Visual order of Chinese ink paintings

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Visual order of Chinese ink paintings by Mind Map: Visual order of Chinese ink paintings



2.1. Visual order refers to the arrangement of elements according to similarity and difference, repetition and symmetry in the elements. In this paper, researchers attempt to explore the quantified features influencing the visual order of Chinese ink paintings, including local symmetry, white space and mass center.

2.2. Chinese ink paintings are distinguished from paintings of other genres. For example, traditional oil paintings focus on complete realism and details, but Chinese ink paintings pay more attention to artistic conception and expressiveness. They also demonstrate the exquisite and implicit usage of white space.


3.1. Inspired by the assessment of photographs and paintings of other genres, there was investigated different features related to visual order.

3.1.1. Image segments Human vision is sensitive to large segments in an image. Some regions with similar color can be merged into one region. Local characteristics, such as the largest segment, include detailed information that may attract viewers’ attention. Paintings can be segmented into different parts to extract local features.

3.1.2. White space White space is an established characteristic and a figure of visual rhetoric in Chinese ink paintings. It is more than a blank space but indicates the semantic meaning of a vast, formless and ever-changing natural phenomenon, such as sky, clouds, water, etc.. Because white space is an important feature in Chinese ink paintings, it would affect visual order. Researchers capture white space in the collected paintings by applying quadtree decomposition to them. The quadtree algorithm recursively divides a painting image into four quadrates until all divided quadrates cannot be further divided when reaching a criterion. Researchers set the criterion as whether each quadrate is filled with over 70% of white pixels. If a quadrate has less than 70% of white pixels, the algorithm continues to divide it into four quadrates, and finally sums the white quadrates in each painting to represent white space.

3.1.3. Symmetry A well-designed symmetry could enhance the feeling of order in a painting. Chinese ink painting artists typically prefer an implicit way of presentation. For example, instead of directly drawing real-world objects, they commonly use white space as a rhetoric form in presenting semantic objects. In this paper, researchers choose an established method to extract local symmetry features. It computes local features based on a softer definition of symmetry score and calculates local symmetry scores over the image and across scale space. Researchers calculate intensity-based local symmetry (or simply SYM-I) and gradient-based local symmetry (or SYM-G). A lower symmetry distance indicates greater local symmetry.

3.1.4. Mass center Mass center is a relative position representing the balance point of the distributed mass in space. Researchers believe that the position of mass center could influence the visual order of paintings. They transform a colored image to grayscale and calculate the mass center of the transformed image using the intensity of each pixel.

3.1.5. Procedure Sixty-six selected paintings are divided to make six surveys with exactly the same questions. In each survey, 50 participants were recruited and answer questions on a computer monitor. Each painting is viewed for at least 5 s without a maximum time limit. After viewing each painting, they are required to give a rating on the visual order of the paintings (1=unordered and 7=ordered) on the 7-point scale. None of the participants is reported to be color blind or an art expert. Among all the participants, 127 are male and 173 are female. No painting was given less than 3 on visual order.

4. Results and discussion

4.1. The results show that white space, mass center and gradient-based local symmetry could influence the visual order. The percentage of white space varies from 0.0 to 0.6 in selected paintings and the standard deviation is 0.15. But the mass center’s distance to center does not show large variance compared to white space. The results indicate that the high percentage of white space positively influences the visual order. This implies that a painting with a higher percentage of white space tends to be more ordered. A painting not balanced in the middle is more ordered than the one balanced in the exact middle. Symmetry and beauty are often claimed to be related. Symmetry in aesthetics is a term in a global scale. But Chinese ink paintings are usually not composed in an explicit global symmetry and symmetry is typically seen at a local scale. Local symmetry calculates the difference in the local scale. A lower value indicates greater local symmetry while a higher value means lower local symmetry. In other words, if the painting is more locally symmetrical, it is more ordered.


5.1. By extracting visual features and generating regression models, researchers find that the mass center’s distance to the image center, local symmetry and white space can together influence the visual order. White space is essential in the study of Chinese ink paintings. It is widely used in many well-known masterpieces and depicts vast, formless objects, such as clouds, rivers, lakes, deeply rooted in Chinese philosophy and aesthetics. Existing literature supports that symmetry means something well-proportioned, well-balanced, and denotes the concordance of several parts.