Art Education Studio at Home

Kohl’s Art Generation Studio at Home: Shape and Line

American artist Al Held (1928–2005) was an abstract painter, most famous for his large-scale, geometric works. His paintings are full of circles, squares, cubes, and other geometric shapes and forms that overlap. In the painting below, he used a masking technique to create lines with sharp edges. He masked (covered) the white sections with tape and painted the remaining sections black.

Al Held (American, 1928–2005), Inversion XIII, 1977. Acrylic on canvas, 96 × 144 1/4 in. (243.84 × 366.4 cm). Gift of Herbert H. Kohl Charities, Inc. M1983.208 Photo by P. Richard Eells © 2017 Al Held Foundation, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Here’s how you can make your own geometric painting using materials you may already have at home:

What you need:

  • Shiny white cardstock (an old notebook cover works great)
  • Black tempera paint
  • Paintbrushes 
  • Masking tape
  • Black markers
  • Pencil
  • Scissors

Prepare your painting surface.

Liquid tempera paint works best on sturdy surfaces, so you will want to find a material that is thicker than printer paper. A surface that also has a shiny texture will help with a later step. A notebook cover, for example, works great.  It’s also a fantastic way to repurpose materials.
If you do use a notebook cover, first cut off the holes and fringed edges. I plan to make a black and white painting like Al Held’s, so I am working on the white side.

Create shapes and lines with tape.

Tear or cut strips of masking tape and press them onto your artwork surface, creating patterns or shapes. I’m using three different rolls of tape that I found in my house. Each has a different width, so some of my lines are thicker than others. Make sure you press firmly on the tape as you lay it down. This will help prevent paint from seeping underneath it. Remember, the places you apply masking tape will stay white (or whatever color your surface material is).

After pressing down my strips of tape, I use my tape rolls to trace some half circles with a pencil.

What shapes can you make?


Find a paper plate or dish to use as your palette. A palette is what artists use to place and mix their paints. Then, squeeze a small amount of the black paint onto your plate.

Brush an even layer of paint over the masking tape to cover the paper. Only use a little bit of paint on your brush at a time; you don’t want your paper to get too wet.

Paint around the shapes you drew with your pencil, using the edge of the brush. Move carefully and slowly.

Allow the paint to begin to dry before removing the tape.

Time to peel.

Pull gently on the tape to remove it from your paper. Move slowly to prevent any rips or tears.

Add details.

Now that you have revealed your design, it’s time to add smaller, fine lines and details with a marker. I am adding stripes and tracing around the tape roll to make more half circles.

Admire your masterpiece! 

Title your artwork and share it with your family. Experiment, play, and create different geometric paintings. Show off your work on social media. Tag us, @MilwaukeeArt, and use the hashtag #MAMStudioAtHome.

Liala Amin is the Kohl’s Color Wheels Team Coordinator. She develops art activities inspired by the Museum’s collection, and brings a pop-up studio to school and community festivals throughout the region. When she isn’t driving the giant, green van, she enjoys hanging out with her parakeets and painting.

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