Geometric Abstraction Painting

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Geometric abstraction is a specific form of non-representational art.

It is not about paint flinging.

It uses geometric shapes to portray a theme, using compositional tenets to achieve a pleasing or thought-provoking statement in a non-illusionist or two-dimensional manner.

Although the painting does not have realistic elements, it may be based on an actual location, feeling or group of objects.

This really is nothing new. Islamic art has been using pattern-based art for hundreds of years, using this style of art to visually link spirituality, science and art. It is also evident in the architecture of historic and modern Islamic cultures. The western school of art was influenced by these depictions, as artists discovered the ability of non-representational art to trigger emotion with color, shape and spatial relationship.

Prepare To Work At It

Creating a geometric abstract painting requires the same degree of planning as any representational work of art. There is composition to develop, color harmony or discord to consider, balance, depth and scale. This is taking strong formal elements and reducing them to their geometric foundation.

Spend some time doodling with basic geometric shapes to get a feel for creating non-objective compositions that are pleasing to the eye. Use the rules for composition as you sketch, working toward a composition that is worth taking to the next level.

A student may even set up a still life of objects that is compositionally pleasing and use that as a basis for his drawing. Using the still life, render the objects to their most basic shapes. The student will end up with a composition of squares, rectangles, circles, ovals and other linear shapes. Use this as a basis for the painting.

Uncover the geometric forms that nature offers to develop design patterns based on landscapes. Sketching landscapes in their raw, essential forms may titillate the imagination for new compositional material. The local color and realistic objects play no part in this study, as the shapes are the focus, not the actual subject.

It’s All About The Color

Sit back and study the composition. What do you see in it? Does it provoke an emotion? Let colors show themselves in the mind’s eye and create a palette of hues to go with the composition.

The artist may wish to use a limited palette, allowing the colors to form their own blended shades. As he grows more comfortable with non-representational art, the artist will find his way with color. Starting with a minimal palette allows the artist to focus on his composition, which may grow and change as colors are added to the support. This is a time for experiments, study, trial and error.

There are many color choices in this type of painting. A student may use bold masses of color, adding excitement and intensity to an area or focal point of the piece. In this instance, the color is the statement rather than the figures within the composition. Conversely, subtle nuance of color can be used to add clarity and cohesion to the arrangement.

Mediums and Methods

Doing a geometric abstraction as a student, there may be more time spent on theory and composition than on the actual painting. When the student is comfortable with this new mindset, and is ready to delve deeply into this interesting style of painting, he can begin studying how color can be used with his newfound style.


Watercolor is transparent, and therefore allows different planes to show through one another. The texture of a watercolor will be derived from the support used, and the brush strokes that make up the painting. A watercolorist can apply numerous layers to build up depth and retain the luminosity of light reflecting through the paint to the paper and back again. This lends a light and glowing feel to the work.


Painting in acrylic is a fast way to complete a painting. If the artist uses paint to build up heavy layers and textures, the drying time is minimal in comparison with oil paint. Acrylics are a favorite way to add texture to a painting, without spending many months completing a work. Adding sawdust, mica, sand or other textural elements to the paint can add another dimension to the creation.

Since the paint is fast drying, it is possible to continue almost non-stop with an acrylic painting. It can be used in a watercolor fashion as well as in the style of oil paint.


When this form of painting became popular, oil was the main medium used to paint geometric abstractions. Since oil takes time to dry between layers, it may be wise to paint wet in wet, if possible. If the artist chooses to scumble paint for effect, or wants to paint wet on dry, he should plan multiple paintings, as he will have plenty of down time for reflection. Oil can be built up for textural effects, but this will take considerable time for drying. Heavy texture is best left to acrylic paint.

Oil paint has a capacity for beautiful gemlike luminosity that cannot be replicated. If the artist has decided to portray his composition is such a fashion, he will learn patience as his many layers of paint dry between applications.

An abstract painting is not easier to create than any other genre. Perhaps the painting itself is less demanding, as detail is generally not associated with this style of work. However, the preparation is as involved as any still life or portrait.

Abandoning preconceived notions regarding subject matter, and using only the basic tenets of drawing and painting can be a liberating experience for the art student. Not every painting will be a masterpiece, but this disciplined, non-objective art is a lesson in thinking outside the box that expands the artist’s possibilities in creativity.

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