Painting Clusters

Artists may take a departure from organic, scattered or aesthetically balanced compositions to paint clusters. Clusters group, assemble, or classify items together. “Consider the Lilies” groups a collection of separate flowers as a single subject: “flowers”.

Cluster art often overlaps the elements into a clustered shape (unlike my lily art, which has green grassy divisions of space between the grouped elements: flowers).

Sometimes clustering steers the viewer toward a specific emotional response. “Classroom Scene” shows desks and students assembled together in a structured, ordered way that tells the story of the painting. The deliberate clustering of elements may be an integral part of the composition, as it is in this children’s book illustration for “Fred“. The same scene with the desks in a more pleasing and organic arrangement would have produced a different emotional effect.

Clusters can also be based on classes, how elements are classified together.Autumn Cottage” clusters the vegetation together based on class (type of tree, flowers, etc.). Unless a landscaper intentionally plants and grooms a rigid, tidy classed display (such as what one might find in a botanical garden where the point is to showcase classified specimens), clustering in nature is not natural. That’s why, when we see art like “Autumn Cottage“, something seems off about it. The viewer recognizes it a fanciful scene, because only in whimsy would nature classify itself neatly into separate clusters.

If tidy classified clusters aren’t natural, why does “Autumn Cottage” look so warm and inviting? Perhaps it’s because humanity craves harmony between an ordered life and an organic journey. In this scene, even the beautiful colors are clustered, which makes the scene seem like a safe, peaceful place to be.

“Autumn Cottage” by Natalie Buske Thomas

And yet, there is enough of a likeness to our knowledge of what nature looks like, that we can almost believe that this cabin is a real place. The merging of reality and fantasy can empower us to feel safe when we seek new ways to pursue happiness and tranquility. A contented life harmonizes order and intention with organic circumstances and letting life flow.

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