Style is making everything you do a work of art. How do you make something a work of art? Study and apply the simple rules of design to create a pleasing and harmonious composition. Whether that composition is applied to how you dress, how you make music, how you write, how you take photos, how you dance, how you show compassion for others, how you interact in social settings, how you decorate your living space, to how you travel through each day. Create art through HARMONY and COMPOSITION in all that you do. Life is nothing without art. Therefore, we should create art in as many ways as we can.
Let's start with the elements (you may also hear them interchangeably called principles) of design. As defined by Art in Everyday Life (one of my very favorite books ever written) and Wikipedia:
Line - "Line is an element of art defined by a point moving in space. Lines can be vertical, horizontal, diagonal or curved. They can be any width or texture. And can be continuous, implied, or broken. On top of that, there are different types of line, aside from the ones previously mentioned. For example, you could have a line that is horizontal and zigzagged or a line that is vertical and zigzagged. Different lines create different moods, it all depends on what mood you are using a line to create." - Wikipedia.
I am a woman completely obsessed with LINE! Line plays a very strong role in the way I create my art and put together my outfits. It is ESSENTIAL to understand the visual power of line.
Color - "Color is the result of light reflecting back from an object to our eyes. The color that our eyes perceive is determined by the pigment of the object itself. Color theory and the color wheel are often referred to when studying colour combinations in visual design. Color is often deemed to be an important element of design as it is a universal language which presents the countless possibilities of visual communication." - Wikipedia.
There is truly an endless amount of information that exists in the world of color theory, and it takes a great deal of practice and studying to truly understand how to use color most effectively. Some of us seem to have an intrinsic understanding of color harmony and theory, but most of us just have to practice. I'll post an entry soon on how to understand basic color theory.
Proportion - "Proportion in art is the comparative harmonious relationship between two or more elements in a composition with respect to size, colour, quantity, degree, setting, etc.; i.e. ratio. A relationship is created when two or more elements are put together in a composition. This relationship is said to be harmonious when a correct or desirable relationship exists between the elements. This refers to the correct sizing and distribution of an element or object, which creates good proportion. Good proportion adds harmony and symmetry, or balance, among the parts of a design as a whole." - Wikipedia
Harmony/Form/Rhythm/or Composition - "Harmony is the fundamental requirement in any piece of work in which appearance, as well as use, has to be considered. It is the most important of all the principles of design. Harmony is the art principle which produces an impression of unity through the selection and arrangement of consistent objects and ideas. When all the objects in a group seem to have a strong 'family resemblance', that group illustrates the principle of harmonious selection, and when these 'friendly' articles are so arranged that the leading lines follow the shape of the object on which they are placed, harmony has been secured in both selection and arrangement." -Art in Everyday Life.
"In visual design, form is described as the way an artist arranges elements in the entirety of a composition. It may also be described as any three-dimensional object. Form can be measured, from top to bottom (height), side to side (width), and from back to front (depth). Form is also defined by light and dark. It can be defined by the presence of shadows on surfaces or faces of an object. There are two types of form, geometric (artificial) and natural (organic form). Form may be created by the combining of two or more shapes. It may be enhanced by tone, texture or color. It can be illustrated or constructed". - Wikipedia
Space/Proportion - "In design, space is concerned with the area deep within the moment of designated design, the design will take place on. For a two-dimensional design, space concerns creating the illusion of a third dimension on a flat surface. Space is the area provided for a particular purpose. It may have two dimensions (length and width), such as a canvas, or it may have three dimensions (length, width, and height) like your clothing. Space includes the background, foreground and middle ground. Space refers to the distances or areas around, between or within components of a piece. There are two type of space: positive and negative space. Positive space refers to the space of a shape representing the subject matter. Negative space refers to the space around and between the subject matter." -Wikipedia
Balance - "Is the distribution of the visual weight of objects, colors, texture, and space. If the design was a scale, these elements should be balanced to make a design feel stable. In symmetrical balance, the elements used on one side of the design are similar to those on the other side; in asymmetrical balance, the sides are different but still look balanced. In radial balance, the elements are arranged around a central point and may be similar." -Wikipedia.
An understanding of visual balance is absolutely CRUCIAL in fashion and dressing.
Emphasis - Though an arrangement may be well balanced, its proportions good, and its contents in perfect harmony, it may still be dull and uninteresting. In spite of its merits, the eye will pass over it because there is no particular point to arrest the attention. In other words, the arrangement lacks emphasis, and lacking it, fails to attract, fails to give any active sense of enjoyment. Emphasis is the art principle by which the eye is carried first to the most important thing in any arrangement, and from that point to every other detail in the order of its importance. Whenever any object is selected or arranged with reference to its appearance, this principle of emphasis is used, and the success of the result depends upon a knowledge of: what to emphasize, how to emphasize, how much to emphasize, where to place emphasis." - Art in Everyday Life
This may seem like a lot of information to those who have no training in the visual arts, but once you understand the basic concepts and try to visually apply this knowledge to things you see in the everyday, you will begin to understand that you already have a great deal of practice identifying these elements, because you have been surrounded by them in every moment of your life. Nothing can escape the elements of design. NOTHING, darling. So it is of great importance that we continually strive to perfect our understanding of them.
Keep in mind that these are the elements of visual design. So of course these specific elements, cannot be applied to the art forms I've mentioned such as dance, music, writing or socializing. However, when you properly use the elements of your chosen medium (and each of their elements will vary), you create a composition. And the term composition can be applied to all art forms and creative practices. Composition is the combination of the given elements which have been arranged using conscious thought to the overall design. I use the word composition frequently, as it is the overall appearance of any type of artwork, including the outfits that we put together. Composition is your new best friend, dear. Whether it's how you've arranged and organized your home, to how you balance your self care, work, and social life. Composition is in everything we do. This is why I say we must design for ourselves a beautiful life. A life composed harmoniously in all aspects. Attention to design will bring you a sense of peace. So the more you strive in creating harmonious composition in all that you do, the easier and more enjoyable your life will become. If you don't understand what in the hell I mean by that, I will continue to dive into my philosophies on 'emotional composition' in my future posts.
When we understand the elements and we continually practice creating successful compositions with them, we can find and create beauty and harmony everywhere. A major faux pas we see in any kind of design or artwork or fashion ensemble is when the eye (or ear, or brain, or heart or emotions) cannot fluidly move about the entirety of what is before us. The eye (or whichever organ or emotional state of your choosing) gets stuck, fatigued, or distracted in something that is of poor composition. Even if what we are looking at has vast negative space, and is sparse in objects or forms, the well mannered composition can navigate it's way successfully through the empty voids, which are there to merely enhance the forms that it surrounds. The eye, ear, brain, emotions and heart travel smoothly when we are faced with the delight of a successful composition.
Continue to practice your understanding of the elements/principles, and your ability to create an incredible ensemble (and a damn beautiful life) will continue to grow and grow.
And if you're ever overwhelmed by the elements of design when you're getting dressed, the best thing to remember is to keep it simple. Lose an accessory (or two!), choose the more muted colors, don't overthink it, and always, ALWAYS strive for harmony. Whether in clothing, artistic expression, social engagement or your emotions. Harmony must FLOW, and so must we.