“Reclamation” Every Painting Has a Story”

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“Reclamation”  Acrylic on 18″ x 24″ Canvas

I am sitting on the screened porch at my friend Mike’s house. Inside is dark and the porch, though damp and windy, at least offers a bit of daylight and renewal of our spirits.

We had concluded, with encouragement from our adult children, that two seniors who love to live alone would be wise to take shelter together during a storm!  By the time I had my car prepared to travel north to where my daughters lived, the highways were already congested with evacuees from south Florida, and gasoline supply was running scarce.  So Mike welcomed me into his home, laid out a pair of twin-size mattresses end-to-end, taking up all the floor space in the hall, the safest place in the house  He even welcomed my cat Stitch, who was cozied up in the guest bathroom with his food, water and bed and plenty of treats. The door to the bathroom was right next to the head of my mattress.

The night before had been rough. By the time we were ready to sleep, we had already lost power, so it was very dark. The wind whistled and roared. Branches crashed on the roof and Stitch howled in the bathroom.  The top of Mikes’ head was inches from the top of my head and I wondered how he slept, but he did.  Once I woke him up saying “Mike, I’m scared!”  He didn’t remember saying “Just lay back down. Everything’s going to be ok.”  I crawled into the bathroom, spread a towel on the floor and lay down next to Stitch and we comforted each other until soft morning light crept through the bathroom widow.

Mike heated water on the gas stove to make coffee, so now we sit on the porch sipping coffee and we wait.  The clouds are dark and heavy and it’s still raining sideways! The trees are bent from the howling wind.  Broken branches and fallen trees litter the streets and yards and roofs of houses in the neighborhood. We sit and watch and wait for the power to come back on.  We sit and watch and wait for Hurricane Irma to determine our fate.  Without power, there is no news from the TV or the internet. The last report we heard had warned us that Irma was still heading our way.

Irma is angry!  And we are angry with Irma!  How dare she roar into our lives and disrupt our routines!  We curse her and disparage her name. While we wait, I make doodles in my sketchpad.

 Irmadoodle 1, 2 and 3

“Maybe we should be nicer to her?  I say. “She’s just doing what hurricanes are supposed to do.  It’s not her fault that we happen to be in her path.”

“Yeah, right” Mike said.  “Why don’t you talk to her, then.”

So I did.

I look up at the sky and I talk to her like I would talk to a sister in distress.

“Irma.  I know that you’re just doing what’s in your nature.  Maybe you’re upset about how we’ve been disrespecting Nature, throwing our trash around and cutting down trees, digging treasures out of the earth and spilling horrible things into the waters. And I’m sure you must be upset with how we’ve been talking about you and saying mean things about you. But I’m asking you if you can’t just go way out in the ocean and calm down a little.  Just take a deep breath and move away from the land where there are innocent people who could be hurt by your wrath.  Please.  We’ll try to do better.  I promise.”

Now I’ll admit that I’m just making conversation while we wait and this little speech is my attempt to bring a little lightness into the situation.  At the same time, however, I sort of believe – or want to believe – that she is listening.

Suddenly the rain slows down.  The wind calms.  And the two paddle fans on the porch slowly start turning!  The power is back on!  Mike and I look at each other with wide eyes and mouths hanging open.

“Did that just happen?”  he says.

“What?  You doubted?”  I fire back and we laugh, if for no other reason than the amazing synchronicity of it.

The TV comes on and we rush inside to see what’s happening on the news.  “Hurricane Irma has changed direction and appears to be heading out into the Gulf.”

Later that day I feel secure enough to  pack up all my stuff, and Stitch and his stuff, and we’re ready to go home!. As I drive up the street from Mike’s house someone with a chain saw is cutting up a tree that fell across the street onto a power line, just in time to let me pass.  On the way home I take detours where fallen trees block my usual route.  Leaves, branches and debris are everywhere.  Water stands in deep puddles, blocking lanes of traffic.  When I get home I notice that the apartment across the street has a huge tree limb through the roof!  I am relieved that my place is intact.

Stitch is so happy to be home!  He demands his food, then demands to go to his favorite place – HIS back porch.  I sit with him, looking out into my little back yard. The clouds are dark and dreary.  It’s not raining, but the trees are still dripping.  I am depressed.  I am sad.  I keep thinking about the things I said to Irma and I am worried about what we’re doing to Nature.  And can I keep my promise?  I promised that we’d do better!

