A Single Dot

I’ll admit to feeling a little silly scanning this image into my computer. It is, as the title says, a single dot.

In fact, you might look at your screen and mistake the dot for a bit of dust or dirt. Here, let me enlarge it a bit.

Yes. It’s a dot. And in case you’re wondering, I did make this dot with one of my new Kuretake Zig Clean Color Dot markers. I knew those markers would come in handy, and sure enough, when I needed to make a dot — a single dot — I had the perfect tool.

For the record, this dot — a single dot — is the only thing on the entire 9″ x 12″ sheet of drawing paper. I placed the dot close to the center of the page.

So, what’s so important about this single dot?

I’m sharing this dot because while it might look like nothing more than a meaningless dot on the page, there’s actually a lot to be learned from it. Drawing this dot, you see, is part of understanding The Theory of Pure Design. This book, written in 1907 by Denman Waldo Ross, is one I cherish. It’s difficult at times to follow. The language is archaic by today’s standards, and Ross was not one to use his words sparingly. At times his sentences — and his thoughts — seem to go around in circles. All the same, I love this book and am eagerly re-reading it.

I’ve come to the part in the book where Ross speaks about POSITION in relation to design. Got a piece of paper there? Got a pencil, pen, or other mark-maker? Great. Here’s what Ross asks you to do:

Take a pencil and a piece of paper. With the pencil, on the paper, make a dot or point.

I’ve broadened it a bit by including pens and other markers. In 1907 Denman Ross didn’t have the incredible range of drawing tools that we know today. Besides, since he was wanting a dot, I couldn’t resist using that Kuretake dot-marker.

So, have you literally made your mark? Do you have a dot or point somewhere on your paper? Good. Now, let’s talk about your dot.

There are a number of different, important design elements present in the single dot you made.

  • First, there’s the element of tone. Is your dot dark? Light? Colored?
  • Second, there’s measure, or the space that your dot covers. Maybe you made a tiny little dot, barely bigger than a speck. Maybe you went all out with a big dot. Nobody said what size it needed to be, you know.
  • Third, there is a shape to your dot. We could, if we wanted, outline the shape, which more than likely is somewhat circular. Am I right?

I found it interesting to think that something so simple could actually possess so many different design elements. Truly, it made me look at dots in an entirely new way. Yes, again, I’ll admit to being easily amused. Maybe there’s just something about dots that I like.

Ross goes on to use this single dot to introduce another aspect of design theory. Position. Of all the elements discussed here, he suggests that POSITION is the most important. He goes so far as to say that “there is presumably a reason for giving the dot one position rather than another.”

Now, that’s another simple statement, but think about it. Why did I choose to place my dot in the center of my page? Am I subconsciously needing absolute order and balance in my life? Or did I just feel like wasting paper?

All right, maybe I am being a little facetious here, maybe I am joking a bit about old-fashioned Denman Ross and his design theories, but even when we’re laughing we can learn a few things, so maybe it’s worth asking yourself why you put your dot where you did.

What it leads to, though, is an awareness of where we make our marks in art. Even if all we’re doing is creating a simple design, the placement of each mark we make has significance. I’d never really thought of mark-making in that way before.

Next, as I continue reading, I’ll be making another dot somewhere on my page, and it will stand somewhere in relation to my first, single dot. From there, Ross will take me off in different directions, explaining his design concepts as I play along. It’s an exercise in learning by doing, and while it may seem overly simplistic, don’t be too quick to discount simple little art practices. I’d never before imagined that I could learn so many things from a single dot, but here I am, learning and sharing.

Maybe you’re laughing. Maybe you’re shaking your head, thinking that I’ve truly gone round the bend. So be it. Art is an adventure, and I’ll happily follow wherever it leads. And that thought leads me to another.

One way of having fun with dots — and again recognizing the importance of POSITION — is with connect-the-dot art. Here’s a site where you can download lots of images for your little ones to enjoy. 

These fun little connect-the-dot illustrations not only help inspire young artists, they also teach numbers, and work toward improving fine motor skills.

All that from little dots on a page. Who knew!



      1. Oh, really! I will have to look that up so we can celebrate it here on the blog. 🙂 OK, found it. International Dot Day. September 15. I am making myself a follow-up note right now!

        Liked by 1 person

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