Using the Steelyard Design

Unlike physical weight of steel objects, as an artist I must not only consider the visual size of the objects but the values, and both the positive and negative space around all the elements of the picture. There's no easy solution, the design element only gives me a starting point to build around. It isn't a template.






Steelyard is an Old Term

Looking up the word steelyard gives you an idea of how Payne adopted it for a name. The Steelyard was a common balance scale where the pivot point under the long arms supporting two weights could be moved until a balance was achieved. The pivot point would move toward the heaviest weight until there was a balance between the larger mass and the smaller mass. I discovered the principle is similar when looking at different elements in a painting. But artistically one must make judgement calls on where the larger masses are and the placement of the pivot point. Unlike physical weight of steel objects, as an artist I must not only consider the visual size of the objects but the values, and both the positive and negative space around all the elements of the picture. There's no easy solution, the design element only gives me a starting point to build around. It isn't a template.






Thumbnail drawings varied but I decided on the drawing posted here. It shows the three elements of the steelyard. Each thumbnail sketch moved the pivot point around, changed the sizes of the masses, and such, until I decided on this concept. I used the thumbnail to then work from for the painting.




What I learned

* Thumbnails once again showed me which image had the better placed elements.

* The lights and darks also became considerations as I developed the composition of the painting.

* Nothing has to be as rigid as the line drawing, the pivot point can be moved around and it's still up to me about judging "where is the perfect place for the pivot."

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Avon Waters
Modern Artist