creating contrast with silhouettes

Started by punishedsteven, Oct 31, 2022, 01:33 AM

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stuff is impactful when it contrasts the things around it, whether temporally or spatially. a horn is louder after silence, and a white dot is blinding on a black canvas. pen spinning is no different.

much of my understanding on aesthetics can be boiled down to understanding contrast and how to transform specific material to have contrast with other material. this can be achieved in many ways, with the most basic means being to simply take the descriptors of one trick and inverting them on the next trick (eg palm up -> palm down; fingers straight -> fingers curled; changing directions; etc). however, this doesn't really give us a good understanding of how to use contrast to its fullest potential to reach the goal we're trying to achieve, which is to create combos with visually appealing structure in which there is meaningful buildup and payoff. it isn't enough to have contrast on the small scale between tricks.

to resolve issue, i will demonstrate how to use silhouettes to create contrast between entire sections of combos, rather than one trick to another. there are many other ways to achieve the same goal, but this is one of the more obvious ones which will hopefully help you dip your toes into the more abstract topics in aesthetics.

to start, here are various hand positions




and




id say the first four positions are intense while the last four are subdued. the former are dynamic and powerful, while the latter lacks memorability and action. here are the silhouettes of positions. the arm is shown in grey as it contributes to the silhouette whilst drawing less attention than the hands







though it may not be obvious at first, the silhouettes of the subdued positions are closer to resembling a circle, and the opposite for the intense positions. in design, circles and similar shapes are used to create soft and friendly forms, while triangles and other jagged shapes are used to express power and tension. with this explanation, it makes sense why this



is more subdued than this



which is more subdued than this



though i think everyone can agree that these images are of increasing intensity, it's also understandable to think that picture #2 contradicts what i've said about subdued positions closer resembling a circle, as after all, are the fingers in that image not super sprayed out? similar to picture #3? i think that there is no contradiction if you consider how a person perceives these positions in motion. people don't perceive every sensual detail with equal weight, as larger and higher contrasting information take overwhelming priority. this is why one of the most common and important pieces of advice beginners receive in any artform is to forget about the details and focus on the big picture.

thus, by reevaluating picture #2 and considering the low contrast caused by the relatively small gap in between the fingers and the resulting repetitive graphic, albeit odd, it would make more sense to represent picture #2 as this



than to represent picture #3 as this



with consideration of silhouettes, it's simple to create entire sections of a combo that contrast another section by having one be composed of majority subdued, circular positions, while the other takes on sharper, more jagged forms, so long as you work backwards by first imagining the silhouette, whether circular or jagged, then creating links that fit afterwards.

here's a brief freestyle from me demonstrating how to create a subdued visual despite having an intense and fast style.


notice how i bend my wrist specifically to cover up sharp protrusions from the silhouette, dampening the effect of my tense fingers.
here's another freestyle where i demonstrate contrast between two sections.


as you can see, there's a lot of leeway as to how a spinner can have their style appear without having to fundamentally change their aesthetic priorities.

understanding contrast and the various abstract forms it can take is essential to improving in aesthetics, but it is not the only thing that matters. contrast by itself cannot create buildup in a combo that foreshadows and leads to a satisfying conclusion, as having sections of a combo be different visually at all is only the first step. what it is is an obvious visual element that can be accurately and precisely pinpointed, and the really important theme i want people to get from this is that aesthetics is made up of general rules that can be actively sought out. it is not the cryptic and subjective mystery that less skilled spinners make it out to be, it's just that its rules are derived from a type of experience that grinding pen spinning naturally doesn't create, and that they're more so guidelines that can be interpreted within a certain margin. despite being less concrete than mathematical formulas, having a hard grasp of these ideas and putting them to words, however abstract they may be, makes sense of what almost every spinner is doing and suddenly very highly regarded spinners like noel, fukrou, drowsy, goat, mesi, etc. start making a lot of sense with the patterns they all share.

i think the current understanding of aesthetics as "refinement" and grinding a limited number of links to perfection is actually extremely backwards thinking and offensive to progress. not only does predefining the goal and not supplying the tools for experimentation and exploration limit the possibilities of visuals, but having such a limited amount of material also makes it impossible to discover the principles behind why these select links are so appealing in the first place, because finding the general rule is only possible when you have multiple examples to compare to each other. i think the reason i was able to progress so much was because my background in tech spinning allowed me to try out many different things with ease and gave me the mindset to explore. it was through trial and error and picking up tiny revelations with every mistake that i able to progress and internalize these principles of aesthetics. it's super understandable why so many people find the current form of aesthetics spinning attractive, because through so much limitation you've removed the ability to make mistakes and the negative feelings that result. unfortunately, that also means you don't learn much either.
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