N is for...

To emphasize only the beautiful seems to me to be like a mathematical system that only concerns itself with positive numbers.

– Paul Klee

N is for Numbers, Neutral colours and the number Nine.

Numbers: Having done several letter-based mini-projects, we will pause a while and incorporate the ten numerals that we are familiar with and see daily on a virtually continuous basis.

Neutral colours: Use the basic colours of white and black highflow or watercolour, mix with small quantities of other colours to create a spectrum of warmer and cooler greys and neutrals.

Nine: We will be exploring composition and formation by means of the ten basic letters and other simple forms. We will also incorporate shades of neutrals and greys.


You will need a few sheets of paper and a magazine.

We see the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 0 on a continuous basis and they influence our daily lives and routines in so many ways from the numbers on a clock to telephone numbers, speed limits and recipe quantities.

Write these numbers down in your normal handwriting (numerally). Once done, create larger drawn versions and cut them out to create a template. Each number should be about three to five inches high (7 to 15cm). If you prefer to use a more traditional typographical number shape then look on the Internet for downloadable files.

Next you will need a magazine; find some pages with neutral, muted or grey images as supposed to bright colours. Place the cut out numerals on random (neutral coloured) pages in the magazine. Cut out the shape of the numeral. You can try some face down: draw the outline and cut it out the wrong way around. The front of the numeral will be revealed once you turn it around. Observe the variety of numbers you have created.

Find more neutral colours in your magazine and create a few collages paying attention to the use of colours. Use only pages from the magazine as your source of material. Add pattern and variations in monochrome or muted colours by cutting out sections. See what you can discover and adapt it to suit your style. You can alter the numbers by adding other cut out shapes on top of it to create for instance facets or patterns, a 3D effect or distortion. Remember to use a wide spectrum of mostly neutral colours.

Number Nine

N is for number Nine: I love to use formations in squares based on nine repeated shapes. Whilst you are cutting out numbers, find additional shades of grey and other neutrals in the scraps of paper, cut these into simple similar shapes.

Use these by repetition in your arrangement of nine, within a square shape or within a collage, incorporating your number shapes. If you’d like you can add some brighter accents. Keep these limited though as the focus is on neutral colours.


Working with the limitations of the brief you will discover random patterns, textures and colour combinations through the cutting out of the letters. Adapt these to create neutral arrangements with the same source. A simple task, but it might bring its own challenges. Pay attention to detail, balance, dimension and arrangement.

Here’s a link for some inspiration:


You're welcome to share your outcomes in the group’s Facebook page. Please don't post course material or outcomes to to other public Internet sites or to social media.

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© 2020 Esté MacLeod

© 2020 Explore Colour