2D Unit VII: Compositional Strategies

Project VIIF Public Art

Studio Fundamental: To play with balance and symmetry in composition

Concept: To explore different contexts for art-making--specifically, art in the public arena.

Project Overview Your challenge is to plan and execute a proposal design for a public art mural (or other form of public art) using 2D design principles.
References for further study --artCORE website (See Thematic Inquiry Unit on "Art for Hire."
Vocabulary Balance, symmetry, asymmetry, axis, overall pattern, crystallographic balance, radial balance, public art, proposal
Materials · 15" x 20" board or other format as appropriate.
· Any drawing materials you choose. Color is encouraged. · Biology paper or other scratch paper.


1. Before coming to class, review the thematic concept of Art For Hire as found on the artCORE website. Also read the Compositional Strategies discussion for Unit VII.

2. Read the assigned section from your textbook (Chapter 5 in Design Basics or other reading provided by your instructor).

3. Check out the Phoenix Public Art Program site on the web.


4. Find a site! Choose a building, overpass, sidewalk, or other public feature that interests you. Take pictures of the site from multiple perspectives, for use in making preliminary drawings. The Mill (of Mill Street) would be a good choice.

5. Research the site: who owns it? What is it used for? Who uses it? What is its history? Why are you interested in the site? Do some brainstorming (writing) on your thoughts about the site and why you chose it.

6. Using your research as a source, sketch! Make 25 thumbnail sketches of possible ideas for artwork for the site.

7. You will present your basic ideas to a "selection committee" (3-4 other classmates).

8. Sketch more! From your 25 thumbnail sketches, choose 5 that you feel are the best ideas. Rework each of these 2-3 times. From these, choose 2 or 3, rework again 2-3 times. From these, choose the one you like best. After this process, you should have made 40-50 thumbnails. Put all the thumbnails in your notebook for reference.

9. Refine. From your chosen thumbnail, make 2 - 3 larger sketches (one to a sheet of biology paper) that expand on your thumbnail idea. Add detail, use color, and think about what media your final project will be produced in. Practice with that media on these sketches. It will help to make these sketches directly onto printed pictures of your site.

10. Evaluate. Step back and consider the sketches objectively: Are they balanced? How are figure and ground related? Are they unified? As you find areas of deficiency, go back to step 2 and rework to solve any design problems you detect.

11. Begin on final. Use the sketches as models for the final piece. When making the piece, allow yourself to deviate from your plan if you discover something new and exciting. Your challenge here is to keep the process open to growth and expansion while still benefiting from the extensive planning you have already done.

12. Hand in a proposal packet that includes:
a. A 1-page description of your proposal, explaining key ideas and how they relate to the site.
b. The final proposal image.

Critique Ideas

Here are sample questions to use in a critique.

1. Can you describe this work using at least 3 vocabulary words from this unit?

2. What is the initial "feeling" or emotional response you get when first viewing this work?

3. Can you get a sense of the artist pesonality from the work?

4. What "compositional strategies" were employed by the artist?

5. Does the research presented help the viewer to understand the intent of the artist and the significance of the work?

6. Does this work successfully address the challenges of doing art in a "public" setting?

From a problem developed by Aaron Cuthbertson, copyright 2005.

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