Saturday, April 12, 2014

A little eye candy for inspiration.

Some days we just need some bright colored eye candy to think about. I saw this fabric in C&B when I was visiting Donna. I loved the bright colors and shapes.  I kept thinking that some of those shapes would make great stamps.
Another gorgeous fabric. And, again lots of ideas of how to recreate it  in my own style happening.
I absolutely love this photo. Again something I saw in the store and took a picture of just part of it.
Rainy day where you are? Can't get yourself going in the studio? Grab your camera or phone or whatever it is you take pictures with and go shopping. Take a look around at displayes, shapes, colors, lines and textures. 
It's digital if you don't like what you take after you get home you delete it. But, I will bet that you will find something that inspires you to create something. 
Look at the colors in that photo above.  At first glance I bet you said, blue and white. Take a look again. What happens to the color to make each spiral pop like it does? 
Here is another gorgeous closeup of a piece of artwork that was in the store. Look at the texture the lines and of course the material. How do you think it was created? How would you recreate it?  What could you use instead to give a similar look? 
I often paste photos like this in my small carry with me sketchbook. It gives me a chance to ask these questions whenever I have time to pull my sketchbook out. 
If I liked it enough to take a picture, what was going through my mind? Once I start that process I often find that I get more ideas about possible ways to incorporate the idea or to create it in a different form.
It's taking an idea and and running wild with it.
I loved this basket. I got to thinking about the Kentucky Derby Day party coming up and thought, wouldn't it be neat to take a large sunhat and recreate this using the hat? Found the hat at St. Vinnies, I'll get the oranges at the market and the centerpiece is done for the party.
On another note I love the shadow lines in this photo.
This was fabric, probably a shower curtain but to me it's a possible stamp or stencil for screen printing. I love the organic look to the blotches. In a quiet moment, over a cup of tea, maybe in the cafe I'll write down possible ways I can achieve a similar look creating a silk screen.
Until Mother Nature sets up her own displays of color, outside I have to find it in other places. I love how all these colors work together. It reminds me of fabric from South America. It was probably a pillow or part of a piece of furniture. I love the lines, the grids, color and even the hint of texture.
Sometimes you need to just shoot the window display. It's different from looking at a magazine page about composition.  You, the viewer are about to take the picture and through your lens YOU create the composition. This is just a small segment of a beautiful window display I passed in a Mall. Looking at it now I love how the two white pieces balance each other. I think, at the time my eye was really on the entire grouping. 
Frankly, I think it's healthier for you to take your camera or sketchbook out and about to get your pictures.  I think every time YOU take a picture you start to think about composition. But, if it is impossible for you to get out or difficult to find stores like this to take pictures then I can see where PinIt comes in handy. I am sure if you plug in the words Color, Shape, Lines, Composition or whatever you want you will get thousands of pictures that you can pin and save. Use them to analyze what it is you like, don't like, ask yourself questions about how you could reproduce it in a different medium, all sorts of things.

I don't believe the Muse goes away. I think she waits for us to get busy and PLAY. When we are involved in getting our creative side of our brain activated then she gets excited and pops back into our studios with ideas.

Have fun today, Create something!  :)Bea

Thursday, April 10, 2014


It finally occurred to me why I love to take pictures of clouds. They remind me of day dreaming time.  Just the time it takes for me to stop a walk or the car and take a picture, I'm focused on those clouds. My mind isn't on anything else. It's not even like any other photo where I am unconsciously deciding on composition, light and focus point.  With clouds I just point the camera and shoot. 

When I was little I did spend time lying on the grass staring up at the clouds. I did find shapes in them. I was an only child, in my day (can't even believe I am using that phrase)
an only child had to come up with activities, friends and things to amuse themselves. Very few of us had parents that spent lots of time playing with us. So, with no brothers or sisters or often friends nearby I was left to my own resourses. 
In our culture, doing nothing visible isn't encouraged. Sitting on a bench staring into space, lying on the grass staring into space are not approved activities. They make people uncomfortable. One should be MULTI-TASKING. 
I just heard a professional talk about multi-tasking and how it puts our brains in automatic FIGHT OR FLIGHT mode. And how dangerous this might be for us to be constantly in this mode.  It's stressful.  It's probably not healthy for us and it certainly prevents us from being creative. Oh, yes, we can come up with solutions to problems, we can create a new way of doing something, avoiding something, confronting something but I will go out on a limb here and say that kind of CREATIVITY is not healing. It's not linked with intention but rather goal getting.

