Painting Clusters

Artists may take a departure from organic, scattered or aesthetically balanced compositions to paint clusters. Clusters group, assemble, or classify items together. “Consider the Lilies” groups a collection of separate flowers as a single subject: “flowers”.


Cluster art often overlaps the elements into a clustered shape (unlike my lily art, which has green grassy divisions of space between the grouped elements: flowers).

Sometimes clustering steers the viewer toward a specific emotional response. “Classroom Scene” shows desks and students assembled together in a structured, ordered way that tells the story of the painting. The deliberate clustering of elements may be an integral part of the composition, as it is in this children’s book illustration for “Fred“. The same scene with the desks in a more pleasing and organic arrangement would have produced a different emotional effect.

Clusters can also be based on classes, how elements are classified together.Autumn Cottage” clusters the vegetation together based on class (type of tree, flowers, etc.). Unless a landscaper intentionally plants and grooms a rigid, tidy classed display (such as what one might find in a botanical garden where the point is to showcase classified specimens), clustering in nature is not natural. That’s why, when we see art like “Autumn Cottage“, something seems off about it. The viewer recognizes it a fanciful scene, because only in whimsy would nature classify itself neatly into separate clusters.

If tidy classified clusters aren’t natural, why does “Autumn Cottage” look so warm and inviting? Perhaps it’s because humanity craves harmony between an ordered life and an organic journey. In this scene, even the beautiful colors are clustered, which makes the scene seem like a safe, peaceful place to be.


And yet, there is enough of a likeness to our knowledge of what nature looks like, that we can almost believe that this cabin is a real place. The merging of reality and fantasy can empower us to feel safe when we seek new ways to pursue happiness and tranquility. A contented life harmonizes order and intention with organic circumstances and letting life flow.

Painting Shapes

Living Sand Dollar” is a simple shape, a circle. As a circle is round, painting this shape follows the same basic principles as painting other round objects, such as oranges. However, since the object is mostly flat, creative shadows and highlights emphasize the edges and create an illusion of dimension.

When painting symmetrical shapes, such as in “Butterfly of Hope“, it often works better to paint symmetry as slightly imperfect and organic. Nature isn’t usually precise. Even mirror-image patterns can have small differences from left to right, top to bottom. These differences bring character to the painting.

Painting geometric shapes like in “Dove of Peace” is a great exercise for training the brain to see balance through lines, angles, and triangles. This type of thinking helps an artist see how round, symmetrical and geometrical shapes come together in mathematical harmony. The angles of the dove’s wings make a triangular shape. This type of simplistic art can be reduced further when creating designs for logos, embroidery, crafts, and other projects that require clean shapes without much detail.

When training the brain to see shapes, future projects that are more complex can be broken down into manageable parts. Focusing on each shape within the shape, and repeating this process while working through the entire composition, is a mathematical approach to a project that prioritizes harmony and balance as whole. Life is much easier when we focus on only one step at a time. Before long, we can look back on the journey, amazed at how far we’ve come.