The Fibonacci sequence. It’s the ultimate support for turning STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) into STEAM (add art). It turns out that math is everywhere in nature and winding its way into some of our favorite artistic and architectural subjects.
First discovered in India more than 1,300 years ago and then made popular by Italian mathematician Leonardo of Pisa (aka Fibonacci), the Fibonacci sequence is just a sequence of numbers, each two numbers adding up to the next:
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, and so on…
It’s derived like this: 0+1=1. 1+1=2. 2+1=3. 3+2=5. 5+3=8. And so on. Literally forever. To infinity. And beyond.
If you divide any number in the sequence by the one before it you’ll get 1.618. This calculation is called Phi, also known as the Golden Ratio, and also found in nature—and used in art—all the time.
The Fibonacci sequence and the corresponding Golden Ratio show up time and again: The way trees branch, the number of petals on a flower, the bracts of a pinecone, pineapple scales, sea shells, succulents, beehives, spiral galaxies, tornadoes, even in human proportions… Fibonacci is everywhere.
These numbers and their relationship obviously play a large part in the natural world and, so, are extremely helpful for artists to understand. To demonstrate this principle to your students, try dividing a rectangle in class using the Golden Ratio, like this:
When you’re done, you’ll end up with a familiar spiral pattern artists use to understand the proportions of everything from the arrangement of rose petals to a sea nautilus to the human body. In fact, the ancient Greek Sculptor Phidias used the Golden Ratio to calculate the total height of his sculptures in relation to the height from the foot to the naval, the height of the face divided by the width, and more.
Have you taught Fibonacci or the Golden Ratio to your art students? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!