The Science of Art

(Note: Since my portfolio focused on 2D artwork, that will be my main focus when referring to art.)

Art. Many people who study art are ones to day they have a disdain towards science and math, which is understandable from a basic point of view. Art seems to be very free and comes naturally to those who create it (the reason being they have created artwork for years. After making art for ten years you eventually become good at it. But that is a different rant for a different day). However, art is very scientific. There are very basic sort of “formulas” almost all artists follow or eventually learn. Lets focus on the main basis for composition: Rule of Thirds.

First, composition basically means the placement of a subject in art. As stated by Lori McNee, The Rule of Thirds is a guide to know where to put the subject, as portrayed by the green dots in this image:


Now, despite how most artwork can look completely different from one another, almost all artists follow this rule. Here are some pieces of mine II made last year that, despite all having different subjects, moods, sizes, and mediums (that being what the artwork is made out of), each follow this rule:





(Note: never bind your chest with ace bandages. Doing so will damage your ribs and breast tissue. This was a portrayal of the pain trans youth will put themselves through to fight gender dysphoria as a part of my portfolio focusing on life struggles, and should not be copied. Use a binder made for trans people who wish to flatten their chest. Stay safe, please.)

Now, lets dissect these pieces, and note the most interesting places that fall within the rule of thirds. In the first image, the two main points are the right eye, and the ear. The second, the hand near the face the elbow, and the text. The last, the area where the hand pulls the bandages, the right shoulder, and the knuckle of the pinkie finger of the other hand holding the bandages in place. Compare this to an old piece of mine back before I learned this rule. This piece was made sophomore year.


Notice how this piece is far more boring to look at. There is nothing moving the eye around the piece because the subject is right in the middle. The other pieces had movement, the various focal points drawing the eye across the piece. The various colors also helped with this effect, such as with the pink in the dog painting, or the blue shading in the others. This piece has four colors: blue, purple, maroon, and orange. All placed in the same area throughout the piece. Blue being the center, purple being the top center, and the others surrounding. This was my best piece that year. Now, it is not completely hopeless. Perhaps if the back ground had splatters of blue or purple it would be more interesting, because the contrast of warm and cold colors is quite nice, but there is nothing attracting the eye to any other area other than the subject. Not even an interesting highlight, as the source of light seems to he hitting the face from the front.

Not having the subject in the middle of the piece forces the viewer to look at multiple points of focus, rather than having the viewer be bluntly hit with  subject right in the middle with nothing else to focus on. The Rule of Thirds allows the viewer to look at the details of the piece, each focal point being something interesting.

That is the basic formula behind almost every piece of artwork. Look at some art and try to see what your eye focuses on first, second, third, and fourth. See if there are similar colors at these points that stand out on a completely different color. And if you struggle with trying to make a subject of a piece more interesting, zoom in, draw or paint the subject at an angle for a more interesting perspective, and try to line up important aspects at these four points.

3 thoughts on “The Science of Art

  1. Alyssa Marie Frey

    This piece caught my interest because it looked different and I’ve been wanting to see something about art. You did a great job using your own art work to describe the science behind art and the rule of thirds. This also made me think about how you can see certain pictures differently, like the picture of the old couple or the vase. It’s interesting that our brains process images differently from each other, which I think would be another way to look at the science behind art!

  2. Madeline Elizabeth Dittrich

    I really enjoyed reading this article, as it gave me a lot to think about. I am not much of an artist, but I have an appreciation for all types of art. I liked how you used many examples of art in your article to support the topics you discussed. While I was browsing the internet, I cam across some TED talks having to do with science and art. If you want to check it out, click here.

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