Blog Menu

Visual Patterns and Grids: Painting by James Ulmer

A painting with a grid of white figures on a blue backgroundBlue and White Grid

Brooklyn-based artist James Ulmer’s practice is highly involved with visual patterns and grids. The artist’s works tend to be figurative, but his paintings follow a delineated geometric pattern in their composition. The result is an interesting blend of abstracted, naïve-style figurative painting and simple, mathematical composition.


A painting of abstracted figures with reference to beach activitiesSummer Highlights, acrylic on canvas

I really enjoy the contrast between the clean, monochromatic background in Ulmer’s paintings and the loose, sketchy-looking figures. The artist tends to use strong primary colours as the basis for his works, with pale figures layered over seas of bright blue or red. His figures, by contrast are often colourless, silhouetted in white with loose black brush strokes serving as facial features or details. Most of his figures appear human, and are reduced to their most basic components – four equal-length rods serving as limbs, a rounded plane of white for a face.


Some of Ulmer’s works take a single figure as their subject, using the same style as seen in his grid-patterned paintings. The use of this loose, blocky painting style on a single canvas is quite striking, as it creates intense contrast in its use of negative space. 


A loose painting of the Cracker Jack mascotCracker Jack

About the author

Dallas Jeffs Art Writer

Dallas Jeffs is the Editor of Artist Run Website's blog. They hold a degree in Critical and Cultural Practices from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, as well as a certificate in Technical Writing from BCIT. Dallas has a passion for speaking and writing about art, and sharing that interest with others. In their studio practice they are an illustrator and budding tattoo artist, but they consider themselves a writer foremost. If you like art, books and culture with a science fiction twist, check out Dallas' personal blog, HappySpaceNoises or their art on Instagram.

Read more of Dallas' posts

Make your art portfolio easy

and focus your time on making art.


Try free for 30 days. No payment required.