# The Golden Ratio Using a mathematical idea to make more natural paintings

If you talk to enough artists, chances are that sooner or later you will hear one of them say something about the Golden Ratio, also called the Golden Number, the Divine Ratio, and the Golden Mean (which I personally like).

If you’ll bear with me for a little math, it simply means the proportion between 2 quantities (call them A and B), where the relationship between A and B is the same as that between A and (A + B).

As a picture, it’s a little clearer:

In numeric form, that ratio is approximately 0.618 – in other words, if a line is 10 inches long, the Golden Ratio would be at 6.18 inches.

This number has been the subject of both mathematical and philosophical conversation stretching back at least to the ancient Greeks, and possibly the Babylonians before them.

It does appear in nature – for instance in the shell of a Nautilus, and in the petals of certain flowers.

It also is seen to have a deeper aesthetic meaning, and it has governed the structure of many classical buildings…

…and paintings.

If you look at the above diagram, and imagine it is actually a canvas with a painting on it, you will see that the line between the two rectangles occurs at the Golden Ratio – and if you wander through any museum, you will see that something significant happens at about that place in painting after painting after painting.

And I find myself putting important things in roughly that place in many of my own paintings.

For instance, if you draw a red line at the Golden Ratio in this week’s painting, it runs very close to the center of the sushi roll, which is very much the focus of the composition.

Many artists who use the Golden Ratio ascribe a mystical significance to it, and go to some lengths to be very precise about it.

I don’t.

But I do think there is something very special about that place nonetheless.

Let’s forget all the math, and just call the Golden Ratio the 3/5 point.

And let’s crop the painting so the center of the sushi roll is about midway – the 1/2 point.

The painting takes on different feel – it’s more stable and centered… some would say static, though that is an admirable quality in many paintings.

If we go the opposite direction and put the sushi roll at about the 2/3 or 3/4 point, it looks something like this:

That also has some interesting possibilities, but with the center of attention so far to the right, the painting feels like it is about to tip over.

But with the painting organized around the Golden Ratio… it somehow just feels better and more natural than the other options.It’s far enough off center that it creates some dynamic tension and animation, but not so far off that the painting begins to feel distorted and out of balance.

In other words… it’s the Goldilocks Zone… just right.