Visual equilibrium, or lack thereof, is the artist’s prerogative.  Artistic balance or imbalance occurs as the sensations of weight distribution are manipulated.  When an artist deliberately creates imbalance in a picture or a three-dimensional object, he impacts his audience.  His viewers experience either comfort or discomfort to some degree.

The first time I walked by this building in Boston feelings of impending danger fell on me.  Although logic assured me that this architectural structure was sound.  It had been painstakingly engineered, and the threat of an earthquake did not exist.  My feelings, however, said run to safety.  It toyed with my survival instincts!  It looks as if it’ll topple and kill me! 

Every part of an artistic composition carries a visual weight.  Artists use weight to deliver their messages.  Disproportionate weight allocations evoke feelings of suspense, tension and conflict.  These are powerful messages within the visual language.

Balance is measured by the sense of stability or the lack of stability.  Generally speaking, we enjoy a balanced life and a balanced work of art.  Imbalance implies that one could fall, or that one is mentally unstable.  


There are two kinds of balance in the visual arts.  One is our identification with physical balance as we have known it and experienced it under earth’s default power of gravity.  We bring this personal experience to every visual experience.  This is how we mentally process a work of art and its degree of stability or instability. 


The second way in which we read balance depends on the visual weight of the visual elements.  For example, some colors feel heavy and others lightweight.  Black can weigh more than pastel blue.   Big shapes are generally weightier than small shapes.  Subject matter that appears closer to the viewer (lower on the picture plane) is far more significant, regarding visual weight, than more distant subject matter.   

In real life we are more aware of objects that are closer to us, because they pose the greatest influence for harm or pleasure.  Proximal distance to things triggers our attention.  Therefore, things that are closer impress us.  A feather in my face poses an immediate problem.  The feather, in a sense, weights more than an eight-ton truck on the distant horizon.  I have to deal with this annoying feather right now.  The big bad truck doesn’t bother me yet because it’s so far away.  

In the image below, the truck is way too close, and it obviously poses an immediate threat to the life of the viewer.  Hence, the truck weighs more than the feather in this image.

The photocomposition below is basically divided into two parts—the foreground and the background—the character on the left and the group on the right.  Which half carries more visual weight?   

How do you process the balance in this second photo, now that it’s void of the heavy guy on the left?



There are two simple formulas for balance: formal balance and informal balance.  
1.  Symmetrical and partially symmetrical arrangements tend toward a formal look.  Webster defines symmetry as the “correspondence in form, size, and arrangement of parts on opposite sides of a boundary, as a dividing line or around an axis.”  


The symmetry of the above cityscape (by Tim Ross) is contrived and perfectly balanced by employing symmetry.

2.  Informal balance is achieved through asymmetrical arrangements.  This system of balance equalizes the visual weight in a more casual way.  Both of the images below are asymmetrical, although the uptight farmers look as though they’re wishing for total balance with no irregularities.  


These grim farmers are strategically positioned, practically centered, with their quaint farmhouse poised between them.  The red barn spices the image with needed seasoning to intrigue the viewer. 

An interesting balance occurs here.  The visual weight of Brandon is somewhat balanced by the enormity of the white wall.  This works visually by creating a curious composition.

This Photoshop image of the front yard is balanced with equal weight distribution of the birch tree on the left and the porch on the right.  Equivocal visual weight results from the heavy tones on the lawn and the wispy overhead leaves.  The main subject is graciously framed with vegetation.  The bottom of this image appears heavier than the top.  This supplies a stable base upon which our subjects rest.


The method of accomplishing visual balance comes from the culture in which the art is created.  During the Renaissance Period, a time of scientific discovery, extreme balance became a prescribed formula.  The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci typifies this period.  The Upper Room is defined in one-point perspective, perfectly centered and symmetrical.  The twelve disciples and Jesus align themselves on one side of the table.  Odd!  Their gestures and body movement supply the essential activity of an otherwise dull architectural composition.  The static and very stable room functions as a stage set for the drama of its characters in this Passover meal. 

