Tag Archives: creativity

How Subjective Timbre Relates to Color Theory

In my most recent Color & Composition class, our study of color theory took us to the topic of Subjective Timbre.  This is a topic not often covered in discussions of color theory.  Read on for a summary of that part of the discussion.  If you are intrigued,  information about future Color & Composition class sessions can be found at the bottom of this article.

Subjective refers to anything based on the individual (i.e. feelings, opinions, reactions)

Timbre refers to the character of a sound or, in this case, color.

Therefore, subjective timbre refers to our personal responses to, and interpretations of various colors.

Before you read further, take a moment and look around you for a favorite colorful object, or article of clothing.  If possible, have it handy for future reference.

Itten Color Theory and Seasonal Palettes

 Johannes Itten, in his color theory, color system, divided colors into 4 palettes based on the seasons.  He did color studies and presented them to people and found that, universally, everyone could correctly name the season being represented. Try it yourself.  Below are four of seasonal paintings by Itten. Can you guess the season that each represent?  You can find the answer key at the bottom of this blog. Also, make note of the color study that you find most appealing.

1.Itten color theory: Winter color palette

2.Itten color theory: Summer color palette

3.Itten color theory: Autumn color palette

4.Itten color theory: Spring color palette

 

4 Ways Subjective Timbre Affects Your Relationship with Color

Itten observed that people had varying reactions to the color palettes.  This prompted a series of experiments with his students.  In the end, he came to several conclusions related to Subjective Timbre.

1.  Everyone has an affinity for one of these palettes over the others.

Which seasonal palette do you prefer?  Now, take a look at your favorite object.  Does it reflect this same color palette?

One of my favorite objects is this carpet that I purchased while living and teaching in Turkey.

My preference for an autumn color palette is reflected in my favorite rug.

Lea’s favorite rug from Turkey

2. Based on personal coloring (skin tone, hair color, eye color) a person will look better when standing next to one of these color palettes.  Here are photos of me standing in front of 2 pieces of art that I created.  One of these pieces reflects my personal color palette. Can you guess which seasonal palette I prefer?

 

Artists look better standing in front of works done in their preferred seasonal palette.

Lea in front of Crossing Over. Autumn palette.

Artists don't look good standing in front of a palette that doesn't match their personal coloring.

Lea in front of Puppy Love. Spring palette.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Itten’s work on subjective timbre  became the basis for personal color analysis applied to makeup and wardrobe selection (ie: Color Me Beautiful), and interior design.Think about your favorite outfits, or articles of clothing.  What seasonal palette is reflected in your favorite wardrobe choices?.

3. A person’s preferred color palette, the one they are naturally drawn to, is the same palette that is consistent with their skin tone, hair, and eyes or their personal coloring.  

Are you noticing a pattern here?  Are the colors of your favorite clothes consistent with your preferred color palette?

4.  Finally, as artists, we do our best work when we are using our preferred palette.

Apply Subjective Timbre to Your Color Choices

Understanding subjective timbre and your personal color preferences can be helpful in your own creative journey. Think about your best artistic works.  Are they done in your preferred palette?  Also, consider pieces that you have created, and hated.  Is it possible that the color palette is a factor?

I found that this is true for me.  My preferred palette is autumn.  Visit my Portrait and Genre galleries to see how this plays out in my work.  You may notice that I occasionally stray from my preferred scheme.  Depending on your preferences, you may find this pleasing, or not.

When seeking advice from others related to color, be aware that they are likely to respond based on their own subjective timbre. Likewise, when creating a piece of art for someone else, be considerate of their subjective timbre.  

The point of this article isn’t to say that you always need to work in your preferred color palette, but rather, understanding subjective timbre can help you be more successful when working outside of your natural comfort zone.

Blame it on Subjective Timbre

Have you ever . . .

…attempted a guild challenge to use a specific fabric or color scheme with unfavorable results?

…attempted a new work of art based on the identified “color of the year” and struggled to make a composition work?

…seen work by an acclaimed artist and thought, “I know it should be working for me, but it just isn’t.”