Now, be honest, when is the last time you have sat somewhere, stared out a window and simply let your mind wander. Ok, maybe at that last meeting, I'll give you that one.  But, for most of the rest of you, there might be very little unlimited day dreaming time.  You have responsibilities, you have things to do, places to be, you are connected 24/7 to your computer, phone, IPad, whatever it is. You need to know what everybody else is doing. They need to know what you are doing. God forbid they don't get a picture of your lunch at that new resturant and Pin it.

I'm in the day dreaming stage right now, in the Studio. I've got my sketchbook by my side. I'm staring out the window at the beautiful spring clouds floating by and I'm just jotting down ideas as they float through my mind.

There are projects that I had forgotten I wanted to explore.
There are ideas that I want to take in a new direction.
My day dreaming time is never wasted. 

My photographs are all hung at True Coffee Cafe.  All thirteen of them in beautiful white frames.  The colors just pop out at the viewer.  

The manager has spaced them out on four different areas of the cafe. I'm pleased with how they look and she seems to be too.  She said they had already received some positive comments about them.

They won't be most people's cup of tea. They are photographs of parts of buildings. Bits of color, shape or line that intrigued me.

Putting that show together came about by day dreaming. It was a  "What if" moment when I was thinking about things I like to take pictures of.

So, here's a proposition for you.
Pick a day, pick a portion of a day, ok pick an HOUR OUT OF THE DAY, you can give me that, right?

Put the phone away, put all the toys away, go find yourself a nice place to sit and look at something like the clouds.
Don't sit and stare at people, they will tend to upset you or they will get upset with you staring at them.
Go, sit in a cafe, with your sketchbook and doodle. Just let the sounds of the music or people wash around you and doodle as you let your mind wander.
Right down what you think about, just use one word.
If it's really important for you to remember that word will trigger more information.

Practice DAY DREAMING it's good for your soul.


Monday, March 24, 2014

One sketchbook, two sketchbooks can I have some more?

I just returned from a STIMULATING four days spent with a long time friend and artist, Donna. If I took more workshops, in person, perhaps I would experience the intense immersion into creative discussion.  Since I don't, having four days with Donna will fill my travel art journal and sketchbook will more ideas than I have time for in this lifetime.

Every Friday, when I meet with the Studio Artists I get a small fix. I get to talk about art, hear about art, often see new creative projects. It keeps me going, pumped up for the upcoming weekend and week ahead.
Being able to speak the language, understand what another artist was saying when she was talking about the development of her art piece makes me proud that I took the time to LEARN the design elements and principles. There was no need to stop her and ask her to explain something, I got it.

Donna, a long time artist, with an educational background in art, inspires me when we get together.
One morning, over breakfast and a second cup of coffee we got to discussing the value in keeping a sketchbook.  I talked about the fact that so many artists I know seemed to dismiss the idea of working with a sketchbook or art journal. That many of them like creating journal pages but seldom use a sketchbook to work through ideas.
She shared one of her sketchbooks where she was exploring the idea of using simple shapes, to describe a landscape photograph she had taken.
In another sketchbook she was exploring the grid and using blocks with items that are personal to her and fitting them into a unique grid pattern. 
Here, although it looks like a rather simple design on the page, she had thought about the idea of creating the grid from a personal standpoint. A table that she loves provides the structure for the grid. How can the items that mean something to her and her life, be worked into the rather different looking grid?
A preliminary watercolor sketch in the first sketchbook using the shape principle. It allows her to see what needs to be simplified further, removed or altered before she works the piece in oil.
Here is another piece worked from her sketchbooks on a larger scale. She found as she worked her way around the grid that each section would cause a new reaction or change. Still a work in progress she can now allow these changes to happen having states her intention at the beginning and not being fixated on what she thought would be the goal or finished piece.
The piece is working with her and she is responding to the piece. Surprises will still happen.


