Virtual Art Academy
Cat. No. 976 Just Grandma and Me, Shoton Festival, Tibet 40”x30”, Oil on Canvas 2013 1500

Just Grandma and Me, Shoton Festival, Tibet 40”x30”, Oil on Canvas

Example of shape in art

The essence of a painting is in its shape design. With the help of one of my students, we abstracted the structure of my painting into a mosaic of shapes to reverse engineer its underlying structure and show an example of the role of shape in art. It’s a chapter I’m planning to write in an upcoming book. Read on to see the original painting.

The history of the painting is interesting. I first painted it a few years after my trip to Tibet in 2004. But I only finished it a decade later, almost completely repainting it except for the face of the Grandma. It took me ten years to begin to understand more about color and reignite my enthusiasm for the paintng. I also begun to be more conscious of the role of shape in art. This was something that is often at odds with painting something realistically. When thinking about these issues you run a tightrope between capturing things realistically and designing an abstract painting.

abstraction of |"Grandma and Me" to show an example of shape in art.
Shape Design for Just Grandma and Me, Shoton Festival, Tibet 40”x30”, Oil on Canvas

This shows the distribution of the major shapes in the painting following the principles of unequal space division. Another principle used here is the use of color pairs in the light and shade. I talk more about that in my book on form.

Cat. No. 976 Just Grandma and Me, Shoton Festival, Tibet 40”x30”, Oil on Canvas 2013 1500
Just Grandma and Me, Shoton Festival, Tibet 40”x30”, Oil on Canvas

The Story

The story behind this painting can be read at two levels. At the simplest level it is a simple story of the relationship between a grandmother and her grandson. Taking her grandson to the festival, bridges the two generations in a shared tradition.

But at another level, there is a deeper meaning. The grandmother is wearing the the traditional dress of Tibetan women. The boy too is wearing traditional clothing. But he is also wearing jeans and a baseball cap. What does this forebod for the traditional way of life? Will it disappear? or will the next generation respect the traditions of the past? It is the wider story of China as it develops into the modern world and its minority groups struggle with becoming on the one hand a part of the developing world, but at the same time retaining their unique culture and traditions.

Photograph Reference for “Grandma and Me”

I visited the festival in 2004 and it was quite an amazing experience. There were people all over the mountain. They were having picnics in families, and lining up to get their blessings from the priests. Some tribesmen from the remotest parts of Tibet had spent a month just to get here.

Just Grandma and Me, Shoton Festival, Tibet 40”x30”, Oil on Canvas 1

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