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 hear 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?"



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