Tips: Ways to Approach Painting Abstracts

Abstract Painting Tip 1: I like to use the world around me to compose good abstracts. It is often hard for us as humans to come up with good shapes and compositions just “out of thin air”. So here’s my tip: make yourself a viewfinder from a piece of stiff white paper or matboard.

Make the outside dimensions about 4×4″ (10x10cm). Cut a window in it no larger than 1″ square (2.5cm). Now, using this viewfinder, look at your surroundings.

You can be outside using nature as your raw material or in the studio, using furniture and the top of your taboret as source material. The idea is to look through the viewfinder and see only the big shapes, the negative and positive spaces. Try to avoid cropping so that the objects are recognizable. The idea is to get good abstract shapes that you can then transfer to your canvas and begin composing with.
Tip from: Tesia Blackburn.

Abstract Painting Tip 2: There seems to me two ways of starting to paint an abstract. The first I would call the ‘design’ way and its a way often given in demos of how to paint an abstract. In this you take an existing image, for example a photo or another painting, and either by cutting it up and reassembling or blowing up a part of it create an abstract design, which you then paint in different colors to the original.

To my mind the result is often boring and lacking in impact. It shows a lot of effort but not a lot of inspiration. I do not think any of the great abstract painters painted in this way. It’s a veryleft side of the brain way of doing things.

The second way is to find something which will inspire you, like listening to some music, setting up a still life, or even working from a photo. Then paint how your brain reacts to the inspiration. You can just let it flow and paint as it comes into your head, or give it a lot of thought and plan the painting either in your mind or on paper. This way you will be using theright side of the brain and the painting should reflect your feelings and the emotions caused by the source of inspiration.

It helps to work big and not be mean with the paint. To use other tools like much bigger brushes, sponges, pointed instruments or like Pollock use paint direct from the tube. You still have to use the knowledge that you have on how to mix paint, opacity and some of the fundamentals of composition.

Using a photo as source is I think the most difficult and it helps to use the photo upside down, or you will tend to still paint a non abstract image. You can use collage or calligraphy. It is all up to you, and what will result is a true abstract that reflects your thoughts and reactions to the inspiration.

It is not easy. Do not forget that the masters of abstract painting all started with a conventional art training. Do not try and copy one of your favorite abstract painters, use their techniques like Pollocks dripping, or Mondrian or Ben Nicholson’s carefully worked out geometric paintings, otherwise you will end with a pale copy of their style and not your own individual work.

I think abstract painting is a very cerebral and personal thing. It is not just how you see an object or scene but how your brain reacts to it.





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