Suddenly the dark clouds separate and a blinding flash of sunlight bursts through and lights up the entire back yard!  The water droplets on the leaves flash sparkles of brilliant light and the light dances around the little yard!  And just as suddenly I feel calm.  No!  I feel comforted and amused  – even excited!  I sense that the Ultimate Creator, through Creation – Nature – is reassuring me:  “Don’t worry!  We’ve got this!”

I came back inside and paint. This painting.  As it nears completion, it names itself, by putting this word in my mind::  “Reclamation!”

We can cover the earth with asphalt, but the grass will eventually break through and Nature will reclaim Her own.  Our species is the only one who vandalizes and disrespects nature for the benefit of our convenience, our greed, our fears and the glorification of our ego-minds.  We may destroy our species, but Nature will reclaim its own.

 

 

 

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Zebraic

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Copyright 2017  Judi Cain

“Zebraic”

Acrylic on 30″ x 40″ Canvas

 

Every Painting has a Story

A new show at the local Arts Organization was announced.  The theme this time was “Black and White.”  I only had a week to finish my entry and I had a new 30″ x 40″ canvas I was excited to explore with black and white acrylics.

Using a large brush, I began to cover the entire canvas with Titanium White and Carbon Black Acrylic paint,  The canvas was sitting vertical on the easel, so I started at the top and brought the brush strokes down, all the way to the bottom, one at a time with careful intention NOT to make them straight, first white, then black.  Each brush stroke started next to a previous one, first on one side, then the other, alternating black and white and following the curve of the previous stroke.  Some of the strokes were wide and some were narrow, and I noticed that the wider strokes seemed to want to separate as I brought the brush down, and split the line into slightly different directions. I was pleased.  I like variety!

At least half of the time I spend on a painting is siting in a chair, looking at it as it rests on the easel or on the wall.  All of my walls display unfinished paintings.  While I am looking at a painting, I am asking two questions.  1. What is the painting trying to tell me?  and  2. Is there anything in this painting that distracts me from total enjoyment of the visual before me?

When I get an answer to either question, I pick up my brush and respond.  Sometimes the answers don’t come right away.  So I leave it on the wall or on the easel so that I can see it as I go about my other business.  Sometimes there are several unfinished paintings, waiting for me to ask the right questions, to see the answers. I turn them often – even landscapes, portraits or still life, –  so that I can see them from a new perspective.

Sometimes a painting-in-progress will almost scream out to me: “Hey!  See this line?  Follow it!”  or “Do you really want to leave that smudge of gray there?  You know it doesn’t really belong.”  I always ask the painting – NOT myself, because when I ask myself my whiny ego-mind will respond with the most unhelpful answers.  “What’s WRONG with this?”  “Why did you choose these colors?  They won’t match anyone’s couch!”  “No one will ever buy this!”  “This will never be a good painting!  What ever made you think you could paint?  You need to start over!”

See what I mean?

So this painting-in-progress is gleefully shouting “I’m a zebra!  Whee!  The fuzzy edges on these black and white stripes are distracting from my glorious patterns!”  So I gleefully clean up the fuzzy edges.

The painting draws my attention to an area where the black lines seem to converge, and tells me it’s important – it’s a focal point.  Looking closely I see a tiny white dot in the black space. “Go with that!” the painting says.  “Oh no!” Ego-mind says. “Not more dots!  Everyone will think that’s all you know how to do!  Haven’t you done enough paintings with dots?”

So, dots it is.  Spiraling outward from the small dot in the center.  White dots on the black stripes, black dots on the white stripes.  I’m noticing that sometimes they get larger and sometimes they get smaller.  Sometimes closer together. Sometimes farther apart. Yet still spiraling out from the first white dot.

I want to work all night.  But I have to take my turn to work at the Cedar Keyhole Artists Co-op Gallery next day, which is Saturday.  I must have the painting finished by Sunday and at the gallery no later than 4:00 p.m.

Saturday morning I pack up the canvas, my black and white acrylic paints and my brushes.  Maybe I’ll have time to work on it in the co-op gallery if it’s not too busy.

