The Golden Ratio: Balance and Beauty for Your Art

Proportion is an important element when artists are composing a new work, and many of the master artists through history have used a specific tool of proportion to create visually pleasing compositions. The Golden Ratio, based on the mathematical number Phi. In math, the ratio is 1:1.618, but let's not dwell on the numbers; let's look at how this mathematic relationship can improve and advance your art.

Many artists, architects, and designers use the golden ratio in their work because it is considered to be the most aesthetically pleasing proportion. The golden ratio is most often expressed in shape form as a Golden Rectangle, where the ratio of the longer side to the shorter side is the golden ratio. Real-world applications of the golden rectangle include wide-screen television or movie screens, playing cards, and photographs. Filmmakers love the golden rectangle because it frames the human body in a more pleasing way than standard television proportions. Use the golden rectangle as a way to compose human faces for portraits, and your faces will take on a beauty that can be achieved only through a natural balance of elements.

The golden ratio and the golden rectangle are also excellent references for placing elements throughout a composition. The often used Rule of Thirds takes a similar approach to balancing a composition, but the golden ratio can be used for much more detailed purposes. Da Vinci's "Last Supper" is an excellent study in compositional balance and placement based on the golden ratio, and almost all of George Seurat's work is filled with the golden ratio. The balance of these artists' work is obvious; the elements let the eye move naturally and easily around the composition, and give the mind enough breathing room to absorb and give priority to each element.

The golden ratio is found all through patterns in nature: sunflower seeds on the pod, conch shells, and pinecones are all easily recognizable examples of how this ratio plays out over and over again in nature. Crystals and precious stones are formed in the same pattern, but the golden ratio, many writers, artists, and scientists have said, comes into its fullest realization in the human form.