Proportions do all the heavy lifting – a bit of drawing can develop your eye.
by George Walker
There is a saying among artists: Values (light and shadow) do all the work in a painting, while colors have all the fun. Though cobalt blue and crimson red may dazzle, light and shadows give meaning to our eyes. The same can be said of poetry. Words are the playthings of poets, while meter is the structure that makes a poem work.
Woodworkers also have a number of toys to play with. We can have fun with carving, marquetry, figured grain, colored woods, stains, textures, finishes…the list can go on and on, but what really ties everything together is proportion. It’s the one factor that determines whether a design succeeds or fails. Looking back to the 18th century, we might think era artisans went overboard with carving and embellishment, but design literature of the day was quick to point out that no amount of carving or glorious figured wood could make up for bad proportions.
Regardless of whether you aim for something sleek and clean, or you push your carving skills to new heights, it’s all for nothing if you don’t get the proportions right. For many years I felt perplexed by these cornerstones of good design – proportions seemed like a secret code no one bothered to explain but everyone agreed was important. And this begs the question: How can a woodworker master proportions?
Blog: Read more from George R. Walker on his Design Matters blog.
PDF: Download George’s “assignment” here.
In Our Store: George Walker’s DVDs “Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design: Moldings” and “Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design.”