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Modernist Shapes


Products Used

  • Slab-built Form
  • SC-74 Hot Tamale
  • SC-6 Sunkissed
  • SC-75 Orange-A-Peel
  • SC-11 Blue Yonder
  • SG-401 Black Designer Liner
  • SG-403 Red Designer Liner
  • SG-404 Blue Designer Liner
  • SG-405 Green Designer Liner
  • SG-406 Brown Designer Liner
  • SG-407 Yellow Designer Liner
  • SG-408 Orange Designer Liner
Decorating Accessories
  • CB-110 #10/0 Liner
  • CB-106 #6 Script Liner
  • CB-604 #4 Soft Fan
  • BT-910 Synthetic Sponge
geometric shapes project

Designer: Josh Clark
Techniques: Slab Building, Drawing, Brushwork
Course Length: 2 weeks
Level: Advanced, grades 9-12
Lesson Plan: Hannah Kinker-Clark
Download Lesson Plan: Modernist Shapes


Modern artists are inspired to expose the essence of something without extraneous detail. This type of art provides not only fresh ideas about the world, but a simple approach to the process of how art is made. In this lesson, students will create work that is influenced by modern and post-modern artists such as, Mondrian, Kandinsky, and Rothko. These artists concentrated on the idea of color theory as the essence of art, specifically in paintings. Also believing that with primary colors, all other colors can be made. They will also include geometry by measuring precise, solid shapes in order to make spheres, cubes and square pyramids. Students will combine these two concepts by painting the colorful, modern images on the surface of the shapes.


  • Students will learn how to break down the essence of an idea into simple shapes, and to create a concept out of the use of color.
  • Students will use the influence of artists from the modern and post-modern eras to incorporate rhythm through color in their work.
  • Students will learn how to create perfect balance, composition, and will essentially break something down to the essence of flatness; like the surface of the shapes.

National Visual Art Standards (9-12)

Students will:

  1. apply media, techniques, and processes with sufficient skill, confidence, and sensitivity that their intentions are carried out in their artworks
  2. conceive and create works of visual art that demonstrate an understanding of how the communication of their ideas relates to the media, techniques, and processes they use.
  3. reflect on how artworks differ visually, spatially, temporally, and functionally, and describe how these are related to history and culture
  4. apply subjects, symbols, and ideas in their artworks and use the skills gained to solve problems in daily life.
  5. analyze and interpret artworks for relationships among form, context, purposes, and critical models, showing understanding of the work of critics, historians, aestheticians, and artists e. analyze common characteristics of visual arts evident across time and among cultural/ethnic groups to formulate analyses, evaluations, and interpretations of meaning


Part 1. Planing and Calculating:

  1. Begin by choosing the shape you would like to create, and how many sides you would like it to have. You can find shapes and figure out how many sides they have by searching PLATONIC SOLIDS on the internet, but be aware that as the number of sides increases, so will the difficulty.
  2. Once you have chosen a shape you will then need to make a pattern. So if you wanted to make a tetrahedron (a pyramid) or a octahedron (a diamond) you would need to create a triangular pattern, If you wanted to wanted to make a cube you would need a square pattern, and if you wanted to make a decahedron I would need to make a pentagon pattern.
  3. Now that you have determined what type of pattern you will need, you need to figure out how many sides you need. So for a tetrahedron (a pyramid) you will need 4 sides. This means you will need to cut out 4 triangle slabs. For an octahedron (a diamond) you will need 8 sides. If you would like a decahedron you will need 12 sides, and if you wold like a cube you will need 6 sides.

Part 2. Construction

  1. Once you have chosen a shape, cut out the pattern you will need out of sturdy cardboard. So if you wanted a cube you would now cut out a square out of cardboard to use as your pattern.
  2. Roll out a slab of clay approximately ¼" thick.
  3. Using your cardboard pattern, cut out the number of sides you will need. Again if you were making a cube, you would cut out 6 squares from the clay slab using your square cardboard pattern.
  4. Lay all the cut out sides on a flat board with news paper under them, and allow them to slightly stiffen up so that they do not flex in your hand when you pick them up.
  5. Using an X-ACTO knife or a pin tool, bevel the edges of each side at the approximate angle needed to attach each side. For example, if you were making a cube you would need to bevel the edge at a 45 degree angle.
  6. Score and apply slip to each beveled angle, then attach the sides to make your enclosed shape. This may take some finesse, but the clay will bend to give you some wiggle room if your measurements are less than perfect.
  7. Once all the sides are attached and you have your shape, allow the form to stiffen to a leather-hard state. Use a slightly dampened scouring pad to smooth the attachment joints, then polish the entire exterior surface with a damp sponge.
  8. Allow your shape to completely dry until it is no longer cold to the touch, and then bisque fire it to cone 04.

Part 3. Choosing an Artist

  1. Begin with properly fired shelf 04 bisque. Moisten a clean sponge and wipe bisque to remove any dust.
  2. Choose one of the great modernist painters for inspiration. Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky, and Mark Rothko were selected for this particular example.
  3. Print images of the artist's work for inspiration and reference.


  • Use the various Designer Liner Colors, SG-401 Black, SG-403 Red, SG-404 Blue, SG-405 Green, SG-406 Brown, SG-407 Yellow, SG-408 Orange, to draw various shapes and line designs in the style of Kandinsky's paintings.
  • Once your design work is dry, brush on two coats of S-2101 Crystal Clear Brushing.
  • Fire to cone 05/06.


  • Using thin masking tape, tape off a square grid on the flat surfaces of your shape.
  • Use three coats of SC-74 Hot Tamale, SC-6 Sunkissed, and SC-11 Blue Yonder to paint in the square grid in a random order leaving some squares blank.
  • Once the Glaze is completely dry, remove the masking tape.
  • Fill in the grid where the tape was with the SG-401 black Designer liner.
  • Once all other design work is dry, brush on two coats of S-2101 Crystal Clear Brushing.
  • Fire to cone 05/06.


  • Using three coats of SC-74 Hot Tamale paint the same shape as the shape you are painting on the top half and leaving a thin border of unglazed area. For example, paint a triangle on the top half if you made a pyramid and a square if you made a cube.
  • Using SC-11 Blue Yonder paint three coats of the remaining bottom half leaving a border around the edge equal to the border left above.
  • Equally mix SC-11 Blue Yonder and SC-74 Hot Tamale together, and then paint three coats in the border left blank around the shapes painted above.
  • Once all the glaze has completely dried, fire to cone 05/06.

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