Gestalt Theory & Frank Frazetta

This is a side post to this weeks VFX lesson (see 3D Camera Tracking), another week and another recommended artist from Peter to take a look at. Before we jump to Frank Frazetta though, Peter briefly explained Gestalt Theory in design. It had been brought up a couple of times while creating my logo so it seemed appropriate to make a post, mostly to help commit to it to memory. In short Gestalt Theory is a set of principles that describe how we visually perceive objects.

It was hard to get a simple easy to understand breakdown online, most websites dive straight into the actual psychology behind it. Thankfully my dearest wife (earning myself a free cuppa for giving credit) found this snippet from a graphic design website that summed it up far nicer.

“Gestalt is a psychology term which means “unified whole”. It refers to theories of visual perception developed by German psychologists in the 1920s. These theories attempt to describe how people tend to organise visual elements into groups or unified wholes when certain principles are applied.”Source

There are a few core principles which I’ll run through briefly, if I tried to explain this concept fully I’d be writing this in three years time while doing a Masters in Psychology. Very interesting stuff but there are only certain snippets we need as artists (check the web link for more info on these principles).

  • Similarity – An assortment of objects are perceptually grouped together if they are similar to one another. The similarity could be shape, colour, shading or other qualities.
  • Continuation – When the eye is compelled to move through one object and continue to another object.
  • Closure – Perception of objects as being whole when they are not complete or a space is not completely enclosed. Our brains fill in the missing information.
  • Proximity – Similar to proximity except we also perceive objects as a group if they are close to one another.
  • Symmetry – It is considered pleasing to the eye to divide objects into an even number of symmetrical parts. If two symmetrical elements are unconnected the mind connects them to form a single shape.
  • Common Fate – We tend to perceive objects as in motion, as long as the suggested direction of movement is smooth. Objects grouped together that share the same trend of motion.

A quick google will show there are FAR more than just these six, however these are the six Peter discussed. It’s a very in depth topic purely highlighted out of interest but I’m pleased I was shown it. There are a few that apply to my logo without me even realising it.

skuldworks side by side

  • Closure – The principle of closure applies to the figure head. The head is not a complete object and instead just a collection of shapes, however we still perceive the head.
  • Symmetry – applies to the text part of the logo and the knot work.
  • Similarity – The two fonts we visually see as grouping because all the elements (in this case letters) are similar to one another in form.
  • Continuation – This one is more personal opinion but my eye is drawn from left to right, the dividing bar between the text logo being a guide for your eye.

To wrap this up, if I’m using these principles without even knowing about them. I should really take a lot of this theory onboard so I can actively choose to use it rather than accidently.

Frank Frazetta

Its time for Peter’s artist of the week bit. This week we were told to check out American sci-fi and fantasy artist Frank Frazetta, famous for comic books, book covers, posters, album covers and movie posters. He even made it into two comic book Hall of Fames. Given I’m usually pretty in the know when it comes to fantasy artists I’m surprised at myself that I didn’t know him, can’t know everyone I guess!

Frank has quite the body of work so I won’t sit here all day going through every detail (too many other posts to do) however he is famous for producing the cover illustrations for the Conan novel series, Tarzan and John Carter. To quote wiki, his work on Conan visually redefined the genre of sword and sorcery and had immense influence on succeeding generations of artists.

At that moment it clicked, I do know Frank for two reasons. The first is the movie Fire and Ice he helped to create in 1983 (look it up if you don’t know it, I also added the poster to the slideshow below) and he was the visual inspiration for the English comic book artist Simon Bisley.

Here is a short collection of Franks work, all of it is absolutely stunning. I can’t even comprehend how one man paints that well.

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