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Principles guide us through the centuries. Through the dark ages when events would have us forget our homelands. Fashion distracts and entertains, but principles steady the tiller.

What are the Principles of Art?


They are not render times, nor intersecting planes. Nor fire effects – as real as these look they provide no warmth to the spirit. These principles cannot be found in particle motion. Joints do just that, they join things together, nothing more. These are techniques, tools, the phonetics of our visual language. What are the unifying themes? What can we TALK about with these crude utterances? Principles come from our forefathers – the conversations of duelling sable from centuries past, marble tamed by calloused, Greek hands, gold-gilt montages on chapel ceilings, starry-eyed colorists gave birth to imaginary skies, crosshatched shading voiced biblical stories, Southwestern shapes delight and embarrass, bold, clear lines and diaphanous inference attach themselves to our many layers of perception, history, and human experience. Principles are derived, extacted, boiled down from a pot full of vegetables like broth. The Greeks brought the first stone to this soup. What came next? What are you bringing?

Here is a stab at artistic principles for Animation:

1) motion
2) shape
3) line
4) color
5) spatial depth
6) form
7) light
8) speed

The challenge with animation and art is that most animation is taught from the standpoint of cartoon animation, which stems from the practices developed at Warners Brothers and Disney and now perpetuated at Pixar and Dreamworks.  Although these techniques are effective in cartoon animation and translate well into the world of gaming and now animated movies, they don’t help much with art. The language of western art differs considerably in it’s aims and vocabulary from the world of cartoons.

So where to start with “artistic motion”? We have a vast catalog and history of western dance and modern dance tradition which stems directly from art music. I suggest the live performances of troops such as Alvin Ailey, Paul Taylor, and any descendents of the Martha Graham School. There are a number of good books on choreography as well. Movement in Western Art has been well established through dance, music, gesture in painting, as well as a by a few great directors in film. Simply translating these concepts into animation will allow animated art to “stand on the shoulders of giants”. Animators will never become serious artists until they can unlearn their cartoonish tendancies acquired in the initial mastery of their technical craft and reinvent their approach in a subtle, meaningful manner.

1) objects
2) textures
3) groups of entities
4) Shapes and forms created by entities and groups of entities <- IMPORTANT!

Relationships – How do entities and attributes relate to one another?

1) Range – what are the ranges in the medium? ranges of motion, color, depth
2) Contrast – dark/light, fast/slow, smooth/rough
3) Unity – similar attributes or entities which create semblance and order
4) Juxtaposition – relationships created by degrees of placement and differences in attributes

I believe these principles are fundamentally similar in the related disciplines of music, dance, painting, and multimedia art. Other factors come into play in literature, poetry, certain paintings, and film – namely human narrative drama. Let’s leave that distinction to Stravinski’s comments on Representational vs. Abstract art. Excluding narrative, these abstract elements produce emotional and intellectual effects in the audience. The understanding of the relationships between these elements and our human response is a golden key to the gates of Art.