It’s an hour’s drive to Cedar Key.  I arrived an hour before opening time, got the cash drawer set up and did my opening duties.  I brought the painting in but didn’t get a chance to work on it all day, but at least I could look at it.

The co-op closes at 5:00 but typically business slows around 4:00.  I started making preparations to close so I could leave as soon after 5:00 as possible.  On this day there was one person in the gallery, browsing the art work. She went upstairs to check out the upstairs gallery.  Suddenly I felt really sick.  I had cold sweats, my heart was pounding, my face was tingling and I felt like I was going to pass out.  When the woman came downstairs I asked her if she would stay with me for a few minutes.  She took one good look at me and called 9-1-1.

The local ambulance arrived within minutes and parked in front of the gallery with lights flashing.  Blood pressure checked out ok, heart rate ok, but they wanted to take me to Gainesville to the hospital for further examination.  “What about my car?  I live in Gainesville!  How will I get my car?  and my painting!”  I protested as they loaded me onto the gurney and the woman called one of the local members of the co-op to close the gallery for me.  In the ambulance they hooked me up to monitors and I could see the gallery (where my unfinished painting leaned against the wall behind the desk) and my car, fading into the distance as we began the hour-long drive back to Gainesville.

Half way there, I burped and felt better.  “Can you take me back to my car and my painting?  I’m fine now!”  The EMT shook his head and said “That’s not happening. You can refuse admission when you get to the ER, but we can’t take you back.”

For the next 8 hours I sat in the ER waiting room while more urgent cases were treated. I felt fine, but I couldn’t leave because I had no car.  And if I did find a way home, my car and my painting were still in Cedar Key.  So I stayed.  And I waited. My phone got no reception inside, but I finally learned I could use the land line in the waiting room to call my daughters and one of the co-op members to let them know where I was.  And I waited.  With nothing to do except think about how I could be using this time to finish that painting. .

Around 6:00 a.m. they had a room for me in the ER where the doctor confirmed that all my vitals were normal, but he wanted me to have an MRI, an EKG and maybe some other tests I don’t remember, all of which I had to wait for, and all of which were normal. They could find nothing wrong with me and discharged me after setting up a follow-up with my primary care physician.

I called my friend Mike, who picked me up at the hospital, made me some breakfast (I hadn’t eaten since lunch on Saturday) and he drove me to Cedar Key to get my car and my painting!

On the drive back to Gainesville, with my unfinished painting in the back, I wondered how I could possibly complete it and get it to the gallery on time. . I kept thinking about those black and white stripes, like a zebra, and about 18 inches at the bottom of the painting that had no dots.  That’s when the word “Zebraic” popped into my head.  I wondered if it was a real word.

It was almost 1;00 p.m. when I pulled into my driveway, grabbed the canvas and my paints and brushes and rushed inside.  I optimistically attached a hanging wire to the back of the canvas. But there was one more thing I had to do before I could complete the rest of the dots.

I googled the word “Zebraic.”

From merriam-webster.com/dictionary

zebraic

adjective

ze·​bra·​ic | \ zə̇ˈbrāik, zeˈ-, -āēk\

Definition of zebraic

: of the nature of or characteristic of the zebra : ZEBRALIKE

 

Having authenticated the title, (How could I have doubted?  The paintings always tell me the best name for them) I could now finish the painting.  At  3:30 I signed it and ran to my car with the painting and rushed to the gallery, arriving at 3:55 p.m!  Some of the larger dots were still a little wet, so I asked them to handle it carefully as they hung it with the other entries.

The dots are thick paint, by the way, adding dimension and texture to the painting and I invite touching.

Zebraic at GFAA 2

 

PS.  It turns out that my trip to the ER was a result of side effects from taking Omeprazole prescribed for acid reflux.  I found out by asking the pharmacist.  Healthier eating habits have enabled me to stop the acid reflux and prevent further episodes like this one!

 

 

Time-Space Compression

IMG_2112“Time-Space Compression”

Acrylic, Collage, Micro-Beads on 40″ x 30″ Canvas.  copyright 2016, Judi Cain

 

Accepting a Challenge

In 2016, our local arts organization gallery issued a “call to artists” for entries in a themed show for the following month. The theme was “Collage” so I set out to make a collage.
I browsed through my stack of 1950’s Life Magazines that I bought at a flea market years ago and hoarded for no other reason than they still existed after all these years, and someone should take care of them.