Friday, March 14, 2014


I know how much you all LOVE to just sit down and play and do a journal page or a paper collage. And, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE (said Eloise) that you do this. And, I want you to continue to do this. And, yes, there is a BUT coming, BUT you knew that, right?

When you sit down to play, I want you to have the design elements so ingrained in your brain, so much a part of your that you don't even think about them. 

Often when I would take a workshop or class from another artist I would here them say, "I sit down and just paint, or stitch intuitively." And, I bet they do. I would also bet that somewhere, some time, they learned about the design elements, maybe they observed nature and took them in without even naming them, maybe they read a book, took a class, looked at fine art, who knows how or when but they did get some inkling of what the elements of good design were. Then without giving it much thought they can just use them to create their works of art.

For those of us that didn't have a class, lived in a dense cloud of unawareness of our surroundings, never looked at fine art, a book about art, and have gotten to this point in time by the sheer seat of our pants. LISTEN UP. Now, you have a chance to improve your art. You have a chance to absorb the same information that they got and use and you can use it too.

If you are content with your art work, just go right on drawing and sewing and having fun.

If you often finish a piece and just know something is off, or not right, doesn't pop and darn it what the heck is missing is what you find yourself often wondering, then these next series of posts might be of some help.

I am NOT an expert.  I am on the path, just like you.
I collect information and share it. I love seeing us all becoming better artists. Maybe it's because when you are happy with what you are creating you create more and when you create more you soul gets to dance with joy and when you soul is dancing you are healing what needs to be healed. But, like I said, I don't have any papers so you are just going to have to trust me.   WOULD THIS FACE LIE?

                                                      Ok, it looks a tad different these days but it's still the same person.

The following exercise is all about the ELEMENT SHAPE.
It's taken from a wonderful book about abstract art.
And, when I get back to the studio I will fill in the name of the book and the author. So, do check back in a day or two to get that information.

It's one that helped me instill in my mind the idea of thinking small, medium and large shapes for variety. 
Remember, if your shapes are all the same size it would result in a static, boring piece.

And, from Pat Dews, Creative Composition & Design.

"Shapes are either geometric or organic. You know geometric like triangle, square, rectangle and circle.
Organic are more curved, irregular and have more of a natural feel to them. AND, usually both types of shapes can coexist in a piece but one should be more dominant.

You make a shape by CONNECTING A LINE. You can create them by creating the actual shape or negatively by creating the space around them.

Shapes fill space.  A full sheet of paper is a shape in itself so is a piece of fabric. It's what is called a two-dimensional shape.  It has height and width.
Shapes like the other ELEMENTS (Line, Color, Value & Texture) are objects that you use to create your design. 

It's important to know how to connect shapes in space and create a feeling of depth, like overlapping them. You create a shape to give FORM to your 2-D surface. If you made a circle with a form it becomes a sphere or a square becomes a cube. You can use color to provide shadows to create form for your shapes."

So, here's your exercise.  Read through it once. Gather together your supplies and no I'm not going to list them for you.  You have to do some work here, you know. When you start the direction, read them out loud so you know what you are going to do, hear yourself telling yourself what to do and then actually do them as listed in the directions.

1.              Pick out your SIX colors of paint.
         You want to pick colors that move from:




2.              You are going to be applying the colors in that order so when you put your paint out on your tray, line them up in that order.

3.              You have a piece of watercolor paper in front of you.  For this exercise we are not going to cover it with gesso first. 

WHEN YOU REPEAT THIS EXERCISE FOR YOUR HOMEWORK please put on a coat of gesso first and let it dry before you paint.

You  are about to make THREE SHAPES on the paper.  Each shape will be different in size.

 Think PAPA BEAR, MAMA BEAR & BABY BEAR to help you remember.

Each shape will be a series of brushstrokes using one color of paint. Remember you are putting the paint on the paper in the same order that you have laid it out on your tray, LIGHT TO DARK, WARM TO COOL and BRIGHT TO NEUTRAL. 

You have six colors on the tray. You are going to begin with the lightest.

Decide where 1/3 of your paper is. Working from left to right, let’s decide where the top 1/3 section of the main 1/3 section is.   Still with me?  J

Decide which size shape you are going to make.

