Shape, Line and Color

Art is life. Life is Art.

On a Kindergarten field trip to the Santa Barbara Art Museum, the docent shared with the students the three elements of all art; Shape, Line and color.

IMG_6886(Anna Stump- Littlest Artist)

For centuries, shape, line and color have influenced how and why artists do what they do, in a visceral way.  Art always carries a story.  The shape, line and color that create a painting, installation art, sculpture or other representations, fuse together and tell something about the time period when a piece was created or the emotions of the artists themselves. These stories can stand alone, in a solitary portrait, for example, or they can be drawn over a series of artistic pieces.  There are billions of ways to combine shape, line and color, and artists continue to remind us how stories evolve.

What if we could think of our role as a parent, in an artistic way, and categorize our parental efforts into these three categories? What a changed perspective of a valley of opportunities! 

IMG_6998(Anna Stump- “Meadow of Light”)


The skill of allowing your child or children to be who they are intended to be.  The effort of nurturing our kids to be effective and compassionate in society. This is moral support, unconditional love and family bonding as well as faith, patience and perseverance.  Shape is character-building, grace and compassion for others.

IMG_1913.jpg(Anna Stump- “Life in Yucatan”)


This is the business of routine. Brushing teeth, caring for the house and pets are all line . The curfews, the commitment to stick to something even if it is difficult. The attentiveness to rest and physical fitness and work ethic. The homework and caring for neighbor’s plants.  These are all line.  Line elements take time and consistency and foresight for the purposes these routines hold.  From Mesozoic times to the present, line plays a crucial role.

IMG_6889(Byzantine, Mosaic Fragment with Leopard- Photographed at the Museum of Modern Art in Chicago)


Ah, color. The flare-factor! The joy-seeking, go-with-the-flow side. The trips and adventures you enjoy with your children. The breakfast for dinner. The birthday or tooth fairy surprises. The pieces of life that offer no limits. The hours you spend trying to teach your four-year-old to whistle, because it’s so full of laughter for the both of you! Color is the piece of parenting that allows for endless creativity and thousands of permutations to elevate your little ones’ spirit. This is the category where we, as parents, get to open doors for our kids and watch them walk through.

IMG_1887(Anna Stump- “Depth of a Cenote”)

So, there are some days when I feel all I do is set boundaries. It’s all line. And it’s so taxing.  Other days are shape work and with four girls, this is timely too!!  As for color, sometimes I forget how beautifully important this category is and how creating spaces of time to be joyful with our daughters is critically important.  How we chose to nurture each one of these artistic qualities can act as an influence supporting our child in one beautifully unique, piece of art.

All of us are evolving works of art.

You can say infant-times are like Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings. These soft, gentle strokes of beauty fill up anyone’s blank canvas.

IMG_2473.jpg(O’Keeffe’s – Blue and Green Music, Photographed at the Museum of Modern Art in Chicago)

You can say toddler life is like Pointillism, balancing stillness and movement, pixellated and unpredictable.

IMG_6888(Paul Klee’s, Sunset.  Photographed at the Museum of Modern Art in Chicago)

You can say that the elementary years are like installation pieces.  Fast growth here and there, all the time. A beautiful fusion of what was, with what is.

IMG_2483.jpg(Installation art at the Museum of Modern Art in Chicago)

And those teen years? We are only just getting glimpses of these now, but I expect they will resemble Salvador Dali’s work. After all, turmoil and expression and boundary-pushing have all been deemed, for centuries, as artistic expression!

(I have no image for this yet.  I am staying completely open.)

The elements of art are critical in the raising of kids. We don’t “frame” them and call it done. We support and nurture and challenge and then, stand back to marvel. Then we work a little more and parent with our best skills and stand back again.  Again, and again and again, and while we do this, our own orchestration of a masterpiece unfolds for the art that we offer to our own lives. Those tapestries of stories that are uniquely our own remain part of the world’s art. They don’t have to grace museum walls or be protected under tempered glass. We are free to let them go where they will.

In the raising of children, life is art and art is life.

IMG_2451(Anna Stump- “Raven at Dawn”)



4 thoughts on “Shape, Line and Color

  1. I needed this tonight. I REALLY needed some form of perspective after a hard evening of parenting, wife-ing, and everything-ing. This was a really cool post, Anna. This took the place of a phone call I just didn’t make to a person I just couldn’t decide on. In my quiet time while everyone is sleeping, your post came my way. Thank you! I loved the way you defined shape, line, and color. The last two days have been all line with our older one. Line ALL day for two days is exhausting. I got to the point of saying he and my husband might need to move into their own little cottage! I know the morning will bring newness for everyone, so hopefully there will be more shape and color tomorrow. Forgiveness on all sides. Fresh perspective with the sunrise. But gosh, momming is the longest, craziest endurance race ever dreamed up. There’s NEVER a break for a month or a summer! Years and years and years. It’s dreamy easy with an easy personality (our younger one) and it’s daily intense with an intense personality (our older one). Thanks for helping me out with your thoughts and for introducing me to a cenote. I had to look that one up. Now I want to go to the Yucatan again. I saw the cenote at Chichen Itza 24 years ago, but it’s nothing like what you must have experienced!! Sweet dreams and keep writing!! Love, Edee


    1. Edee,

      So thankful this piece came to you at a time in which it was needed. You are so right. Parenting, never honors true breaks. I know we can go for good swims, or have a great surf session, or time with friends, or wonderful nights’ sleep- and still, parenting and all it’s many layers, remains in our heads and hearts as we work to navigate it the best we can. Yes, an absolute endurance race- with no end in sight for sure, but only possibility for us to grow, and perhaps, bring more space and time for us as parents too! I love the little cottage idea – but build one for your own artistic space! Then, you have a place to retreat to when needed! This is on my list too mama. Hope to see you in Orcas Island once day soon. Much love and appreciation for your insights and your willingness to share them.




  2. Anna, just last night I was lying in bed feeling heartbroken thinking that recent time spent with the kids has been all logistics and no quality.
    This piece sums up exactly my feelings and provides such clarity into what I’m constantly trying to balance. It’s amazing! This is so beautifully written and sooooooo true! I think this has been my favorite read.. I will read it many times in sure as a reminder of what I’m balancing, help to keep things in perspective. I hope all is well with you and your family. 💚


    1. Jamie, I have also lay in bed thinking that time in the day is too much logistics, and not enough quality. Building back little things, like snuggling in the big bed before the day begins, or sitting down to eat breakfast with the kids, instead of trying to do yet another load of dishes and laundry.. anything small brings the quality back just by being there and being present. Much love to you and your family- they are lucky to have you as their mom.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s