What is an S-Curve for painting?
If you paint, you can take advantage of something called an S-Curve to increase the viewing experience of your images. The idea and term of an S-Curve originated with William Hogarth, a British painter from the 1700’s. In art schools and other artist workshops, much of the course content revolves around a painting’s composition or design. These include internal visual structures or geometry, that can be found with scrutinized eyes, such as angles, curves and symmetry, to create order and movement in a work. One important visual tool of this type is called an S-curve, which seems to be a well-kept secret for some reason. Once I learned about it, I realized I tend to use this “S” thing quite a lot in my own paintings, and what a great painting tool it is.
Hogarth wrote a book called The Analysis of Beauty where he writes about the S-Curve, and other design ideas, in depth. A search online revealed this definition of Hogarth’s curve; “Notion in compositional theory that objects arranged on an S-shaped line suggest grace and beauty.”
Below is a good description I found online of Hogarth’s S-Curve written by Terry Grant.
“Hogarth proposed that the essence of beauty of line in painting, drawing, nature and design is not the simple geometry of a straight line or circle, or more subtle shapes such as the ellipse, but of curves that modulate from one gradient to another. Such a curve, the “S” curve is such a structure and he called it “the line of beauty”. According to his theory, S-Shaped curved lines signify liveliness and activity and excite the attention of the viewer as contrasted with straight lines, parallel lines, or right-angled intersecting lines which signify stasis, death, or inanimate objects. He goes on to say that the S curve is the basis of all great art.”
Additional article Use Geometry for Best Painting Composition & Design
More information about Hogarth with examples of his painting.