Art = math? Mathematical implications for the skeptical artist

Elsa board drawing

If you’re an artist, there is a chance that you have a negative relationship with adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, statistics or any math concepts at all you may encounter.

You strive to avoid mathematical concepts at every turn, but what happens when you find out the thing you love, art in all its creative glory, is really math, your nemesis and symbol of everything confusing and cursed?

Never fear. Math is not so scary. Bear with me; my husband is a math teacher, and he is slowly making me a believer.

The more you learn about art, you find mathematical traces everywhere:

  • Typography and graphic design are heavily influenced by grids.
  • Composition and nature relies on the rule of thirds (the Fibonacci sequence is proudly sported by pineapples and pine cones).
  • You hear Disney proclaiming mathematical propaganda to our children through strong, female characters.
  • (Elsa sings in her empowering solo “Let It Go”: “My power flurries through the air into the ground. My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around”). Even the snowflakes that surround Elsa are themselves fractals.
  • Vi Hart, one of my favorite YouTubers (subscribe to her channel. She will make you love math through her clever doodling and commentary), shows her viewers how the concept of infinity can be demonstrated through elephants.
  • We also know that the proportions of the body and the face can be broken up mathematically.
  • You can even set Pi to music!

Math cannot be avoided but is actually pretty cool.

I find myself singing Disney tunes, drawing on my husband’s white board and looking up inspirational YouTube videos–when I really should be finishing up my grad. homework. I can’t help being obsessed with trying to see mathematical patterns in art and all around me.

I encourage you all to look for these patterns, and as far as your hatred for math, “Let it go.”

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