One of the magazines, dated 1954, featured a section honoring photographers for their black and white photography, and one of those photographs, spreading across two pages, drew me in to look deeper.  The photographer aimed his camera looking down on a very large round table.  Hands of small children rested palms down all around the table and in the center of the table was a single small box.  Then I saw the title of the photograph: “The Class Hamster Died.”

I have tried to find the magazine so I could show the cover and the exact issue and give credit to the photographer.  Pretty sure I didn’t throw it out, but its current location escapes me.  I also searched on line for the photo and couldn’t find it, so you’ll just have to visualize it from my description.

Developing the composition

I cut the hands out of the photo and placed them in four corners of the 30″ x 40″ blank canvas. Some of them had to be copied and printed so that the hands would fit into the corners proportionately.

Since the photo was black and white, I covered the rest of the canvas with black and white acrylic paint, with no image in mind – just brushing the paint in random, flowing strokes, creating solid black areas, solid white areas and grays where they blended together.  I used a small brush to paint around the small hands in the corners.

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With the canvas resting on the easel, I sat in my chair and studied the lines, shapes and forms that brush strokes had formed in the paint and the small hands, now blended almost unnoticeable  into the swirls of paint. “It’s supposed to be a collage, not a painting,” my critical mind demanded.  So I looked for more hands.

In a Google search, I found hands in positions that sparked interest and printed them onto matte finish photo paper. I cut them out and arranged them on the canvas in a way that would create balance and direction and secured them to the canvas using Golden Matte Gel Medium. Another layer of gel medium was applied to the surface of all the paper hands, to protect them from fading and to give them a surface appearance that would blend with the acrylic paint.

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More studying the painting, turning it in different directions, looking for areas that call out to me to be developed.  I follow lines, acknowledge shapes, zoom in to find more subtle forms and add paint to add contrast and definition.  Zooming out again I look for lines and shapes that will bring unity to the composition.  At this point, I am only concerned with composition of an arrangement of shapes, forms and patterns, not trying to give any specific meaning or message in the composition.  I give further definition to the developing white shapes, following the lines made by initial brush strokes, adding bright whites and darker blacks to create contrast.

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Still, I can’t help thinking about the hidden story behind the events leading up to the capture of the photograph: “The Class Hamster Died.”

 

I discovered a small white dot in the center of the large black space.  Fascinated as I am with spirals, I used thick white acrylic paint, applied from an applicator bottle to start from the white dot, following the spiral as moved around that dot.

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Adding Texture

As the painting felt like it was nearing completion I continued to study it, noticing that the hands seemed to be floating in space and not having a reason to be there – not connecting to each other giving meaning to the composition.   I was still musing over the children’s hands, thinking that those children would probably be around 55 years old by now, and wondering how that experience and the photograph had impacted their lives. I thought about who I was in 1954 and how time had passed by so quickly.  It was then that I thought about the “sands of time” and added silver micro beads flowing from the hands.  This not only connected the hands, but also added dimension and texture to the composition.

Suddenly a phrase came into my mind: “Time Space Compression.”

The Painting Tells Me When It’s Complete, and Names Itself

I often say that the paintings paint themselves and they also name themselves. I just supply my hands and eyes, the tools and technique to help it materialize.  This was not the first time I had to go to the internet and search for the meaning of the name that this painting/collage had selected.  I found more than one reference for this term I had never heard of before, and was amazed that this name fit perfectly!

Here are some excepts from a Wikipedia article, and a link to the article, should you want to read more:

From Wikipedia:

“Time–space compression (also known as space–time compression and time–space distantiation), articulated in 1989 by geographer David Harvey in The Condition of Postmodernity,[1] it refers to anything that impacts time and space. Harvey’s idea was rooted in Karl Marx’s theory of the “annihilation of time and space”. A similar idea was proposed by Elmar Alvater in an article in PROKLA in 1987 translated into English as “Ecological and Economic Modalities of Time and Space” and published in Capitalism Nature Socialism, 1(3) in 1989.

