you can understand that there’s a lot of connections when we’re using images. 
We’re revisiting a lot of areas that we’ve seen when we were using shapes.

So we’re gonna try and add a little bit more exaggerated scale now.

And we’re also going to add a human form.

And part of why I want to do this is to look at how we read images and particularly, how we read faces and how we read direction within an image.

So, for instance, we can look at the cork screw, and we can clearly see how it’s pointing, where it’s pointing, what its kind of attributes are compositionally.

The same with the scissors, we can see that even though there’s a crush shape being formed, it’s generally pointing right at the face.

But with a human figure, we actually view it a little bit differently, in compositional terms. 
We tend to engage with the face, we tend to look at the eyes. 
And if the eyes happen to be looking anywhere, that can quite often give the image some kind of internal direction and can be quite a powerful aspect of composition when working with images.

So, let’s try and make this one a little bit more complicated.

So let’s stick a giant apple on my head.

And again, one of the things that this does is it make us think about relationships.

The apple and the head might feel like it’s about surrealism. Suddenly, we start to build again the relationship between the corkscrew and the apple, that the corkscrew might stick into the apple.

Or even, because of the scale and the meaning relationship, we look at the glasses and think about whether the apple head could wear the glasses.

So, again, the objects here are working in a similar way to when we’d worked with geometric abstract shapes, but the meaning is really adding another compositional level, another way that we read composition.

So let’s see what happens if we change that scale quite dramatically, 
and try and get the objects to read more as purely directional objects and perhaps have a little bit less of a relationship.

So here you can see we’ve just got a clear diagonal being formed by all the shapes, and the apple, the one concentric circular shape, is just floating outside of that, being fairly self contained.

So you can see you’ve got a very strong line through all of these three objects and then the apple just sitting out here on its own. And the face is fairly kind of passive in the corner now.

So, in terms of meaning, we can see in this composition,
 the objects don’t really have a lot of relationship to each other.

We’re seeing them more as compositional elements, 
we’re not really making a story out of the relationships between the elements.

We’re just seeing them pretty much as formal elements, the way we looked at our abstract shapes.

And this is important because once we stop doing that, once we force that relationship, we actually start to tell stories and to make pictures with our images.

So here you can see just by adding some more elements and then creating a composition, where the corkscrews and the scissors seem to be attacking Applehead,

there really becomes a story there. And it becomes a picture with some kind of meaning to it.

Even though, in this case, it’s quite a surreal strange meaning, we’d really wouldn’t read this image as pure composition anymore. 
We’d start to read it as having a narrative.

So here’s a similar image with a drastic scale change,

and if we were to try and read this image, read the story in this image. 
It might be that this person is thinking about these four objects, or this person is trying to remember that he has something to do with these four objects.

It’s definitely not a real situation where these objects are actually floating around his head. 
But it’s very different from how we read this situation where we understand it’s a surreal composition,

but we’re still building an emotional relationship between the apple head and the objects attacking him.

And part of what we really have to remember and why it’s useful to look at this is just to think about images as in composition as having two aspects.

  • One is the regular kind of compositional aspects that we’ve looked at with objects.
  • And the other really is this idea of meaning, narrative, and storytelling that’s really impossible to avoid.

And, as human beings, we’re always trying to connect these objects together.

We’re trying to make sense of them, either make sense of their place in the world or their relationships or we’re trying to make them do something so we can understand them.

And I think that’s clear when we look at this final image that it’s really just the pile of objects, 
but we really, really want to read it as a face.