From a biblical standpoint, the entire scene is the concoction of 16th century European artistic motifs.  First century Jews living in Judea did not sit at Italian tables.  They reclined on cushions around the outside of a U-shaped configuration, and the servants served from the center.  

Created 500 years after Leonardo’s painting, these Beijing travelers align themselves much like the disciples in the Last Supper.  The casual symmetry and balance of these two works function similarly, but the sense of movement and action is dramatically different.  


The diagonal and circular flow in this poster creates a sense of kinetic balance.  The overlapping energies of this piece buzz about the picture creating a pleasing equilibrium.  The principle of balance is not always visually static. 

Likewise, this photo generates a centrifugal current from one face to another.  The overall balance is slightly off with more weight on the right side.  This measure of imbalance ignites a visual static that sparks interest.  

The sense of imbalance in this image creates the sensation of movement because as viewers we anticipate that this musician is stepping closer to the mic.  This imbalance works well because the artist married his subject with a wise choice of vibrant visual elements. 

The simplicity of this graphic would be boring without the drama of the precarious situation of this superhero, Kameleon.  Will he actually scale this building or will he lose his grip and plummet to his untimely death? 


“Aiming is Everything” spurs a cranial itch, a desperate need to resolve the visual activity and establish a psychological balance.  The composition is active and engages the viewer to search for stability.  

The hooded teen weights the lower left of the picture plane.  The interplay of the minuscule subject against the immense negative space creates an eerie imbalance.  This disproportionate relationship articulates a foreboding sense of loneliness.


“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead…” (Rom 1:20)  One cursory look at the Master’s great handiwork in nature reveals His love of balance.  The Flamingo stands on one leg, a spider hangs from its web, and an eagle soars perfectly balanced on wind currents. 



Isaiah warns God’s people about their upside down and imbalanced heart attitudes.  “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Is. 5:20)  In other words, righteous values were overturned.  The point is this: true believers, with the power of the Gospel, turn this world’s value system upside down (Acts 17:6).  It’s like pressing a cultural reset button and reestablishing God’s original balance.  Those who truly love the Lord with all their hearts find a new balance in the midst of an upside down world.  They find the criteria by which they establish godly priorities.  Priorities can be taught, but they must be caught with the minds and hearts of willing people.  Such Christians refuse to settle for less than God’s perfectly balanced scales of right and wrong.  

Moving toward a well-balanced Christian lifestyle can lead us through times of extreme imbalance.  It’s unsettling.  One man from Scripture who experienced such imbalance is Job.  God allowed imbalance to disrupt this man’s godly routines of life.  He loved the Lord.  Scripture says that he was perfect and upright, and that he feared God and turned away evil.  Tension, disorganization, solitude, sickness and anguish overtook Job.  For what ultimate purpose, in the grand scheme of destiny, did God and Lucifer watch this man suffer?  God planned to bless Job with an everlasting balance founded upon a deeper personal relationship with Him.  Job cried out, “Let me be weighed in an even balance that God may know mine integrity” (Job 31:6).  Job defended himself at the beginning of his trial.

Proverbs 16:2 exposes this defensive condition of the human heart: “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits.”  After forty-one chapters of Job’s conflict, the eyes of his understanding were opened (Eph. 1:18).  He confessed his ignorance of God’s ways.  “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee.  Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6).  Job forsook his idea of balance, based on good behavior, and embraced God’s idea of balance based on a growing intimacy with Him.  His world was turned upside down to set it right side up.  God always leads us toward a greater godly balance.  God always leads us closer to Himself.

May we always have a sincere desire to grow closer to the Lord when we experience instability in troublous times.  From cover to cover the Bible illustrates heroes of faith walking through their momentary trials, having acquired “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” at the end of their stories (2Cor. 4:17).  Glory is heavy; it’s stability; it’s balance at its best.  


