Golden Ratio Challenge

Lists, goals, and challenges keep me moving forward. Therefore when a fellow artist friend suggested, and continued to press, that I join the 100-day challenge on Instagram, I agreed. I really enjoyed my last Instagram challenge, #forteQchallenge, which helped to build a sense of community and got me painting about my world in quarantine. For this project I chose the golden ratio since the subject of the drawings can easily align with my current project goals and also the experience would help push me to understand a concept often used throughout history. Guam Nag says “the Golden Ratio (phi = φ) is often called The Most Beautiful Number In The Universe. The reason φ is so extraordinary is because it can be visualized almost everywhere, starting from geometry to the human body itself.” I’ve called it #100daysofgoldenratio. It’s a real commitment! However, I hope to learn something by doing something, and perhaps answer a nagging, overarching question: why has the golden ratio gotten so much attention over the years?

Armed with a book I bought back in my college-bookseller days (The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI and the World’s Most Astonishing Number), I measured golden ratio rectangle-bases on a 23x29 inch Strathmore 500 using an archival black pen. In each rectangle, which is quite small at 1.8x2.5 inches, lines cut the space into smaller and smaller shapes. No detailed drawing is possible in this tiny space with ink cutting through it. In its place, there are simplified value drawings using 3H, HB, and  3B pencils. The subject for these teeny squares are photographs I’ve taken through the years and are stored digitally on the cloud, except the first image which I used a real photograph.

Considering the number of subjects needed, I was not picky in deciding which photographs to include. Honestly, they were chosen for their awkward yet somewhat appealing composition. The camera ratio on my phone is set to 8:16 so I had to zoom slightly to get the ratio. None of these images would have been considered as a reference for a drawing or painting. Now I see three I really want to paint!

Another surprising find is that the photographs I chose already had a golden ratio element about them. I simply had to draw the image over top of the ratio lines and fill in the values. Funny though, in the first photograph, I didn’t notice the spiral was in the lower right portion instead of the upper portion where the focus would naturally be. On our faces and not down on our groins. Oh well, going forward I started paying attention to where the spiral would land on the image and chose the correct golden ratio orientation for each drawing.

Considering I’ve actually learned a lot doing seven, I plan to continue. Maybe I’ll fill the sheet, maybe not. Either way, this project sort of reminds me of the one I completed in 2018. (Images in the slideshow below.) I used light/dark relationships from great works of art as an underpainting then painted a view of my interior space directly on top. The light and dark areas were used as a guide to organize the interior paintings on top. The five paintings completed works were: Diebenkorn’s Interior With View of Buildings (1962) became A Row of Chairs; Homer’s Billboard (1887) became Three-way Doorway; Wilfred Thesiger photograph (the 1940s) became Planted Window, and Wyeth’s Roasted Chestnuts (1956) became Chair by Window. 

That was fun! For that project as with this one, I fit scenes on top of an existing structure. So far, I’ve found it’s surprisingly easy to find photographs in my ever-expanding backlog that have an aspect of golden ratio. Perhaps that’s the biggest takeaway right now. 

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