String Art, Spirolaterals and Scheme Theory: The Link Between Math and Art


When you walk into a local library, you might find that a book on abstract algebra is aisles apart from the art theory section, but does that mean that Art and Math are mutually exclusive?

What might come as a shock, is that most of art IS math. Most seasoned artists realize this fact, and many mathematicians can be surprisingly good at art theory and geometric art forms. This is refuted by many starting artists, however. It’s thought that all of art comes from intuition, “How does something look technically good?” “It’s just the artist’s own intuition and realism.”

The reason that math and art aren’t seen being as linked as they are has to do with the vocabulary. Language used in art is rarely the same as math, but the principles remain the same. In art, the “Rule of Thirds” can simply mean mathematical “Ratios and Proportions.” In fact, the “Golden Ratio” in mathematics is the literal foundation to anatomy symmetry in art. Color theory is also, surprisingly, founded in math. How do you know which colors go together? You need to find their complements, supplements, and their place in categories of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. These principles directly stem from math, with degrees of supplementary angles, or the idea of “prime” numbers that can’t be broken down any more, like primary colors.

There are many art forms that require intense math abilities. Take string art, for example. String art requires a knowledge of geometric and trigonometric form. What ways can you lay the nails as to create a certain web of geometric shapes? Although string art might be seen as just “placing every which way to make a string art bull,” it’s a lot more calculated.

Spirographs and spirolaterals are also another amazing example of the implementation of math into art. When you create a spirolateral, you create a patterned image like a mandala through the use of calculated lines via factoring. The product is, indeed art (abstract, but still art), but it’s created entirely from arithmetic. You might remember spirographs from the little gears you attach to your pencil and make fun flower shapes. It should come as no surprise that this is almost entirely math. The creation of a repeating pattern based on a certain set of gear measurements is a lot like a graphic equation.

Math and art are intrinsically linked. Although they might seem worlds apart, their principles and rules remain the same. Through math, art exists, which now begs the question. Is math a form of art?