Active/Passive relationships are relative. If a composition has a singularly powerful area of attention, it is typically considered a focal point. A single focal point provides a single entry point and a means to help navigate a composition. Active/passive relationships, on the other hand, may either begin with a single focal point or with a much broader visual zone.
An image with a short depth of field in which the background is entirely out of focus and the foreground remains sharp may be another example.
Active/Passive relationships involve dynamic vs. far less dynamic elements in a composition. A bright red square against a neutral, pink background evokes a dynamic contrast of active vs. passive. A white square, depending on size and location, that’s set against a neutral, pink background may end up being passive compared to the larger and more stimulating field of color.
Exercise series: Recreate the grayscale study shown here. This design depicts a single, active dot surrounded by a cluster of larger, passive circles. Create a second study using the same design but now reverse the active/passive roles where the smaller dot becomes passive and the larger dots become the active component. Finally, create a third study using the same design but this time around, the negative space becomes the active component, the large circles serve as the passive component and the small dot as an in-between component.
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