NOW, apply the paint stripe to a spot in the 1/3 section.

Go back to your tray and pick the next color in line and put that paint stripe right next to the first color.
You are making a shape.  The color edges should touch, even be slightly on top of each other. We are not worrying about blending soft edges right now.

Continue to put your paint stripes next to each other creating your shape.

Now with a roller pick up those last three stripes you put on the paper and roll them out to the edge of the paper.  Doesn’t have to be perfect.  Doesn’t have to be thick, beautiful but it does need to connect part of the shape you just made to the edge of the paper.

By running the paint up to the edge you have created an ENTRY POINT.  You will do this again with another shape on the far 1/3 of your paper and that will be your EXIT POINT.

The importance of these points is that they create MOVEMENT.


Following the same instructions as for the first shape,
Go to the opposite 1/3 and place your paint stripes, in the same order. Again, with a roller, take some of the paint to the edge of the paper. 

You should now have two DIFFERENT SIZE SHAPES on each end of the paper in almost opposite positions.

You should have paint extending out to the top of the paper and from to the bottom edge of the paper.

Take a breath.  You just need to decide where in that remaining 1/3 you are going to place your last shape size.

When you have put the shape in doing the same paint order that you did for the first two shapes.

Ok. Let’s take a look at this painting so far.
Let’s turn it around and look at it.  Turn it sideways and look at it.  At this point in time, which way do you like it?

Now, take your roller and let’s extend whatever shape that is closest to the edge of the paper, OUT TO THAT EDGE.  Remember we have extended a shape out to the top and bottom and now we are extending either the same shape or another one out to one side.

Work with the same colors that are at the end of the shape. 

Look to the other side of the paper and the shape closest to that edge and do the same.

REMEMBER TO WORK with the colors that are at the end of that shape, closest to the edge. You are just blending the color to the edge, creating movement, not creating a new focal point.

Ok, time to turn the paper around and around taking a look at what orientation you want to use.

WHERE IS YOUR FOCAL POINT?  Remember you placed all those shapes in the same order but after extending to the edges, things might have changed.
Which light area catches your eye first?  Could this be your focal point?  Don’t worry if the paper orientation is not what you thought it was going to be.

You are now working with YOUR PAINTING.

You want your focal point to be the brightest color.  Doesn’t matter where it is located……Remember we are just beginning layers.

Ok, you have your possibly new orientation.
You have your focal point, at least for now.

It’s time to add some more layers.

Look at what you picked out as NEUTRALS.

Add some BUFF or WHITE to your tray.
We are going to be adding layers of neutrals to the corners EXCEPT near our focal point. Stay away from that area for now.  We will add darker colors near the focal point for added strength and eye movement.

You can mix your neutral colors with buff or white to give additional colors.  You can apply them in wide bands or thin bands of paint. 

At this point, for this layer, let’s keep the application of our paint in the same manner that we applied the original shapes. Flat bands of paint.

When you have finished the neutral corners, look at your focal point corner.  You are going to fill in that area with graduations of your darker colors of paint.
Again, you can mix them with buff or white to get variation.


We are filling in the white space of the paper.
We are creating the entry and exit points and creating movement.
We are far from done.
LAYERS and LAYERS WILL BE ADDED so don’t stress out right now.

NEXT we are going to be adding two NEW MOVEMENTS of shape and color.  We are going to place them at a diagonal for more interest, adding energy and excitement.

GENERALLY- The focal area is actually where the BRIGHTEST COLOR and DARKEST VALUE, SHARPEST CONTRAST between LIGHT and DARK happen.

It is generally where the two movements cross.

Let’s think about these two new shapes, their colors, their placement concerning the focal point, etc.

Look at the colors on your tray. Six colors.

What colors are you going to add for the two new shapes?  TIME TO THINK ABOUT THE COLOR WHEEL.

Are you going to add complementary colors?

Are you going to add split-complementary or double split-complementary colors?

What about TRIADIC colors?

Maybe you just want an ANALOGOUS color scheme

You can see, at this point, how important your understanding of the color wheel is going to be in the future.

It’s ok to work in your comfort colors for the rest of your life.  Stretching out of you know what is going to create excitement, energy and a sense of renewal to your work.

