Jonathan Linton Demo | About Shape and Space

By Jonathan Linton

In this article Jonathan Linton takes you through his step-by-step process for his figurative painting Shape and Space.

Shape and Space by Jonathan Linton (oil, 48x36)

Shape and Space by Jonathan Linton (oil, 48×36)

Shape and Space is a painting about how complex forms are described by simple shapes and how placing certain shapes in certain relationships can create the illusion of depth.

The figure “Art” sits on a square shape and looks away from the viewer, inviting us to engage with her in a visual dialogue about these formal elements. After painting the scene to a somewhat rendered level using observed colors and values, I decided to alter the edges and colors of the painting, turning it into more of a creation that couldn’t be seen in the real world. This brought the artwork further into the realm of creation, rather than representation—showing that the formal considerations of shape and space apply to all artwork, no matter how abstract or realistic.

1. Place Drops of Pure Color
Once the natural colors were dry, I laid down some globs of pure color using a palette knife.

2. Brush and Drizzle Medium
Wanting the colors to bleed into surrounding forms, I brushed (and drizzled) a very thinned medium onto the colors. This allowed the colors to run together and mix in a way satisfyingly reminiscent of watercolors.


3a. Detail
Here is a detail of the runny-color stage for a close-up view.


3b. Create Texture
Some areas of the painting were a bit too obscured by the colorful surge, so I wiped these areas with paper towels. I find that the paper towel is better than the paint brush in these situations as this method can create wonderful textures and edges that are impossible to obtain with a brush.


4. Refine and Finish
Once these areas had dried a bit, I painted some of the white tiles back in. Notice the blooming of the edges on certain tiles in the finished painting. This would not have been possible had the colorful layer been fully dry.

After the colored layer was fully dry I repainted certain areas, such as Art’s face, hair, dress and background, generally leaving the shadow areas more chromatic than the lighter areas.


More Art Instruction
Read my entire article explaining the 16 elements and principles of art, with paintings illustrating the concepts, in the July/August 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine. Click here for the downloadable issue.

To see Linton’s commissioned children’s portraits and self-portrait, go to

While primarily a portrait and conceptual figurative painter, Jonathan Linton has also illustrated three children’s books, two of which, The Spyglass and The Dance, were national bestsellers. Recently he co-founded Horizons Art School, which is devoted to teaching the skills necessary for enhanced visual communication. Linton received a bachelor of fine arts degree from Brigham Young University and also studied in New York City and Florence, Italy. He and his wife and five children live in the Washington, D.C., area. His website is


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One thought on “Jonathan Linton Demo | About Shape and Space

  1. Randy Lagana

    I read the article and noticed the texture in the painting. I wondered how it was created, I thought you had painted it. I always enjoy the happy accidents and so ‘thank you’ for talking about wiping out with paper towel and liking the texture it made.