Saturday, December 19, 2009

Hierarchy 1 : In a Nutshell

Hierarchy is used in all arts: music, illustration, composition, writing, architecture and even cartoons. At least well done thoughtful ones.

It means basically that there is a planned order of structures. Some structures are more dominant than others. The largest structures have distinct forms and are in turn divided into lesser forms - that have to conform to the laws imposed by the larger structures.

Take that cactus for instance. It has an overall shape, wide and fat and tapering towards the top.

It's then subdivided into rows of segments that fit vertically within the overall shape.

It's again divided horizontally by a a lasso.

Then each half segment of cactus has little quills sticking out- following thew perspective and position in space of the individual segments.

This principle of hierarchy, I believe, is your greatest artistic tool. It will help you understand how to put together important clear statements of either your own invention, or to follow through on someone else's. Without the use and understanding of hierarchy, you are left with anarchy and praying for lucky accidents to make your work sensible.


Austin Papageorge said...

Who drew that cactus?

It kind of looks like a Ralph Bakshi drawing to me.

Alishea said...

Another great post! Thank you!

Jack G. said...

Who drew that cactus?

It kind of looks like a Ralph Bakshi drawing to me

Did you you click to see the enlargement? Look at the smaller characters. That'll point you to the studio behind the drawing.

Austin Papageorge said...

"Did you you click to see the enlargement?"

Oh, it's Disney.

Thanks Jack.

Archie said...

Thank you. Now i understand.

Elana Pritchard said...


Michael said...

I believe hierarchy is an all pervasive natural order. Factor any number to it's prime and we have a factor tree. We are born of family trees. Look at our circulatory system, or satellite imagery of a river delta. Any erosion pattern. But what's really happening is that hierarchal systems are overlapping to form structures called a semi-lattice. When hierarchal systems are dense enough so the semi-lattice is richly connected then these emergent structures spring to life and will yield creativity. It's then definable as a living system. When we have energy traveling over both hierarchal and semi-lattice structures we have a circuit rich in feedback. When we have this hierarchal, semi-lattice structure with feedback we have consciousness. This structure does not have to organic. It could appear to us as inert as the earth and it's minerals. The structure could even be intangible to us. The expression "this rumor has taken on a life of it's own" may be more than just a metaphor. These structure are fractal and scale
from the atomic to the galactic. Depending on the level of complexity and density of the structure it will yield a richer more sophisticated level of consciousness that includes all sorts of creativity.

My theory is that as matter and energy are transforming they do so according the patterns I describe. We can use this information to make predictions.

Gary Wintle said...

Thanks for the reminder on this important topic, John. This information and everything else on your blog has really changed not only how I draw, but how I see everyday things around me.