…received an article of clothing as a gift from a dear friend, or relative that you deem hideous.? They saw it, loved it, believe it is beautiful, but you won’t be caught dead wearing it.

Understanding your personal relationship with color helps to make sense of all of these situations.

Learn More in My Color & Composition Class

Interested in learning more? Every month I lead a Color and Composition class where we explore a color scheme, color concept, and a composition concept.  We meet online  the 4th Saturday of every month 1:00-3:00 PM MDT. To join us, sign up through the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum.

Subscribe to this blog for future summary updates on topics covered in the Color & Composition class.

 

ANSWERS to Seasonal Paintings

  1. Winter, 2. Summer, 3. Autumn, 4. Spring.

My color palette: Autumn

 

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Composition in 2-value notan.

Positive and Negative Space in Art Quilting

Effectively using positive and negative space is key to creating compelling art quilt compositions.

Positive space is the area of the composition that is happening, or of interest

Negative space is the area around the positive space, and the area that is NOT happening, often referred to as “The Resting Space”

You can’t have one without the other, and both serve attention.

Manage Positive & Negative Space in Art

Negative space doesn’t have to be boring to be effective. It is possible to focus the eye and draw attention to the positive space, but not waste the negative space.

In my portrait quilts, I often create the figure, then audition it on several backgrounds to see what works best.  White space worked well for my tribute to Malala, but something with more color and visual texture was needed to offset the solid mass of the figure in Busy Signal.

Portrait of Malala wearing a red scarf. Negative space is created with a white background. A Islamic floral border of blue and red flowers with green leaves. The center text is a quote by Malala Yousafzai, "With guns you can kill terrorists, with education you can kill terrorism.

Malala, by Lea McComas, 30″ x 50″, 2019.

Mottled and textural print fills the negative space to contrast with the bold figure irepresented with solid spaces.

Busy Signal, 25 in x 36
2017.

Auditions for Negative Space

Selecting appropriate fabric for negative space in your art is a skill that can be practiced in isolation. As with any skill: repetition builds proficiency.  I suggest you do the following exercise in a deliberate and thoughtful manner.  This experience will increase your knowledge base and make the process easier in the future.  

  1. Select a small motif. Begin with something simple, but repeat this process with more complex motifs.
  2. Select a group of fabrics to audition. Look for connections to the motif, i.e. color scheme, shape, line, texture.
  3. Place the motif on each of the fabrics and take a photo reference.
  4. Make notes about the effect and the appeal of each combination.
  5. Also, not the kinds of contrast that are at work: color, value, pattern, line.
a simple seashell motif is auditioned on a variety of fabrics.

Auditions with simple motif.

options to fill negative space with complex motif

Auditions with complex motif.

Notan: Light-Dark Harmony

Notan is a Japanese terms that means light-dark harmony.  This is a way of looking at positive and negative space in terms of value.

The concept is that a composition works well when the light and dark spaces appear in balanced proportions and they work together to create interesting shapes. The light areas should group together and the same for dark areas. Notan commonly done in 2 values, can also work with 3 or 4 values.

Easy Notan Exploration

A simple exploration of this concept is to create mirror image compositions.  The photos below show the process with a simple tree drawing, and black and white fabrics.

  1. Begin with a simple drawing. Add lines to indicate where the design can be cut into 2 halves.
  2. Transfer the drawing to paperbacked fusible and iron to black fabric
  3. Cut the design in half and then cut the tree from the background.
  4. Fuse the back pieces onto white fabric as shown.
simple tree drawing for notan exploration

Explore notan using a simple design.

Mirror image tree with 2-value notan.

Mirror image tree with 2-value notan.

Here is another version of this experiment using 3-value notan.

tree drawing is used to create various versions of a 3-value notan

Mirror image tree composition created with 3-value notan.

Evaluate Positive & Negative Space Using Notan

The concept of notan can be used evaluate or develop a pictorial composition that is balanced and pleasing.  Here is a 5-step process:

  1. Open an image in a photo-editing program

    A close up portrait of an older couple. The woman leans down to kiss the cheek of the man. He is leaning back, eyes closed, and skin is pale. ©2019, Lea McComas, The Long Goodbye, fabric and thread, 44 x 33 inches, $5200. Artist statement:There is a gentle tenderness between two souls that have traveled life's journey together.

