Light and shadow create form, which makes drawn or painted objects look three-dimensional. Too much of either one in your drawings or paintings flattens and distorts the images. Many early drawings I did were flat and distorted. It was frustrating and caused me to quit drawing. Then an art teacher told me to put a sheet of tracing paper over one of my failed self-portraits and draw the dark and light shapes I saw. “Use charcoal and draw all the shapes you see until you have the squiggly lines of what looks like a topographic map,” he told me. When I did, he had me transfer the drawing from the tracing paper to a thick, smooth sheet of watercolor paper. Then he told me to fill in the shapes with color that matched the shapes’ value, i.e., the lightness or darkness. I had no idea what I was doing or how my finished painting was supposed to look. But while I painted, it didn’t take long for me to realize I was painting a type of abstract art. Because the paper was smooth, it was easy to correct shapes where I placed either the wrong value or a color I didn’t like. When I finished, I had purposely painted a flat and distorted portrait. Distorted paintings, I discovered, are more readily accepted than distorted drawings. Since that day, I have painted more distorted portraits. The one shown here is acrylic paint on art board and one of my favorite paintings.