Time–space compression often occurs as a result of technological innovations including technology of communication and economics.

According to theorists like Paul Virilio, time-space compression is an essential facet of contemporary life: “Today we are entering a space which is speed-space … This new other time is that of electronic transmission, of high-tech machines, and therefore, man is present in this sort of time, not via his physical presence, but via programming” (qtd. in Decron 71[2]). In “Vitesse et Politique”, Virilio coins the term dromology to describe “speed-space.” Virilio describes velocity as the hidden side of wealth and power, which represents a determining factor concerning societies’ structures. Historical eras and political events, out of this perspective, are also speed-ratios. In his view, acceleration destroys space and compresses the time in ways of perceiving reality.

Doreen Massey maintains this idea about time-space compression in her discussion of globalization and its effect on our society. Similar to Virilio, she states that because our world is “speeding up” and “spreading out”, time-space compression is more prevalent than ever as internationalization takes place. Cultures and communities are merged during time-space compression due to rapid growth and change, as “layers upon layers” of histories fuse together to shift our ideas of what the identity of a “place” should be.[3]

Theorists generally identify two historical periods in which time–space compression occurred; the period from the mid-19th century to the beginnings of the First World War, and the end of the 20th century. In both of these time periods, according to Jon May and Nigel Thrift, “there occurred a radical restructuring in the nature and experience of both time and space … both periods saw a significant acceleration in the pace of life concomitant with a dissolution or collapse of traditional spatial co-ordinates”.[4]

 

Check out my Art Website:  www.judicain.com

 

 

 

 

 

How Everything Works

Nature –  The Ultimate Creator – Pure Creative Energy – The Universe – God – Whatever Name you use to call upon the First and Last, The Alpha and The Omega of Creation – (Who speaks to us in whatever language we will listen) supplies us with a universe of examples for the process of creation – How Everything Works.

Throughout the history of artistic expression, humanity has observed those “guidelines” in Nature, studied them and organized them so that we may be more conscious of them as we create.  I believe that this has come about because most of us, as we experience life, have lost the confidence we had as children in our ability to express our unique individual creativity.  We want someone to teach us – to tell us what the rules are – so that we don’t “get it wrong” or “make mistakes.”  So those who were called upon to be teachers put the “rules” into words.  I learned them in a Design class as: The Elements and Principles of Design.  If you research this term, you will find some variations where the basic ones that I learned have been broken down into their sub-parts, but still they are all the same and exist in all aspects of nature from the atomic particles to the cosmos.

When I learned the “Elements and Principles of Design” I memorized them as facts to remember for a test so that I could pass the course.  It was not until I taught them myself that I began to understand them, and not until I began my daily practice of creating was I able to remember them as an inherent part of my makeup as a Creation of the Ultimate Creator.  In other words, we were all born with this knowledge and it will return to our conscious memory with practice.

As a Teacher, here I present to you the ELEMENTS AND PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN in their clinical definitions, as I learned them.  As a teacher, I ask you to read them, then look for them in all of nature, in works of art,  and in everything around you that has ever been created until you understand that you already know them on an instinctive level. Then return to your daily art practice and watch for them to appear on their own in your creative endeavors.  They will be there without any effort other than awareness on your part and then you will remember where they came from – the Creation of your own individual, unique personality.  There never has been and never will be another exactly like you.  It is your Purpose in Life to express that uniqueness through your own creativity in whatever medium you are led to and most important in creating your own life.  Following it will reveal to you the depth of your own Being. You cannot remember these things by copying another artist, or having someone teach you.  A teacher can only help you remember, or train you to imitate what they do.  You must re-discover it through your own creative expression.

THE ELEMENTS OF DESIGN: The components of a design – any design that exists in Nature or is man-made is made up of the Elements of Design: Line, Shape, Form, Color, Texture. Some teachers have added Space and Value – which I consider to be parts of other elements.  The elements are components or parts which can be isolated and defined in any visual design or work of art.

Lines are joined to create shapes. Shapes can be made to represent forms through the tools of shading and perspective.  Forms are given additional dimension with the addition of color, value, space and texture.