    The Long Goodbye

  2. Grayscale the image

    Composition in grayscale.

    Composition in grayscale.

  3. Posterize at 2 levels.

    Composition posterized in 2 values.

    Composition posterized in 2 values.

  4. Change mottled areas to white, or black.

    Composition in 2-value notan.

    Composition in 2-value notang.

  5. Evaluate the interaction of black and white shapes.  If the interplay between black and white; positive and negative space is interesting, this is an indication that the composition is appealing.  

Managing positive and negative space is no guarantee that you will create a masterpiece.  Consider this just one of the ingredients in the recipe for success.

Learn More in My  Color & Composition Class

Interested in learning more? Every month I lead a Color and Composition class where we explore a color scheme, color concept, and a composition concept.  We meet online  the 4th Saturday of every month 1:00-3:00 PM MDT. To join us, sign up through the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum.

Subscribe to this blog for future summary updates on topics covered in the Color & Composition class.

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Unity & Variety Create Harmony & Interest

Unity & Variety are tools to create harmony and interest in art quilt compositions, and were the elements of composition that  we explored in the last session of my monthly COLOR & COMPOSITION class.  In this  blog I’m sharing some of the highlights of that discussion.

UNITY refers to a relationship between the elements within a composition that bring harmony.  The desired effect is to create the feeling that a work is a single creation with multiple parts, as opposed to, a collection of separate things.

Composition with unity

Round place mat with various items including a plant, fork, pen, latex glove, and pliers.

Composition with disunity

Techniques to Create Unity.

A number of techniques can be used to create unity.

Visual Repetition

Visual repetition is probably the most common way of creating unity.  Repetition gives a

Analogous scheme with blue & yellow parents.

Analogous scheme with blue & yellow parents.

sense of familiarity.  As humans, we prefer familiarity over anomaly.  This can play out in various ways:

Color Scheme– Choosing a scheme brings focus and consistency.  Each color is a part of a larger structure.

Line-Repetition of lines is more than having multiple lines.  It is also about repeating the same kind of line, such diagonal, horizontal, s-curve, or spiral.

Shape:  Shapes can be geometric or organic.  They can vary in size, or color. In eluding multiple versions of the shape creates familiarity and harmony.

Proximity

Placing items near each other creates unity through grouping.  This is where negative space is important.  If you are going to create a space for items to gather, there also has to be a place where they do not gather.  This “negative space” will be a topic in our next Color & Composition session.

Still life composition with potted tree in front of a window next to a trunk covered by a hand women mat. A tin cup and pitcher sit atop the trunk with a small plate with tangerines. One is peeled and divided.

Turkish Treasures Still Life, 2020.

This still life composition was created for an article I wrote for Quilting Arts Magazine (April/May 2020).  It illustrates the concept of proximity.  I communicate that these objects go together by placing them in contact with each other, or overlapping them. 

Simplicity

Eliminate unnecessary elements in a composition so that the focus can be on what is important. Too many different things competing with each other creates confusion and discomfort.

When I teach my portrait class, students work from a photo.  One of the first things I talk about is cropping out anything that is in the background that has nothing to do with the subject.  If it can’t be cropped, then distort, blur, or replace it.  This is what I did in Sweet Song From and Old Fiddle.

Hand holding the neck of a fiddle is visible with a mottled blue-green background.

Detail of Sweet Song From and Old Fiddle, 34″ x 18″, 2013.

Thematic Relationship

You may have objects that don’t share other unifying qualities, but they share an underlying meaning.  A good analogy is the sewing machine: it is made of many different parts, but, put it all together and it it works. Remove a piece, and it doesn’t.

I remember a news report on January 20,  Inauguration Day that featured Donald Trump speaking at Andrews Joint Base in front of 17 American flags.  Apparently, the number 17 was important because Q is the 17th letter of the alphabet, and Q-Anon supporters believed this was a symbol of the revolution to come later in the day.

Consider those elements: American Flags, Letter Q, # 17, Revolution.

