This project requires you to explore ways of working with interlocking shapes. It is based on the traditional Chinese tangram puzzle. Begin by drawing a square on a piece of thick paper, then add lines to divide the square into seven or more angular shapes. Cut along the lines to separate the shapes, then reassemble the pieces in different ways to create six new recognizable forms. The puzzle pieces should touch one another but not overlap (figs. 5.26, 5.27, and 5.28).

Different pieces make up shapes of butterfly, boat, angel, cat, bird, and Durham skyline. In the center is a rectangular puzzle with the text Tangram Puzzle near it.
Figure 5.26 Student Work: Katina Eckert, Puzzle Assignment, 2016.
Eckert created her puzzle with many pieces which allowed her to develop complex forms.
Puzzle shapes for whale, snail, gazelle, pelican, swan, and Carolina Wren are shown in the borders. In the center is a rectangular puzzle.
Figure 5.27 Student Work: Steven Parker, Puzzle Assignment, 2016.
Parker used texture rubbings on his main puzzle form and contrasted it with black silhouettes for his tangram solutions.
The puzzle is made up of circular, rectangular, triangular, and other shapes.
Figure 5.28 Student Work: Tyra Gillard, Puzzle Assignment, 2016.
Gillard placed her completed puzzle off center to develop a dynamic composition. She also created complex backgrounds for her tangram solutions to add visual interest.


In The Studio: Critique a Sample Student Work

Critique one of the student examples in the textbook and answer the following questions:

  • How do the various student samples utilize figure/ground interactions? Do the forms depicted have an established sense of space and environment or are they static/floating images?
  • What are some defining characteristics of the imagery depicted? How is symbolic imagery utilized throughout the projects? How are the depictions of various forms simplified while still conveying a recognizable form? How would you reimagine the attributes and layout of the same sort of objects?
  • How did the artists in the samples utilize positive and negative shapes to create complex forms? Specifically, how are negative shapes developed in the samples to create additional visual interest?

Your instructor will subsequently provide comments on your critique and evaluate you using the rubric attached to the exercise.

In The Studio: Submit Your Work

Submit your In the Studio piece to your instructor. Your instructor will advise you on their preferred submission method.

In The Studio: Presentation and Group Critique

In this assignment, you will both present your In the Studio assignment and critique your classmates' work.

Your instructor will organize groups in advance, and you will coordinate when you will meet. If you are the first person to start the recording, please use the group name provided by your instructor in the title of this recording session so others can join easily.

When you present your work, be sure to answer the following questions:

  • Were the images created for this project the result of goal-oriented or process-oriented experimentation? Did you start with specific images/objects in mind or did the imagery develop through direct manipulation and experimentation with the various shapes?
  • How did you consider the use of negative space in your project? Was the use of negative space necessitated by the limited number of pieces available? Did you map out the use of negative space initially or were the images developed as silhouettes?
  • Was the layout of the initial tangram square produced with particular imagery in mind? How mindful were you in creating a variety of different scaled shapes to aid in your final images?
  • If utilizing recognizable imagery and shapes in your finished compositions, how did you choose to abstract/simplify complex forms? If utilizing non-representational shapes, how did you develop a successful composition with attention paid to the organization of the shapes?

When critiquing your classmates' work, be sure to address the following questions:

  • How does the student utilize positive and negative space to create a unified composition? Is negative space used to imply additional forms and shapes through figure/ground reversal?
  • How does the student address limited access to a variety of shapes? Are the pictograms utilized in the student work effective at conveying the image? How is the student utilizing abstraction of forms to create an effective composition?

Your instructor will subsequently provide comments on your critique and evaluate you using the rubric attached to the exercise.