Art elements
Hard edge
Soft edge
Positive Shape
Negative Shape
Harmony - Variety
Positive Negative Ambiguity
Expressive Abstraction
Conceptual Abstration
Calligraphy, calligraphic
Focal Point
Visual Weights
Color Wheel
Spectrum Colors
Complementary colors
Primary colors
Secondary colors
Local color
Optical color
Expressive Color
Simultaneous contrast another link


Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus

International Architecture

Georgia Okeeffe

New Mexican red rock landscapes

Okeeffe in New Mexico - video

Wassily Kandinsky - Concerning the Spiritual in Art
Click here for a link to an article discussing Kandinsky's theories of the relationship of art to music.

IM Pei

Pei's company website

Frank Gehry

Claude Monet

Vincent VanGogh




How we see color

Color Schemes

Some color terms illustrated



1. Visually interesting shape – Begin by making big scribble marks on paper followed by ruled straight lines and traced circles.  The paper should be covered with lines that define many little shapes.  Outline or fill in a shape and then add on an adjacent shape as you create an interesting shape by consolidating several small shapes.  Repeat until you have at least 8 shapes on your paper.  Pick the one that is the most interesting. Make sure it is both harmonious and varied.  Enlarge it, cut it from black paper and paste it on to a 9”x12” white paper.  Locate the shape so as to enhance its visual interest.

2. Expressive Shapes – with pencil, sketch three shapes that express “hope.”  Then make three that express “pessimism” and three more that express “anxiety” and three more that express "serenity." Enlarge the most expressive for each emotion, refining them as you go.  Consider the appropriate size for each.  Cut out of black paper and mount on 12” x 9” white paper.  Locate the shapes to enhance their expressiveness.

3. Positive/Negative Ambiguity – Take a piece of 4” x 4” black paper and cut harmonious shapes from it.  Arrange those shapes on a piece of white paper so as to form a rectangle filled with positive and negative shapes that display ambiguity.  Arrange the black shapes so as to create white shapes in between that resemble the black shapes.  Your goal is to creat a harmonious and interesting design where there is deliberate confusion between what is the foreground and what is the background. Then glue the shapes down.  Cut the rectangle out and mount on 12” x 9” brown paper.

4. Illustrate Cliches - Within 5"x 7" rectangles, illustrate the meaning behind three cliches by using only three different shapes. The shapes may be repeated or increased in number. Use cut paper of different values. You may also use shapes cut from newspaper text for visual pattern. Concentrate on how you relate the shapes, the values, their placement and the negative areas to concey the meaning of the cliches. Mount each composition on 12" x 9" paper.

5. Viewfinders – cut a 2” x 3” hole in a piece of paper.  Look through the window to discover a composition of shapes from the real world.  Record the composition within a 2” x 3” rectangle on your paper.  You want collections of shapes that are harmonious and varied.  Make 12 “viewfinder” sketches using a variety of shape systems – angular, rectilinear, curving, organic, and horizontal, etc.  Pick the best six and redraw them in pen.  Cut out and mount them on black paper.

6. Expressive Lines – Using a variety of drawing media, creatively explore making marks.  Pay close attention to the visual qualities of the marks as you vary pressure and gesture.  Aim for expressiveness: aggressive lines, timid lines, delicate lines, coarse lines, elegant lines, etc.  Then apply some of these lines to drawing of a masks within 4" x 6" rectangles.. Select the type of lines you use for each drawing based on the distinctive qualities you want to express.  Pick three that are unique and different from each other.  Cut them out and mount on 9” x 12” black paper.

7. Asymmetrical Compositions in Values –.  Using neutral colored papers with blue paper, created two compositions.   One of the designs should be made with rectangular shapes aligned horizontally and vertically. The other design should employ triangles and diagonal alignments. Create focal points and secondary areas of interest.   The accented area will create visual weights. Pay attention to the distribution of visual weights so that the compositions are asymmetrically balanced. Compare the stability of the rectangular composition with the movement and dynamics of the triangular composition.


8. Color Wheel – Using tempera paints, paint swatches of the spectral hues.  Select 12 primaries, secondaries, and tertiaries from your array of swatches.  Cut shapes of the primaries, secondaries, and tertiaries and past down in a circle. 


9. Value Scales – Paint swatches of of white, black and lots of grays and cut squares from them. Select 7 grays that grade evenly between white and black and mount them. Then paint swatches of tints and shades of a hue and mount cut squares along side the gray strip. Select four hues from scaps of color and mount along the other side of the gray strip placing the color according to its corresponding value.


10. Intensity Scales – Take a hue and adjust the intensity with a gray.  Take the same hue and adjust the intensity with a gray made from its complement.  Make swatches and select the full intensity, a full neutral, and three decreasing intensities for each scale.


11. Color Schemes -   From your left over swatches of color, make up examples of the following color schemes:


Triad – 3 hues

Complement – 3 hues

Analogous – 3 hues

Monochromatic – 3 hues

  1. Local Color – Create an outline drawing of a simple still life aproximately 3" x 3".  Plan a color scheme where you have   Identify the direction of a lighting source.  Calculate where the light would fall on your objects, where shadows would fall, and where cast shadows would be located.  Paint the objects in their hue with light areas indicated in tints and shadow areas in shades.


  1. Optical Color – Using the same composition as in #12, identify a color for your light.  Paint in small dabs of color in the way Monet would.  You are striving to create a sensation of illumination in your painting where the colors seem to bounce off the surfaces of the objects.  Allow your eye to visually blend the small dabs of various colors to enliven the image.  You want the rods and cones in your retina to dance!  You will not use black paint.  Instead, use darker colors. Include reflected colors and use complements in your shadows.


  1. Expressive Color – Again, using the same composition as in #12, paint the image expressively as Van Gogh would.  Select your color scheme based solely on the mood you want to create.  Paint boldly and allow your brush strokes to appear spontaneously.

15. Color Composition Select one of your viewfinder drawings and enlarge it to 5" x 7". There should be atleast 10 shapes in the design. Paint the design with a limited palette of hues, values, and intensitites to create focal point and balance with color ,