Regardless of your political leanings, that those elements were thematically connected, is astounding.—Scary as hell, yet, astounding.

The example I have to share with you is much more benign.  I give you Busy Signal where a cell phone, a hand with wait gesture, and a face cut off below the eyes send a message about communication and connection in our world.

Busy Signal, 25 in x 36, 2017.

Add Variety to Create Interest

Variety-of elements creates interest, breaks the boredom, and adds interest.  Again, there are various ways to do this.

 Altered Repetition

Incorporate an anomaly, a change in the repetition.  In the Circles in Squares example below, all of the elements share a color scheme, and the sizes and shapes are consistent, but offsetting, or slight shifting of elements adds interest.

Circles-in-Squares color study

Interrupt the Pattern

Another option is break a pattern my inserting a another element.  I did this in my tribute to Malala, by placing her image over a large floral border.

Portrait of Malala wearing a red scarf with a white background. A Islamic floral border of blue and red flowers with green leaves. The center text is a quote by Malala Yousafzai, "With guns you can kill terrorists, with education you can kill terrorism.

Malala, by Lea McComas, 30″ x 50″, 2019.

Color & Composition Monthly Workshop

Interested in learning more? Every month I lead a Color and Composition class where we explore a color scheme, color concept, and a composition concept.  We meet online  the 4th Saturday of every month 1:00-3:00 PM MDT. To join us, sign up through the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum.

Subscribe to this blog for future updates on topics covered in the Color & Composition class.

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Color Temperature

Fabric Fever: When Color Temperature is Cause for Concern

In these winter days, especially now, having a fever is cause for concern. Staying home and

Does you fabric have a temperature?

away from others gives me more time with my fabric, where temperature has also been on my mind.  Last year, I started teaching a monthly Zoom class on Color & Composition through the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum and our color focus last month was about temperature.  Here is a bit of what we discussed…

What is Warm? What is Cool?

The exact dividing line between warm & cool colors has been an open topic for centuries.

various versions of color temperature

What is your preference?

Your preference likely depends on your medium: a digital graphic artist lives in a different color world than a fiber art quilter.  Here is what I work with…

my take on color temperature

Here are my play groups for warm and cool colors.

I also think of red and green as temperature neutral.  They can function with either play group, but will be the coolest kids in the warm group, and the hottest kids in the cool group.

color temperature - warm

What’s cool in the warm group?

color temperature - cool

What is warm in this cool group?

How is Temperature a Tool?

It’s a fact that warm colors advance and cool colors recede!  In a composition, we can create a sense of depth using temperature.  Warm colors will seem closer to us and cool colors will fall to the background.  Or do they?  Do we know this because someone told us, or because we have experienced it?  I say, “You don’t really own that knowledge until you test it out.”  

So, I created a series of simple compositions of a box on a background.  These are only  8 x10 inches, easy to make, and keep on hand for future reference.

Warm vs Cool – Round 1

First, here is a box in a warm color sitting on a cool color background. 

Does the box visually pop off the surface?

Now, here is the reverse: a cool color box on a warm color background.

What about this box?

If the concept holds true, the first version should appear to have more depth, and the background should fight for dominance in the second.  What do you think?

Warm vs Cool – Round 2

In my next experiment, I pitted warm and cool colors against each other in the same composition.  Using a temperature neutral color green for the back ground, I put a large and small box together in the composition.  Size will indicate to the viewer that the larger box is closer, but, how does color temperature amplify, or mute that message?  

 

Warm vs Cool in Pictorial Quilts

These examples are very dramatic, but the concept can be used in more subtle ways.  Color temperature is relative.  Even within the “Warm” or “Cool” color play groups, each color will appear warmer, or cooler depending on what color plays next to it.  For example, orange is cooler than yellow, but warmer than red.  Also, blue is cooler than green, but warmer than violet. 

I use this concept in all of my work.  Look through my genre and portrait galleries to see how warm tones advance from the cooler backgrounds.  When more than one person is included in a composition, I employ subtle temperature changes in flesh tones to make one figure more prominent, or appear closer than another. 

Which figure has the warmer complexion?

How does temperature amplify depth in this piece?