 Our challenge is twofold, because we’ll work with two kinds of balance: spiritual balance and visual balance.  Your graphics must illustrate the dramatic interplay of balance versus imbalance.  This makes your poster visually and spiritually intriguing.  Our goal is to feed our audiences with truth.  The experts in the culinary arts tell us that food that looks good convinces us that it tastes good even before it touches our taste buds.  

Choose a Bible verse from the list below to illustrate.  Pick a verse that pops, one that sets a goal for you, or one that impacts your audience.  (If you have a personal favorite not listed below, go with it.  The verses below are from the King James version.  Please use your preferred translation.

“Pray without ceasing.” (1Thes. 5:17)

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Ps. 19:14)

“And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” (Is. 30:21)

“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Rom. 8:37)

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”  (1Cor.10:13)

“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” (Ps.19:9)

“Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor.”  (Ecc. 10:1]

“Cursed be he that doeth the work of the LORD deceitfully, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood.”  (Jer. 48:10)

“But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have; that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” (Duet. 25:15)

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (Jn. 13:34)  

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.”  (Zech. 4:6)

Include the element of struggle in your work.  As we’ve seen in the life of Job, his struggle through a season of severe imbalance brought him into a deeper understanding and intimacy with the Lord.   How do we illustrate struggle?  A degree of imbalance created with agitating lines, opposing shapes, and conflicting colors communicates this experience very well. 
Pick a standard poster size so that framing will be easy.  (11x14, 14x18, 16x20, 22x28, 24x30, 24x36)

 Write a halfpage paragraph describing the visual balance of your final poster design. 

Write a second paragraph about the spiritual balance that your poster and Scripture illustrate.

The whole idea of balance implies that imbalance is possible. Every film ever created pivots on an imbalanced relationship - a conflict of some sort which begs a resolution.  The best films engage audiences with an empathetic identification. 

Imbalance is actually entertaining.  America’s Funniest Home Videos comes to mind. Imbalance can be slightly funny, hilarious, hurtful and even deadly.  Think banana peel, skate board, waitress carrying a tray of meals, cat on a thin limb, staggering drunk, twirling three-year-old, motorcyclist, tricyclist.     

 Scroll up to the list of Scriptures.  Read each of them and let videos play in your imagination, videos that communicate the truth of each verse in an entertaining way.  Make your viewers smile and then deliver a powerful truth with written text or voice over.

 Draw a crude storyboard of your one to two minute plot.  Have others review your plan and be open to constructive criticism that will make the point of your video easily understood.

     Video length is between 30 and 120 seconds.
     Use iMovie or Final Cut.
     Employ music along with sound effects.
     Include credits at the end. 
     Export your project for YouTube, portable devices. 
     Final Projects will be burned on DVD media.

-	Visual balance is the artist’s prerogative.
-	Every part of an artistic composition carries visual weight. 
-	Our experience of gravity greatly affects our perception of pictures.  We read every nuance of a picture with a subconscious influence about the physical weight of everything in the picture.  
-	That which is located near the bottom of a picture plane carries more visual weight than that which is positioned higher on the picture plane. 
-	Symmetry creates instant balance because of the equivocal distribution of visual information.
-	Visual balance can result from formal arrangements of the subject matter or from informal arrangements of the subject matter.
-	Modes of creating artistic balance are culturally influenced.
-	Kinetic balance is accomplished by creating degrees of visual movement throughout a composition.
-	Imbalance can be a powerful element in visual communications.
-	A flamingo stands on one leg, a spider hangs from its web, and an eagle soars perfectly balanced on wind currents.  God is a God of balance.
-	The Gospel turns the world upside-down, which is like pressing its reset button to bring all things back into God’s original design and balance. 
-	God reestablished balance in Job’s life when Job understood that God was interested in a relationship and not merely good works.


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