Composition and Design – Form

Is It a Mushroom?

Three dimensional shape and space is the basis of architecture and most designed objects. There are added design considerations in that the object will be experienced from more than one side. In sculpture the space defined by the shape of the sculpture may be an important aspect of the total design. Other designed objects such as furniture, tools, and appliances must be conceived in relation to function and, often, the contours of the human body that will use the object.

As felt makers and fiber artists many of us choose to work in three dimensions making a variety of functional items or sculpture. While making these creations, one must consider how the design will look from all angles. How will it fit the item it will cover? Will it stand on its own or will it need other support? What size does it need to be? How will it work in the surrounding environment?

Vest by "Zara"

Vest by “Zara”

Fashion designers face special problems of engineering and spatial thinking, in that the problem is to translate a two dimensional material (cloth) into a three dimensional form (body-shaped garment), a unique and complex problem in topographical engineering. With felt making, the designer needs to add in the shrinkage that will occur with felting. Many of us have made a wearable that just didn’t fit, haven’t you?

Form or space in a two-dimensional drawing or painting refers to the arrangement of objects on the picture plane.  The picture plane is the surface of your drawing paper or canvas.  You can have a picture plane that is a crowded space with lots of objects or an empty space with very few objects in the picture plane.  A two-dimensional piece of art has height and width but no depth.  The illusion of depth can be achieved by using perspective. This is the technique used to have your picture look like it is moving to the distance like a landscape or cityscape.

Scrap Challenge Complete

Types of Perspective

  1. Nonlinear Perspective is the method of showing depth that incorporates the following techniques.landscape 1 web
    1. Position-Placing an object higher on the page makes it appear farther back then objects placed lower on the page.form tractor
    2. Overlapping-When an object overlaps another object it appears closer to the viewer, and the object behind the object appears farther away.form birch grove
    3. Size Variation-Smaller objects look farther away in the distance. Larger objects look closer.form poppy field
    4. Color-Bright colors look like they are closer to you and neutral colors look like they are farther away. 
  2. Linear Perspective is the method of using lines to show the illusion of depth in a picture. The following are types of linear perspective.
    1. One-point perspective-When lines created by the sides of tables or building look like that are pointing to the distance and they all meet at one point on the horizon this is one-point perspective. To see an example stand in the middle of the hallway and look at the horizontal lines in the brick or the corner where the ceiling meets the wall. See how they move to one point on the horizon.
    2. Two-point perspective-Here the lines look like they are meeting at two points on the horizon line.

Categories of Space/Form

  • Positive space – Like in a positive shape, it is the actual sculpture or building.
  • Negative space – Also like negative shape, it is the space around the sculpture or building.
  • Picture Plane – the flat surface of your drawing paper or canvas.
  • Composition – the organization and placement of the elements on your picture plane.
  • Focal Point – the object or area you want the viewer to look at first.

Questions to get you started:

• How can you make your 2 dimensional designs look more 3D? What are the effects of shading and shadowing on an object or shape?

• How can you use value changes to imply form?

• What steps do you need to take to make a 3D object using fabric/fiber? What can you use to make your form sturdy enough to support itself? What will your pattern look like?

• What would the effects be if you chose to do the opposite of nonlinear perspective guidelines above? Would your piece be more realistic or less?

So have fun with form! Let me know if you are using any of these concepts in your work. I’d love to see what you are doing.

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8 Responses to Composition and Design – Form

  1. Lyn says:

    I’m still amazed that you made the Yurt!

    You’ve given us lots to think about and I enjoyed looking at your examples.
    Yes. Getting felt the right size is certainly a challenge and I’d be fibbing if I said it had never happened to me.

  2. Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

    Great examples Ruth! So many things to think about and consider when thinking dimensionally. Did you do the jellyfish lamp? Really cool.

    • ruthlane says:

      Thanks Marilyn – all the examples are mine except for Zara’s vest and the two drawings of linear perspective. I made the jellyfish lamp a long time ago.

  3. Lots of great information Ruth. To many times I have made something that didn’t quit go right in the 3 dimensions and thought, well, of course not. It is not always easy to think in 3 dimensions when starting flat.

  4. ruthlane says:

    Thanks Ann – you are so right. Planning for 3 dimensions is always complex.

  5. tfoz says:

    Very cool review of different techniques for creating dimension in fiber works! Thank you!

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