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From art to architecture: geometric design in architecture inspired these intricately balanced drawings.

Geometric design in architecture inspired these intricately balanced drawings.

The intricate balances which characterize the stained glass windows and low-relief wall carvings of Medieval and Renaissance architecture exemplify an innate beauty established through the use of highly orchestrated visual symmetry. The intricate decoration found in Islamic design carries on from the Byzantine tradition, and was given added impetus by a strict observance of Mosaic law forbidding iconographic references to men and animals. Consequently, floral and geometric patterns were employed and developed to the ultimate degree.

I had my Technical Drawing class view slides and discuss architectural structures which were pertinent to geometric design. However, the characteristic properties of geometric design were not limited to architecture. By observing some of the work of daVinci and his contemporaries, it became obvious that geometric underschemes were instrumental in their paintings. Some artists used these visual constructions as framing devices, while others used them as a means of establishing and stabilizing the formalistic values in their work.

In viewing these works, the students became curious as to the means by which some of the structures and balances might be achieved in architectural rendering. They began by malting simple freehand sketches based on circles, lines and points on graph paper. I initially encouraged them to sketch loosely, without becoming overly concerned with technical problems. They based their drawings on the circle, breaking it up and changing its course of direction wherever possible.

Most of the drawings were quite flat in appearance at this stage of development. I instructed students to make their work appear more three-dimensional by building little "walls" around each circle and having taller wails cast shadows on shorter ones. The shadows would eventually serve to describe the form as well as the various levels of the otherwise flat design. Students used research references to seek out iconographic images that might be appropriate for their work.

Once the freehand drawings are completed, the students used illustration board or smooth bristol to draw their final work. When first pencilling with technical instruments (a compass, T-square, divider and triangle), many students temporarily regress to producing "spirograph-like" constructions. The freehand sketching assignment eliminates much of this visual barrier and leads students to transcend initial levels of thinking as they move toward the development of well-formulated drawings.

After all pencil work has been technically executed, the students use a ruling pen (or technical pen) to ink their designs. A technical pen adapter is a valuable little tool which serves to eliminate inking problems by enabling the pen to be attached to the compass. In this way, students work more accurately and with less hesitation on the inking process.

Even after inking is completed, the work remains "flat" and one-dimensional in appearance, since shadow areas have not yet been added. Students refer to their original value sketches in order to determine the location and effectiveness of particular areas of shadow. All shadows are then added by the dotting system known as "stippling." Final articulation of extreme or highly treated shadow variations are put in last, lending added strength and solidity to the work.

The students are usually quite surprised by the technical quality of the work they have produced. They are intrigued by the precision and balance of these graphic designs, and gain a new appreciation of the intricate geometric planning that master artists have integrated into their work in painting, architecture and sculpture. Meanwhile, the procedure of systematic problem solving in the visual arts has been explored through a freehand thought process. Through an organized, methodical approach, the students experience a high level of success in dealing with an initially intimidating visual problem.

Joseph Amorino is Art Department Chairperson, Hudson Catholic High School, Jersey City, New Jersey. The author wishes to express his thanks to Dr, Eleanor Campulli of Jersey City State College.
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Title Annotation:teaching students about geometric designs
Author:Amorino, Joseph
Publication:School Arts
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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