Author Topic: Unity, Harmony, and Variety  (Read 40 times)

Online Linda Lovell

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Unity, Harmony, and Variety
« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2019, 01:53:41 PM »
These three principles are best understood as a group since they are related. The first two,  are harmony and unity. The third is called variety.


HarmonyHarmony is the principle of art that creates cohesiveness by stressing the similarities of separate but related parts.One should note that harmony is not the same as unity. Harmony does, however, enhance unity in a work of art. Specifically, harmony uses the elements of art (color, line, shape, form, value, space, texture) as a vehicle to create a sense of togetherness amongst otherwise separate parts.A set of colors that relate according to a specific scheme creates harmony.Likewise, a uniform texture of brush strokes across the surface of a canvas creates harmony.Another way to guarantee harmony is to choose compositional components that are similar in shape and contour. For example, a composition that utilizes only curvy shapes will have more harmony than a similar composition that includes both curvy and geometric shapes.Even a narrowed range of value can contribute to harmony in a work of art.


Variety:Variety is the principle of art that adds interest to an artwork.Variety works through juxtaposition and contrast. When an artist places different visual elements next to one another, he/she is using variety. Straight lines next to curvy lines add variety. Organic shapes among geometric shapes add variety. Bright colors next to dull colors add variety.Note: If an artist uses variety to draw the viewers attention to a specific area in a composition then variety morphs into emphasis, also a principle of art. Principles of art bleed into one another. They overlap.Harmony and variety are really opposite expressions of the same nebulous concept. To emphasize one is to de-emphasize the other. Harmony and variety play tug-of-war in a composition. Too much harmony is boring while too much variety is aimless and incomprehensible.


Unity:Unity is the principle of art that gives an artwork a feeling of “oneness”. Unity and harmony are similar, but unity is more broad. There are numerous ways to create unity in art. Some of those ways are particular to individual artist’s style.Unity is about separate parts working together. We can better understand unity by thinking about a car. A car’s purpose is to provide transportation. When the many parts of a car are working together, it moves. No part of the car, separated from the whole, is capable of providing transportation. When the car functions as it should, the parts are working together in unity.Like harmony and variety, unity is not easy to understand at first. Different from the elements of art, unity is an impression – a feeling the artwork conveys to the viewer.One can imagine a solitary shape and hold that shape in the mind. One cannot, however, simply imagine unity and hold that concept in the mind. We must evaluate unity by looking and analyzing. Therefore, developing unity in artworks requires the artist to pay attention to its development throughout the process of creating.


Here are some proven methods that ensure a unified composition


Simplicity – Simplicity refers to purposely reducing the amount of potential variety. For example, a graphite pencil drawing is likely to exhibit some measure of unity, given the lack of color. By eliminating color, the image is simpler than it potentially could have been if color was introduced.

Repetition – Repetition within a composition will guarantee a feeling of unity. Tessellations are an obvious example of how repetition unifies a composition. A tessellation is an arrangement of shapes that fit together in a repeated pattern without gaps.Repetition can also unify an entire series of artworks, like a group of paintings. A certain shape, object or texture that is repeated among a group of paintings acts as a motif, helping each painting to feel as though it is part of a greater whole.

Proximity – Proximity refers to the closeness of different components in a work of art. By placing parts close together, the mind is able to see the parts as one thing, a mass.

Negative space- is the space between elements in a work of art. It can refer to the “empty spaces” within a drawing or painting. The more limited the negative space, the more unified the areas of a composition may feel.