Visual Hierarchy Painting
Week 2 – Project
The Prompt
Construct a hierarchical composition using shapes. You may use pre-existing image sources (magazines, books, photographs, etc) for the work and/or create your own.
A hierarchical composition is where the viewer can identify some items as more important than others; in a way, you are guiding the viewer in how to see and move through your image.
How is Hierarchy used in art and design?
1. Use Size to Enhance (or Reduce) Visibility
The text 'Danubia' is the largest element on this book cover design, making the title of the book immediately clear.
2. Color and Contrast: Direct Attention
While the largest element in this poster is the illustration, the use of the color red brings your attention to the words "Power & Equality". (Using color sparingly and with purpose are key principles here)
In terms of color and contact, value and differences in value are crucial in generating hierarchy.
3. Spacing: Give Your Layout Balance, Flow, and Focus
Giving the viewer’s eyes a place to rest and a path to travel through the design.
Separating your layout into sections (the flip side of this is proximity — reducing space to place related items closer together — also an aspect of good spacing)
6. Composition: Give Your Composition Structure

Rembrandt, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, 1632

Following the rule of thirds is one way of creating a dynamic composition where your focal point isn’t predictably placed at the center. (You can also following the rule of odds to establish hierarchy.)
Central composition, with 3 larger objects grouped together with three moving lines of textural elements.
Central composition, with 3 larger objects grouped together with three moving lines of textural elements.
One element in the center, flanked by groups of two items vertically and horizontally.
One element in the center, flanked by groups of two items vertically and horizontally.
Avoid being too literal, cliché, centering ‘subjects’ or using whole images from found sources.
Final notes
While these 'rules' are here to help you formulate the best way to establish hierarchy, don't feel bound by the rules. Use it to compliment your work and learn when to use and not to use it.
Supplies you'll need:
Found magazines and other print material, Pencil and eraser, x-acto knife or scissors, tracing paper, and gouache paints.
We'll be using tracing paper to trace elements from your sources on separate pieces of tracing paper, building an archive of source images to pull from.
Choosing and tracing
your images:

Starting with your image sources (I'm using my mom's magazines haha!) I marked the pages in which I saw images I liked, after looking through -- I found I wanted to create a story of a person bound and wanting to escape from isolation during the pandemic.

Tracing the elements I liked -- I conserved my tracing paper.

Using those elements, create a composition that you trace onto a single larger sheet of tracing paper. You are encouraged to crop, overlap, confuse, invent from your sources. It’s ok to change the scale of your archive images (Xerox up or down).

After cutting my tracings into separate pieces, I played with the composition. I knew I wanted the large figure to be lower on the page to contrast the birds taking flight above. I also wanted to create a strong line of upward movement with the objects I traced–I discarded one of my tracings since it didn't add to that vision.

Once I tapped down the separate elements, I traced them onto a new piece of tracing paper!

My final composition all traced on to one piece of tracing paper. In terms of Hierarchy, scale indicates that the girl in the chair is the main subject, closely followed by the birds taking flight. The chair the girl is bound to transforms into metal bars with fingers reaching through and upwards towards the landscape. There is a figure continuing that upward motion jumping towards the birds who are making their way off the page.

How to transfer
your drawing to your bristol paper:

Flip your tracing paper composition over, and use a soft pencil to lay down a layer of graphic over the lines of your drawing. This layer of graphite will be used to make a 'carbon-copy' onto your bristol paper.

Close up of edges, where I put my graphite down on the back of my tracing paper composition.

Flip your tracing paper right-side-up.

Place your bristol paper down, and lay your tracing paper composition on top. Feel free to tape it down so it doesn't move.

Then and re-trace over your lines. You will be pushing or 'transferring' the layer of graphite on the back of your tracing paper composition onto your bristol paper.

If you got it right, it should look similar to this: A faint outline of my original tracing paper composition.

Painting in your values: white, grey, black

Keeping in mind the hierarchy I wanted to create–I mark what I wanted to be black, grey, and white. After deciding, I started to lay down my gouache.

Assignments! (Due Tuesday!)

Visual Hierarchy Painting - Finish your painting.
Photograph and Upload - Photograph your Visual Hierarchy Painting and upload to gauchospace and google docs.