Say we added blue and green for our second set of shapes. It will add color harmony to the piece.

Put in the shapes now.

Keeping in mind where your FOCAL POINT IS, start looking at the next layers as ones where you can add texture with some stamping work or stencil work, on top of the dark areas and perhaps in selected areas of the entry and exit.

Keep your neutral corners free from any contrasting layers.  If you add texture keep it in the same neutral family. You want depth but not something that is going to force the eye to those corners.


Ok, you are going to be brave and place a DARK DIAGONAL SHAPE in from the top to join the two major shapes, exiting at the right third of the bottom of the page in a different color and value.



Ok, think dark and go to your dark colors.

Think shape- BIG

Look at where your two major shapes are that you just placed.

With your paintbrush and dark paint and coming in from the TOP of the paper and down

JOIN THOSE TWO MAJOR SHAPES with that dark shape.

Remove your paint brush and breathe.

Now, pick up some lighter paint and where you left off joining those two major shapes with that dark paint I want you to blend in your lighter paint as you head for the RIGHT THIRD OF THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE. As you paint your way to that area you can change your color and value of paint but keep it light.

Do you still have your FOCAL POINT?

Pick up that same focal point color from your tray and add just a tiny bit of it to that last sweep of color that you just did. Blend it in.  It should just be a faint shade of the focal color.  YOU ARE GIVING THE ILLUSION THAT THE FOCAL POINT COLOR has movement.

Ok. Add more stamping and stencils if you want.

Stand back and let it all dry.

You can add in scratching to the wet paint.

You can paint over anything that you don’t like.

You have just completed your first piece of abstract art.

Yes, it might be a little rough but you have the basic steps for ONE TYPE OF DESIGN PATTERN.

Good work.  Well done.  Now, smile  J

Now, you may think, OK, I did it, DONE, what next?
I will suggest to you that you do this exercise again.

And, again.

And, again.

And, after three times you might, JUST MIGHT, have it in your memory bank. You might remember the terms, the language, the actual marks you made on the paper. It's practice that makes us better.  It's practice that helps imprint the information into our brains. And, each time you do this exercise, whether with paint, pastels, torn paper, markers and each time your say the directions STEP by STEP out loud you will find that it becomes more comfortable. You feel a little freer with the exercise.  You even start to mutter, "what if?"



Saturday, March 08, 2014


Hi, my name is Bea and I like to rip out pictures from magazines and stuff them in a shoebox. Much to the disgust of some of my friends who hold magazines sacred.

I'm looking around and hey, don't look away. YOU do it too.
Ok, so maybe you don't stuff them in an old shoe box but I bet you have a stash of bits and pieces of pictures, photos, etc. that you like. You liked it when you ripped it out of the magazine and I bet you still like it now.

I'm not talking about recipes or projects for your home. If you are an artist I bet you have pictures, maybe even photos that you have taken that you enjoy looking at. Some of you actually have a Inspiration Wall or some place where you can see these bits and pieces every day.

It's time to talk about this obsession we have. Elizabeth Barton, in her new book, Inspired Design, Seven Steps to Successful Art Quilts has a section dedicated to the Inspiration Notebook. When I read this I found myself nodding my head and saying, "Oh yeah, I've got those."

So, I took her advise and I pulled out the box and took my time looking at each tidbit that I had stored away.
I looked at each picture one by one and jotted notes in my sketchbook. I HIGHLY recommend that you take the time to do the same.

Spring hasn't arrived yet, so, get yourself a nice hot pot of tea, something good to munch on and curl up in your favorite chair to do some very pleasant work.  TRUST ME
on this.  You are going to benefit from this activity. I mean think about it. So far you just got a box full of ideas. You haven't organized them, examined them or actually benefited from them. Let's make them work for us.

Ask yourself the following questions about the first picture you pull out. 
1. Why do you think it caught your eye?
2. Is it an ELEMENT.  Ok, time to think back to last post and your DESIGN ELEMENTS.  Remember?  The objects that you use in design to create your composition.
So, was it the COLOR? Maybe the SHAPES?  Are there interesting LINES?  See where I am going with this?
3. Make notes on what comes to mind.

