In formal visual analysis, there are nine different principles of design that can help viewers and critics interpret a piece of visual art. These principles include balance, emphasis, movement, pattern, repetition, proportion, rhythm, variety, and unity (Getty 2011).
Often, there are several different principles of design at play in any given work of art. In examining Sandra Scheetz-Wise’s painting Deforestation specifically, there are several visual elements that could give you cues as to principles of design might apply.
For example, you might consider some of the following questions: What in the painting most draws your eye when you first look at it? (I find the two collapsed figures in the foreground to be very striking.) This might be the emphasis of the painting, or “the part of the design that catches the viewer’s attention” (Getty 2011). You might also consider whether you find the elements of the painting to be visually well-balanced, or if you find them asymmetrical. This could be an indicator of the principle of balance within the piece.
Many elements within the painting are also repeated several times: the scarves, axes, female figures, fish, trees, mountains, or holes in the sky, for example. Examining the similarities and differences within these recurring symbols could help you develop conclusions about the patterns, the repetition, the variety, or the unity of the painting.
Check out the sheet attached for more ideas on what principles to look for within Deforestation.