# Elementary orders part I

When distressing news from outside enter our mind, it’s always good to turn to art, to maneuver our thoughts into aesthetics and to deal with questions that seem to have nothing to do with our everyday life. And yet, these aesthetic questions are exactly what makes our life rich and fill it with joy. What brings us in contact with existential matters and lets us feel for ourselves what makes us human beings, our own beings. With your drawings you can understand this wonderfully and delve into these questions. Your drawings are like a warming ray of sunshine that you share with the world.

When you look at a picture, a drawing or a painted picture, there’s a certain order in it. As soon as you put a sign on the sheet of paper with the pencil, you already have a contrast of light and dark. In the following I’ll speak assuming you work in black and white, but in certain ways it applies just the same if you take a colored pencil instead, because some colors work brighter and some darker.

In any case, there’s a contrast of light and dark. This principle of light and dark, the white of the sheet and the darkness of the drawing, enters into a certain relation. At a certain point during the drawing, the white becomes as strong as the black or the dark. That’s why it’s especially important to keep the white in mind just as well as the lines and other elements you spread on the drawing sheet. The expression of light and dark can be created in very different ways, by dots, by lines, by having black and white areas or even by colors. The dots and lines unite to a collective mass, for example to a shape.

Then group formations occur. In the interaction and the combined effect of these many points and lines they finally indicate the success of a drawing. When these elements begin to condense at some point, shapes develop from them and with them a contrast of light and dark. As a result, a whole series of relationships within these elements emerges. This creates the elemental order in a picture. A light-and-dark mass, which the artist roughly defines for themself to develop their composition. They are vital for every picture as well as their analysis. If you take a look at the great masters, you can recognize certain orders in their works, just as in your own drawings. These elemental orders are fundamental questions of composition, they determine how and where the elements are distributed. You can practice this in an easy way in this impulse.

What elemental orders in a picture are there? There’s the horizontal order, the vertical order, the diagonal order, and then the mixed forms: Horizontal-vertical, horizontal-diagonal, vertical-diagonal, diagonal-diagonal, horizontal-vertical-diagonal, and of course circular. How do you design this? Draw squares on your drawing sheet, divide it into, for example, nine squares, and try out one of these orders in each square.

In the first square you define a straight horizontal line. The line separates the square into two parts. One part, above or below the line, is darkly defined with many fine strokes, so it appears almost black, and the other part remains white. Do the same with the vertical line. You draw a vertical line and have one part dark, finely defined with dark strokes, and one part white. It’s the same diagonally. Draw a line from the lower left corner to the upper right corner. This results in two triangles, one triangle is completely dark and the other is white. Horizontal-vertical is also very easy: You draw a horizontal line and a vertical line that meet like an L. The L shaped area is dark, the small rectangle that remains is white. Or vice versa.

You can continue with vertical-diagonal: a vertical line and on one side a diagonal line. This creates two triangles and a rectangle, and one of the triangles and the rectangle meet. This part is defined in black, the rest remains white. Do the same with horizontal-diagonal.

For the order diagonal-diagonal the line goes from a lower corner to the opposite line, not completely into the upper corner, but the line ends a little before the corner at the edge. Then a second line goes from there to the top corner on the other side, so it’s roughly like a “K”. So first a diagonal line in one direction, then in the other direction, where you define the are in black.

With horizontal-vertical-diagonal you get the impression a part of a house is visible. At the top, the roof is cropped, then a square, and at the bottom, the rectangle, the horizontal line of a landscape.

You can think of the circular order in two ways: the round shape can be dark or light. You can decide whether the circular shape is light and the area around is dark or if it’s the other way around.

These are very important, basic exercises to develop a sense of order in the image. This sense of order as a form of expression in the picture is the basis for everything to do with composition. When we speak of composition in the visual arts, we’re talking about the elementary orders as the starting point. These forms of order sound trivial, but they’re not comfortable, they’re not trivial or easy. As an artist, you have to know exactly when to use one or the other or perhaps none of these forms of order.

Study these elementary orders for yourselves and try them out so that you’ll know how to apply them in the future. Otherwise, you’re tempted to apply the same order all the time. That’s why I suggest this exercise, in which you define the contrast of light and dark in this elementary order with many small strokes, so that you create beautiful surfaces.

You can work with charcoal, with oil pastels or with a soft pencil. In any case, define your drawing linearly in the elementary orders: Horizontal, vertical, diagonal, horizontal-vertical, horizontal-diagonal, diagonal-diagonal, horizontal-vertical-diagonal and circular. Each of these orders has a limited, clearly defined expressive character. Finding it requires a lot of talent and intelligence. So, it’s a complex challenge I’m setting you today, but it’s an easy one to solve, and I’m sure you’ll do it with flying colors.

I wish you much fun with these experiments with the contrast of light and dark in the elementary order!