The Compositional Element ~ DOMINANCE / SUBORDINATION

   The compositional element of dominance / subordination applies to the degree of perceptible prominence individual elements possess in a particular work. The degree of prominence varies according to the amount of attention a particular element draws to itself. A large shape may draw more attention to itself than a small shape will. A dark line on a light background may draw more attention than a light line on the same background. A brilliant color may draw more attention than a dull color. No matter which element is used the same situation exists: the more attention an element draws to itself, the more dominant it will appear.

   The phenomenon of dominance is a rather variable one. In most cases the properties of size, value, brilliance and purity will influence the amount of attention a particular element will receive. Generally, a larger size, a darker value, a purer brilliance and a greater degree of purity in execution will draw more attention to an element. But this is not always the case.

   In any situation where a majority of the elements tend to be rather similar in degree of attention gathering, the minority which vary from the norm will tend to draw more attention. An example of this situation might be one in which the artwork includes predominantly large shapes and tonal areas. Should a very small shape be added to this congregation the viewer’s attention might be drawn more to this small shape because it will be so different from the rest.

   The viewer’s eye will tend to be drawn toward the elements in a work which are the most dominant and then proceed to move about the work in accordance with the properties of visual direction and flow. There may exist any number of dominant elements in a particular work which may draw the viewer's eye back and forth between them. There may also exist the possibility of a work having no particular dominant elements. Regardless of how many dominant elements are placed in an artwork, the artist should be aware of the effect of the viewer's attention that a dominant element will create and utilize this knowledge to aid in the formation of visual pathways.