Dominance and Subordination

My friends at Toon Boom asked me to write a series of posts on Toon Boom and teaching, so I’m starting (finally) today with this introductory piece. Enjoy!

Whether you are using Toon Boom Studio as part of an art class or as part of a project for another curriculum, students will want to create works that look good, that they feel good about. Even the tough cases who say they “don’t care” are likely working to avoid the disappointment they may feel if their project doesn’t’ come out as well as they’d like. In either case, it’s important to note that technology like Toon Boom Studio is designed to be a tool for artistic expression, much like the choice of paintbrush or pencil.

Though I teach art today, and I managed to become the chair of my department (which requires no art at all), I have very little actual training in art. My post-secondary education was in Literature and Composition. I came to teaching multimedia art through a side door based on some technical experience I have. Most of what I’ve learned has come from independent study and guidance from supportive artists and colleagues.

Developing artists often hope that technology will make up for their real or perceived artistic weaknesses when in fact they can magnify them. Our job as teachers is to find ways to help them beyond that divide and into successful expression. The trick is to give them a set of reliable and simple concepts to think through their art.

A few years ago I was working on some comic art featuring my own characters. A friend looked at the work I had done and said something about me having my priorities mixed up. He went on to explain that getting a visual piece right is a matter of determining its place in the order of the overall composition and using design elements like line, color, value, and shape to support that position.

After a bit more independent study I found that this is referred to as Dominance and Subordination. This is essentially the idea that thoughtful use of various aspects of an image control where the viewer initially looks in the composition. To support this, we use the Elements of Art and the Principles of Design.

The beauty of the Elements and the Principles is that they peel away the mystery of the artistic process. Given a basic idea and some practice, motivated beginning artists begin to use line, color, value, shape, form, space, and texture intelligently to create an image that actively engages its audience.

As I add to this series, I’ll look at how Toon Boom Studio can be used to develop understanding of the Elements and Principles. Much of this can be applied to other software as well as traditional media. However, I assume that since you are reading this in the Toon Boom forum, you must be looking for ideas on teaching Toon Boom in an artistic setting.

Feel free to comment and correct me at will.