“The elements of design can be thought of as the things that make up a painting, drawing, design etc. Good or bad – all paintings will contain most of if not all, the seven elements of design.” ~John Lovett

  • LINE:  
    • Here are some dictionary definitions:  (1) “A long narrow mark on a surface;”   (2) “A long thin mark made by a pen, pencil, etc. (3)  In geometry a line: • is straight (no curves), • has no thickness, and. • extends in both directions without end (infinitely);” “a mark connecting two points”
    • My Definition: Line is a device used to separate one space from another.  It shows where one object or space that we see begins and another one ends.  A painter or graphic artist uses line to define a shape – to create an illusion of shape and form on a surface.  We also use it to show movement or direction. When we study nature, and attempt to express what we see on a canvas or paper we will see lines that separate the trunk of the tree from the space around it.  There is no thickness to the line – it is only a visual separation. Lines can be straight or curved or any of the variations shown here:lineLineTypes
  • SHAPE:  
    • Dictionary definition: (1 )the quality of a distinct object or body in having an external surface or outline of specific form or figure. (2) outward appearance :  the form or outline of something the shape of a pear, circles, squares, and other shapes.
    • My Definition:  A shape is formed when lines come together to enclose a space. There are three basic shapes that make up everything we see.  These basic shapes can be stretched or distorted or combined to create other shapes.
    • The basic shapes are circle, triangle, and square (rectangle).  All other shapes are variations or combinations of these 3 basic shapes.

Circle.  The circle is the dominant shape that exists in nature.  With practice you will begin to see circles everywhere.  Circles can be elongated to make ovals or stretched or distorted and when seen from an angle forms an ellipses but when a space is enclosed by a curved line it’s basic shape is the circle.

ellipse-12_42955_md

  • Triangle 
    • Dictionary Definition: a plane figure with three straight sides and three angles.
    • My Definition: When 3 straight lines are joined together to enclose a space, whether they are equal in length or of different lengths, a triangle is formed. Triangles exist in nature, but always in variations.  A true triangle will not be found in nature, but it helps to be able to find them as a basic shape when drawing, especially in man-made structures or combined with other shapes.E4TotpXn1uUbP6VHNcvzK2VU

 

  • Square
    • Dictionary definition: a plane figure with four equal straight sides and four right angles.
    • My Definition:  An absolute square does not exist in nature.  A variation of the square is the rectangle which has 2 sets of equal straight sides and four right angles.  Variations of the square exist in nature but actual squares are constructs of humans.  Being able to identify squares and rectangles with their variations is helpful when composing a drawing.
    • nature_pattern_3_s&s

We have briefly discussed the elements of Line and Shape.  But the best way to understand something is to experiment with it.

 

Try this:

Use a sketch pad that is easy to manage (8″ x 10″ is a good size – it’s small enough to carry around easily and large enough so you don’t feel so confined)  Start with a pencil – a regular 2b will be fine.

Gift (yes, Gift) yourself a minimum of ten minutes EVERY DAY solely for the practice of making art.  While you’re having your morning coffee or before you fall asleep at night, or any time you feel you can commit to. Soon it will become part of your daily life – making art every day.  Here are some challenges to get you started.

1st Challenge:  The Element of Line

Spend the first 10 minutes (or more if you can) to experiment with lines.  Draw straight lines, curvy lines, vertical lines, horizontal, diagonal,  – as many kinds of lines as will flow from your pencil.  Experiment with pressure on the pencil to vary the darkness and lightness of the lines.  Look for patterns, places to repeat lines and look for directions.  Try not to think about it too much, but let your intuition guide you.  The challenge is to keep it all lines – remember that when you connect lines to form shapes, you are changing the concept of this challenge.

2nd Challenge:  The Element of Shape

Pick a shape – circle, square or rectangle, or triangle.  Cut variations of the shape you choose from a sheet of colored paper.  It can be construction paper, wrapping paper, anything that contrasts with your sketch pad page.  Spend some time just laying the shapes on the page, arranging them in a way that pleases you,  When you have a design that you like you can glue them down or photograph it and then make another arrangement.

Variations on this challenge:

Try using more than one color, but stay with the same basic shape.

Try using more than one basic shape, first in one color, then with more.

Come up with your own variations, experimenting with arranging basic shapes.

 

Next time we’ll talk about the Element of Form.