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Cadence and Rhythm

Stefan Baumann

Blog #10 of 17

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October 7th, 2019 - 11:51 AM

Cadence and Rhythm

Our campfire chat this week was an evening of sharing about art in ways that inspire and excite us to get ready for a beautiful spring Workshop. One has to live in the north all winter to appreciate the coming of spring. It is essential to know how it feels to exist during the long, white months of deep snow and bitter, cold storms while we wait for the first warm zephyr winds from the south to blow the cold winter chills away. We will celebrate the end of winter with our Spring Campfire Evening, an amazing experience enjoyed by friends and fellow artists alike. This past Saturday night a fellow artist asked, “What is meant when artists talk about achieving a rhythm or cadence in a painting?”

Recurring Shapes That Repeat

Rhythm in a painting can be described as “timed movement through space; an easy, connected path along which the eye follows a regular arrangement of motifs such as clouds and trees.” The presence of rhythm creates predictability and order in a composition. For example, the pattern in a grove of oak trees will mirror or repeat itself in the outline of the clouds above and behind them. I recall a painting once where a stampede of wild horses created an outline that was repeated in the clouds in much the same way. Within the clouds, you have recurring shapes that repeat, and within that, your brushstrokes take on a recurring pattern and rhythm. Repetition involves the use of patterning to achieve timed movement and a visual "beat". This repetition may be a clear repetition of elements in a composition, or it may be a more subtle kind of repetition that can be observed in the underlying structure of the image.

Pattern and Movement

Visual rhythm may be best understood by relating it to a rhythm in sound. Often in music, there is a cadence or beat that carries the listener through the composition. A cadence can also be found in a painting. Trees along a hillside can take the place of notes on a scale. Both the trees and notes can seem boring if evenly spaced, but those same notes can be arranged to create a recurring pattern that makes the overall effect quite pleasing. Rhythm depends largely upon the elements of pattern and movement to achieve its effects. The parallels between rhythms in sound/music are very similar to the rhythm in a visual composition with the major difference between the two is that a visual rhythm is perceived by the eyes rather than the ears.

Application of Paint

Visual rhythm can be created in a number of ways. Linear rhythm refers to the characteristic flow of the individual line. Linear rhythm is not as dependent on a pattern but is more dependent on the timed movement of the viewer's eye. Accomplished artists have a recognizable manner of putting down the lines of their drawings that seen to have a rhythm of its own. The application of paint, the brushstrokes, and the gestures that the artist makes can add to the rhythm of a painting much like a piano player would play a song.

Rhythmic Pattern

Often I will use the rhythm or placement of the Golden Mean as my pattern or cadence in my composition. You may refer to my YouTube video to see how I place tree patterns and horizontal plain on the law of divine proportion. If you want a visual example look at a cross-section of a nautilus shell. Notice how the first few spaces are larger and they get smaller as they move inward. The spacing of this is in a rhythmic pattern slowly getting smaller in equal proportions, Artists have been using rhythmic patterns in painting since the earliest times and it might be an element that you want to add in your next painting. I hope to see you at my workshop in May where a lively discussion of rhythmic patterns may likely take place!

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