The picture at the beginning of the blog is from my Inspiration File.   I really liked the pattern of shapes on this bed comforter.  So, here's a possible grid pattern that I might like to use.

This one you might think it was the pattern but actually the first thing that I thought of when I pulled it out of the box was, "Oh, I still like those colors together." So, I grab my color wheel and see that it is in a Blue Triad with different values in the red and yellow hues. 

Before I comment on this picture you might start to notice when you are doing this exercise that ideas start popping into your mind. JOT THEM DOWN!!!  Don't discard something that comes into your mind because it's NOT what you thought you had in mind to do.  Don't put the blinders on, stay open.  Maybe you thought you were going to do a piece on such and such but now, looking through your inspiration box you are getting much clearer ideas about which direction you might like to explore.  STAY OPEN TO THIS.
Jot down the thoughts. You don't have to go chasing after them right now but they are there and they can perk until you are ready to examine them further.

I obviously love the circles on this piece. I also love the TEXTURE from the thickness of the threads to the filling in of the circles. I think of this falling under SHAPE and LINE.

Do you remember the little notebook that the detectives carry around with them on TV?  They are always writing in them, taking notes at the crime scene.  I suppose pretty soon we will see product placement where they start using small IPads instead. But, for now, those little notebooks are a big HINT for us, fellow artists. Keep one with you, keep several with you. Buy a bunch of the little cheap spiral ones at the dime store and put them in your car, the pocket of your jacket, your purse, briefcase, bathroom, bedroom, all around the place. Because once you start thinking about your inspiration pictures, once you start the ideas perking in your brain you are going to have AH HA moments at the strangest of times and places. Serious about who you are and what you do, then be like the detective and take notes. Get those ideas, thoughts, images that flashed before your eyes while you were scrubbing the pot, DOWN IN THAT NOTEBOOK.

How many times have we not been able to think of something, frustrated left it alone and gone off to do whatever it is we do during the day, only to have the answer flash into our minds hours later? You feed your subconscious with images, thoughts, colors, patterns and then go off and do something else and it works away.

I always have this imagine in my mind of this tiny little old guy sorting through file drawers, in my mind, pulling out what he thinks fits, works or answers that questions or idea that is flashing in bright lights in HIS WORLD. 
Funny, it's never an old lady, just an little old man. Tiny little guy, well never mind we all have our quirks.

Now, I am NOT a fan of collecting whole pictures of works of art that other people have done. I really don't want that entire completed image in front of me. I don't want to be influenced by it. BUT, I will take a picture of a portion of it, the part that drew me to it in the first place. And, again, it's most likely the way the color was used, the pattern or shapes and lines.

This is a small portion of a painting that I saw in a store. I really liked the brush strokes along the line. I liked the "shapelessness" of the black marks.  I don't need a picture of the entire painting. I'm not going to copy or duplicate that work of art.  I do want to practice making those brush marks. I think they are interesting.

And, another bed quilt picture from a magazine. BASIC GRID DESIGN FORMAT, COLOR easy to figure out, so what caught my attention? Two things, the large block with the Bulls eye circle.  I like the way it extends out beyond the boundaries of the block edges. And the block with the elongated circles that see to barely touch and remind me of tree rings. I also like the block you can barely see at the bottom with the wavy black lines. I like the unevenness of the lines as if they were drawn by the non-dominant hand.

Picture from some book. Obviously it's the COLOR that first jumps out at me. I still love the colors but I also like the design placement of the lines. The diagonals on the left side, the vertical blocks of color, the texture vertical block and of course the irregular strips of blue going horizontal across that piece. And, we seem to be back to a favorite color blue and orange but wait there is green in this? So, I check my color wheel. I admit it, I'm not an expert on Color Theory, YET but I am making myself learn. It seems that this blue, green orange and red form a Tetrad and all the values in those hues can be used. Hmmmmm, I'm liking this.

So, no need for me to go on and on about this. We are returning to the basics to give us the tools we might be able to use on our journey to become better artists. 

