Not liking the textbook


What good is a blog if I cannot gripe, eh? =)

Aside from the typos (one right at the top of the 2nd page!), after reading the first chapter I felt like my imagination fell off the launch pad with a loud crashing noise. Ironically, I feel more creative now as I trash the book then when reading it. *grin*


As I was reading the preface, something was nagging me at the back of my head. While I appreciated what was being said, something was rubbing my fur the wrong way. And then I realized, I don’t like the style, the layout! Hah! For a Graphic Design textbook, the book seems garish to me. The Table of Contents is horrible! No spacing for page numbers or anything. And this is my first impression. The Introduction launches us into a barrage of images; images are visually stimulating, much more so than words, so I appreciate that. But as soon as she said “Contemporary Art” another red flag went up. I have zero appreciation for Contemporary Art. I don’t care about painters, sculpters or metalsmiths.

Which made me realize, wow, I have a closed mind. The Introduction tries to tell us the unique value of new beginners because they are, like children, ready to explore the world and let curiosity lead them. I am starting to feel old now.

And while the images certainly lend a sense of excitement, I found them quite distracting from the text, making it hard for me to follow what the author was trying to say. Worse, as I read the captions, I started to disagree; “Surrounded by explosive energy?!? Ha, that is just a sloppy painting”. The last sentence of the Introduction says that if I use my time well, I can really get my rocket off the launch pad. We will see….

And with that I jumped into Chapter 1, “Basic Elements”. I guess we have to start somewhere. First element is Line. Not “the line”, or “a line”, but ….. line. I rolled my eyes when I read “the inherent dynamism of line is embodied in the first definition [a point in motion]”. Whatever dude. But then I thought about it. A point, in and of itself, does not really define a dimension. In a single dimension (which would be described by a line), I would contend that the point needs yet another dimension (namely, time) in order to “travel”. It may exist at any point in time on that line in that single dimension. But to travel…. So I disagree with two of the four definitions used by the author. But I like the idea of a point in motion. I’ll have to hold on to that.

We then learn about other qualities (or attributes, if you will) like Orientation, Weight, Direction and Continuity. It is good to understand what the author thinks of these things in order to lay a framework for the rest of the book. Yet again, I was distracted by a picture and its caption; “… Newman used just two lines to express both spiritual strength and human fragility”. Where do they teach this mumbo jumbo? I see something totally different. Like, one dark heavy line and one implied line with lots of fuzzy hazy things around it.

Which led to the next section, different kinds of lines (actual, contour, calligraphic, organizational, implied, and linear networks). I like the concept of closure, found under implied lines – I have used that myself (as you can see from my trial doodle). I really disliked the example of Caravaggio’s The Deposition to portray closure in contours – are you kidding me, he uses color to emphasize contour all over the place.


I didn’t really get the section on “Using Line”. Maybe because it is subconscious to me? If I want a line, I use a line. Using the previous pages, everything is a line, which obfuscates (or rather, abstracts) this discussion even further.

Key Questions (these are from the book – I am merely suppling my answers)

  1. I do not feel that I have a dominant orientation to my lines. I use them all. I might have to answer with the default “horizontal”, since most of my world is with computers and text.
  2. When lines are repeated or intersect, they can create emphasis or contention. I mean, where is this question going?
  3. How would the composition be changed if one or more line were removed? What composition? Any composition in general? It would depend on the composition – Newman might be moved to tears, and for that alone I would consider it. 🙂
  4. The last “question” asks me to consider using line to direct attention to compositional importance. But everything is a line. What would “compositional importance” look like with no line?


Next section is Shape. I make no promises to leave my cynic’s hat at home. 🙂


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