Experience is the best teacher

Now, if you really want to own knowledge of this concept, you need to conduct your own experiences.  It can be a simple as cutting out some circles of various sizes and colors, and then experiment with placing those circles on different backgrounds.  You don’t even need to fix them permanently.  Try one version, take a photo, rearrange, and take another photo.

If you try this, share a photo of your experiment with me:  Lea@leamccomas.com

Learn More About Color Concepts

Every month, I teach an online Color & Composition class through the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum.  We meet via Zoom on the 4th Saturday of every month from 1:00-3:00 (Mountain Time zone).  Each meeting is a chance to explore a color concept, a color scheme, and a composition concept.  Come every month, or participate when you can.  The cost is $20/ session. Click this link to join us.

Here is what we’ll be exploring at our next meeting on January 23:

Color Concept: Creating Depth

Color Scheme: Analogous

Composition Concept: Variety & Unity

Sign up for the next Color & Composition class with Lea McComas

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New Work: Dogs & Cats

My last blog entry was last summer when I gave a teaser about my new work, and now, we’re fully in the winter holiday season. Has it really been that long?  The winter solstice, at our house, is a time to stop and reflect on the events & accomplishments of the closing year, and set goals and expectations for the approaching year.

Body Building

I set a goal last year to lose some weight and get in shape (sound familiar?). My body building efforts were really about  building up a body of new work.

Got Kibble? at CF Gallery opening,

Got Kibble? is just one of the new works that I completed this year.  It was a hands-down favorite at my show in the Creative Framing Gallery in Louisville, CO in Sep-Oct.  Pet compositions are fun to show in the Boulder area is because we are such an animal oriented community.

 

 

Cat Nap, 44″ x 24″, fabric & thread, © Lea McComas, 2018.

Not to be left out, that other favorite pet, the cat, is featured in my new piece, “Cat Nap”.  This work was inspired by a photo I took while traveling in Greece, back in the mid-1990’s.

Pet Portrait class sample

Previously, I completed a couple of small studies using this image.  Two versions were made for my online Pet Portrait class. Here is one with a tetrad color scheme. Prior to that,  a small work was donated to a charity event. Finally, after 20 years, the full up composition has come to fruition. Now, it’s subtle charm makes it one of my new favorites.

Cats VS Dogs?

At the show, a survey of viewers revealed that cats are more popular pets than dogs. Now, I’m getting a lot of pressure (and fun photos) for a series featuring cats.  What about you? Are you a dog person? or a cat person?

I’m thinking dogs rule.

    Cats rule, Dogs drool!

Stay tuned, there is more work to share in a future blog. In the meantime, if you’ve been inspired to attempt your own pet portrait in fabric, check out my online Pet Portrait Memory class with The Quilting Company.

No time for that?!?  I do commission work.  Contact me and let’s talk about capturing a favorite image of your pet in fabric and thread.

Border Wall Quilt Project

Can’t write a blog without mentioning the Border Wall Quilt Project.  We’re still accepting bricks and the wall continues to grow.  

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Finally, Finished Fusing

Yes, Finally, all of the body pieces are working together and creating the depth of field that I’m looking for.  With the face in place, I add some hair.

Helmet Hair

Helmet Hair

Yuck, that hair looks a bit too much like a helmet, but I’ll fix that when the background is in place.  I rehearsed several fabrics for the background and settled on a piece that I made a few years ago in a dye/print/paint surface design class that I took with Susan Brooks in Louisville, CO.

Periodically, I take a class that is out of my comfort zone, just to learn some new things and  get a fresh perspective.  That was Susan’s class.  I came home with lots of interesting pieces of fabric with no idea what would ever come of them.

Dye class fabrics

Dye class fabrics

more dye fabrics

more dye fabrics

How happy am I to find the perfect background in that stash of “experimental” fabrics.

Background ini place

Background ini place

Now, back to that hair….

more-hair

This is better.  Phase 1: Fusing is complete.

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Puppy Love, Part 2

Oh joy!!! I’ve finished something in less than a month; 2 1/2 weeks actually.  It’s such a thrill to jump into a project and just breeze through to the end.  With this piece, I took a break from thread painting and just did some dense stitching.  The new challenge was to establish some designs that would fit with each element of the composition.