I want to thank all those wonderful teachers out there that have taken the time to write excellent books of Color Theory, Design, The Techniques and all the other teaching aids. I wish I had time to take workshop, to travel to places and the money to do that. I appreciate all the artists that have shared their time and skills with online classes and free YouTube tutorials. In my book, anything that gets people excited about creating is SPOT ON!

So, find your Inspiration box or file.  Curl up and get to know yourself a little better. You've been giving yourself hints as long as you have been keeping that box. Now, let's start pulling them together to create WONDERFUL art in whatever form, watermedia, mixed media, fiber or whatever your interest is.



Thursday, March 06, 2014


The study of design elements. The building blocks of any composition. Objects that are available for us to arrange in our creative work.

I started in Florida taking some random pictures of scenes or things that created lines. 
Once I was back in Wisconsin I found myself still on this journey of collecting lines.

And, with lines you get shapes. A closed line = a shape.

It's all so simple and yet if I asked you to name the five elements of design right now, not to Google it but name them, quite a few of you would have that deer in the headlight look.

And, why is it important some of you ask?  I just paint or create what is inside of me, what needs to come out you say. I know this intuitively, you say.

And, perhaps you are the artist that does and you manage to create a combination of these elements that produces a beautiful cohesive, dynamic piece of art work. There are at least ten more artists standing behind you that don't. 

They almost get it right but something is missing, or the size or shapes are off or there is too little value contrast or the piece lacks texture. Perhaps our colors are off.

I'm not suggesting that we use a recipe to create but there are guidelines, a checklist of things that we can mentally go over as we work on a piece to see if we have potential issues developing. 

I don't know if a study has been done but I bet you could ask Quilt store owners about the volume of mid-range values, in fabric, that they sell.  A wise shopper of fabric will make sure that either in her stash or in her hands at the checkout counter she has some darks and lights in that mid- value color hue. 

As I have been sorting my fabric and putting it away I've found that a couple of interesting things.  One I often buy fabric that is what I think Purple only to bring it home and find out it is Blue Purple. If you look at a fabric color chart not a paint chart you will see that there is quite a difference and that difference might be critical in an art quilt. 
I also tend to buy in one value of color. Something I will have to adjust as I use my fabric.

I guess what I would say is that by studying the elements of design, these building blocks of shape, line, color, value and texture I have discovered that the things in a composition that often frustrate me or make me unhappy with the outcome have always come from ignoring these elements.
I may have a good sense of the Design Principles and how to use the elements but if I forget them or what they constitute I have a piece of artwork that bugs me. 

If I understand color theory, what happens to certain colors when they stand next to another color, how important it is to have various values of color in the piece to help create movement and harmony.  If I understand shapes and how important they are to scale and balance then I have a better chance of creating something that doesn't leave me asking myself the question, "What's missing?"

You can't come to the table and discuss the principles of design, if you don't understand how the elements, the building blocks are used. You can't use the building blocks if you don't understand what a design layout is. The road map, the bones of your structure. When all the parts of a design layout are there you know where to go.

Sure, layouts are "rules" and you can break them but if you do you have to make it work and I haven't personally met that kind of artist yet. The design layouts are tried and true. They go back centuries. People have already gone through the great works of art and charted the design layouts. Science has already figured out why our eyes see a certain design layout and mentally approve of it. 

It's not necessary for us to re-invent the wheel here, folks.
Let's swallow a little pride and refresh or learn what makes up a good design. Something that makes the viewer want to stand in front of your work and study it.

If you have a message, a theme, something that you have poured your heart and soul out into this piece don't you want to have it connect with a like minded soul? From ten feet away, don't you want that potential viewer to wander closer, to get a better look? Don't you want a connection there?

Do you understand that contrast, a principle, is something more than just light and dark colors?  That it's the push and pull kind of tension between opposite things, such as curved and straight lines or big and small shapes. How about smooth or jagged, simple or ornate and bright or grayed?

That too much harmony can be boring. That changing the size of something can create movement from front to back of your piece. 

If you use the Principles of Design, Principles of Elements and Design Layouts as simply a checklist, in your sketchbook, for your Theme and you jot down what your plan is you will find that you have set up outline of the plan. 

Your Theme and your Intention for that Theme actually written out will allow you to turn begin work, get yourself in the "flow" and create from your soul. 

Now go create.