line drawings of a woman, a pomegrante, and a fish.
In design theory the concept of unity is the almighty peg on which the rest of the principles turn. Unity in design is the resting place of art. It is where all good art stands and is revealed. Almost all artists have an innate knowledge of unity and how it is created within a work of art. Indeed, that may be one of the mainstays of an artist. But sometimes unity is a hard thing to understand and to visualize. Unity is the coming together of all the various parts to create a coherent whole. In figure 1 there are three objects, a fish, a woman, and a pomegranate. Though there is some similarity between them (they are all line drawings in black and white; they are all depictions of living things), there is no real unity among them. But look at figure 2. It is also a line drawing in black and white. This drawing has unity: unity in the series of circles and ovals that make up the majority of the lines; the unity of similar objects, the apples, being featured in the depiction, and the leaves; and last, the black line drawn all the way around it bringing borders to the work.
line drawing of a plate of apples
Contrast and harmony play a big role in the development of unity in a piece of art. Contrast is the differences among the elements in the piece. And harmony is the similarities between them. A piece of all contrast and very few, if any, harmonies is not a good piece of art. That we see in figure 1. In both figures we have the contrast of the black ink and the white page. In figure 1 we have many contrasts and few harmonies.
Harmony within a work helps the feeling of unity. In the case of figure 2, the harmonies are the circles, the harmony of the idea of a plate of fruit with no other distractions, the harmony of the simplicity of it. But in Figure 1 there are fewer harmonies. No one shape takes precedence over other shapes. The objects are as far apart on the page as they can be leading more to disharmony. There is really nothing similar among them.
But beware! A piece with too many harmonies seems dull and lifeless--nothing catches the eye and the brain of the beholder. Contrast must work with harmony to achieve harmony. Contrast is the spice in the pie.
Blackwork comes with built-in harmonies and contrasts. Blackwork is stitching of a particular type using very few variants of stitches. This is an automatic harmony. But just this alone will not give overall unity to the piece. Take a look at Earl Grey, a blackwork that has unity, harmony, and contrast. See if you can pick out instances of each of these within its borders.
Blackwork with a pulled work background in white.
10" X 10" black silk on white linen
by Ann Erdmann
blackwork in colors
Ann Erdmann has finally sent me a picture of her finished work, Clouds over the Platte. It is hard for me to believe that this is only her third piece of blackwork she has done, but I know it is.