The blonde hair of the girl was easy.  I used various values of yellow threads in long, undulated lines of stitching.

PL hair

Next, similar, but shorter, wavy lines were put down with some variegated threads in a pattern that alluded to the hair of the dog.  Several times I had to stop and pet my dear Coco’s face in order to really understand the changing direction of her hair.  She didn’t mind too much.

PL dog

Stitching the face was a leap of faith.  It is so tricky to stitch the face!  If you try to recreate the actual contours, and the lines aren’t just right, it throws off the perceived shape and makes the face look distorted.  I decided to go in a completely new direction: loop-d-loops.  I covered the entire face in a small repetitive design that had nothing to do with its shape or contour.  I still varied the threads, letting the values do the work.  I’m really pleased with the results.

PL face

The background was the most troublesome decision, just as with choosing the fabric.  The print was complex and busy.  Afraid that it would become too strong and overpower other elements, I didn’t want to stitch the printed design.  I came up with a wandering ribbon design with a tiny meandering stitch to fill in the spaces.  I feel like the 2 patterns of the fabric and stitching sort of neutralize each other and take away their power to dominate.

PL background

Finally, here’s the finished piece.Puppy Love

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Placed on hold

Three months ago, my husband and I found, what we believe is our dream home.  We put

Sample 1. I seem to be be wandering aimlessly

Sample 1. I seem to be be wandering aimlessly

in an offer, it was accepted, and …that’s when things got complicated.  Without going into the details, we are still waiting for some issues to be settled.

It was hard to go to the studio to get into a new creative project when I was poised and ready to pack everything up and move with 3 days notice.  But, one week led to another, and the delays continue.  It was like making a phone call and being placed on hold where a voice breaks in periodically, not to help, but to tell you “your business is important so please wait longer.”

Desperate to make art, I decided to temp the fates.  A local guild opened up a workshop with a visiting artist and I was able to grab a space.   The workshop was about working intuitively and quickly.  These are not my strengths.  I need time to process and mull things

Sample 2. feels like a shrine

Sample 2. feels like a shrine

over, so my productivity was

disappointing at the workshop, but I brought home the “beginnings” and left them laying on the work table for another week.  I touched them, look for inspiration on Facebook, moved them around and eventually, began to find my way.  It is exciting when the process builds momentum.  Like falling dominoes, a chain reaction happens.  One thing leads to another.  The photos show my progress.

Sample 3. Going in circles

Sample 3. Going in circles

The rewarding aspect of this process is that it allowed me to work in a series without making a major commitment.  The big take away, for me, was creating a background fabric by fusing squares of one fabric onto another. I used some hand dyed fabrics I created in a previous workshop.

Sample 5. Squares in the background. Sample 6 from cutout leftovers. Kanji reads: "Creativity"

Sample 5. Squares in the background. Sample 6 from cutout leftovers. Kanji reads: “Creativity”

Sample 7. Playing with a bigger background

Sample 7. Playing with a bigger background

Sample 8. more squares with more contrast

Sample 8. more squares with more contrast

I’m going to find a way to incorporate this into a future “real” project.

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Fused Applique Portrait Class

My Fused Applique Portrait class at CraftU begins March 7. There is still time to sign up. Here’s a link if you are interested:

Fused Raw-Edge Applique Portraits

https://www.craftonlineuniversity.com/courses/fused-raw-edge-applique-portraits

 Here are some samples of portraits done with this technique:

portrait-Jim Lea applique portrait

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Study with Me at Craft U

I have 2 courses that are now open for enrollment at CraftOnlineUniversity.com OR CraftU,

Both of my classes are now open for enrollment.

Both of my classes are now open for enrollment.

for short.  Here are links of you are interested:

Fused Raw-Edge Applique Portraits  is a 6-week course that begins March 7th, 2016.

AND

Thread Painted Portraits is an 8-week course that will begin April 18, 2016

Interested in BOTH courses?? Enter the coupon code THANKS25 when you purchase Thread-Painted Portraits and you will get $25 off the cost of that course.

 

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