The Golden Ratio, Eye of God, and Sweet Spots

The science of portraiture, how to place focal points, golden ratio, eye of god, and sweet spots | Artist Daily

Portrait Drawings & Paintings That Do Everything Right

There is a sweet and simple science to positioning your subject matter on your paper or canvas. No matter what type of portraiture that interests you–whether it be portrait drawings or portrait painting–the Golden Ratio, the Eye of God, and certain other Sweet Spots are good to know about, and they have been around for centuries. They sound like titles for blockbuster movies and to a certain extent they are that powerful–using these to decide how to place the focal points of your painting can help make every artwork you produce a knockout.

The Golden Ratio and the Eye of God. Turn these vertically and you have a key to positioning a model's face for portrait drawing or painting.
The Golden Ratio and the Eye of God. Turn these vertically, keep them as is, or reverse them and you have a key to positioning a model’s face for portrait drawing or painting.

The Golden Ratio

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, an example of the Golden Ratio in play for portraiture.
Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, an example of the Golden Ratio in play for portraiture.

The concept of the golden ratio is, “The whole is to the larger as the larger is to
the smaller.” The golden ratio = 1:1.61803399. The golden ratio is also known as the golden mean, the golden section or the divine proportion.

A rectangle is “golden” when its width and length are proportional to the golden ratio. This rectangle is divided into smaller and smaller portions according to the golden mean. A golden rectangle can be partitioned into a square beside a smaller rectangle of the exact same proportions as the original rectangle, which can be partitioned into a square beside a smaller rectangle of the exact same proportions as the original rectangle, which can be partitioned into a square beside a smaller rectangle of the exact same proportions as the original rectangle…and so on, into infinity. Get it?

Used by the ancient Greeks to design buildings and monuments, and by painters like da Vinci, Seurat and Dalí to compose their paintings, the golden ratio reflects a balance of symmetry and asymmetry. Aesthetically pleasing works of art are often defined by the golden mean. In fact, studies show that works of art that agree with the golden mean are far more preferred.

The Eye of God

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer is another example of portraiture that uses the Golden Ratio.
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer is another example of portraiture that uses the Golden Ratio.

When you remove a square from one side of a golden rectangle, the remaining rectangle will also be golden, with the same proportions as the original. This process can continue infinitely. Draw diagonals across any pair of these rectangles
and they will always intersect at the same point. Keep removing squares from the same end, and the whirling rectangles can then be inscribed with a logarithmic spiral also known as an equiangular spiral. The limit point of the spiral will be the same as the intersection point of the diagonals. This point is commonly referred to as the “eye of God.”

Portrait drawing by Joy Thomas.
Use these spatial approaches to place your figures on the page. Portrait drawing by Joy Thomas.
Portrait drawing by Joy Thomas.
The Golden Ratio offers infinite ways of creating compositions. Portrait drawing by Joy Thomas.

Sweet Spots

Use the golden ratio to divide your paper and find the natural focal points, or “sweet spots” as illustrators call them, on your paper. These sweet spots are a natural place to put your center of interest or other supporting points of interest in portrait drawings, landscapes, and still lifes. As to the eye of God, repeating the spirals you create on all sides gives you four focal points or sweet spots.

Portrait drawing--start with the Golden Ratio and build out.
Each quadrant within these rectangles contains its own Golden Ratio. We can use these concepts to determine proportions and placement through a standard grid. The use of this grid is not limited to a golden rectangle, it works with all shapes. With a few steps you can create (or imagine) a grid to suggest direction, columns of interest, horizon lines, and focal points.

So what do you say to these blockbuster secrets? I know, not so secret. But still applicable if you want to create pleasing portrait drawings or paintings that follow in the footsteps of the Old Masters. As always, explore these ideas on your own terms. Nothing is meant to be set in stone except what you want to set there. For more exploration of the fascinating landscape of the human face, you want the Master Portrait Painting & Drawing Collection delivered to your door. Joy Thomas is the author of one of the resources included and it is her book that inspired this article, so be sure you give the collection a good look! You’ll likely be as enthused as I am. Enjoy!

Courtney

 

 

 

Related Posts:

Categories

Artist Daily Blog, Drawing for Beginners
Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

2 thoughts on “The Golden Ratio, Eye of God, and Sweet Spots

  1. Frankly, I don’t find the image examples very illustrative to your point without an overlay of some sort. The concept as such is not new to me (and I use the rule of thirds all the time in photography), but when i google “mona lisa golden ratio” and “girl with a pearl earring golden ratio” for paintings overlayed with different spirals, I have a hard time seeing the connection between the seemingly arbitrarily placed spirals and the actual composition of the paintings. It almost seems to me that I can overlay any image, well compositioned or not, with a golden grid or golden spiral and always find some relations that match the golden ratio as long as I’m allowed to position and scale the grid or spiral as I please instead of fitting it to the overall format of the painting.

Comment