A successful abstract painting does not just happen.
It takes work, revision and basic knowledge of drawing concepts. Picasso was a classically trained artist before he made the break to non-representational art. Because he knew the rules of perspective, balance, composition and color, he could bend and break the rules and create dynamic, appealing works of art.
Flinging paint on a canvas may result in serendipitous pretty pictures, but that is a trial and error method. This is similar to taking hundreds of snapshots and culling them out to obtain a few good pictures.
A student should rely on practice and education to achieve successful results in all his attempts, or at least learn from his less-than-stellar efforts.
Picasso was quoted as saying that there is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.
This is true in most cases, although if an artist is portraying sounds, emotions or spirituality, there may be no visual starting place. For the purpose of this article, the student will be involved in re-creating objects in his own interpretation.
Balance And Direction
A painting must have proportion. It should balance in some way to give meaning to the viewer. It may be an uncomfortable equilibrium or a comfortable one, but it is exists.
The artist may choose to have pleasing balance that makes the viewer comfortable with the piece. He may just as easily prefer the piece to create tension with the viewer. In this case, the artist may elect to have the balance off enough to cause conflict for the observer. In either case, the composition was done with thought and premeditation.
The observer’s eye will follow a path across the painting. The artist controls this in the way he sets up the composition. The composition leads the viewer from one point to another in a conscientious way. This is direction, and can be accomplished in several ways. Color and brush stroke can move the course of the painting as well.
Where To Find Abstract Inspiration
One way of finding inspiration for an abstract painting is to take an existing realistic picture or painting and reduce it to its most simplified geometric or natural shapes. Half close your eyes until you just see fuzzy basic shapes with no definition. A tree becomes a cylinder, a seated woman a pear shape, and so on. The student is using an existing composition, which is already prepared. By reducing the objects to shapes, he is translating the scene to a non-representational one. This is a good way to practice without the pressure of composing an entirely new design. Take that newly created scene of shapes and paint it, not as the objects they were, but as organic or geometric shapes with color choices entirely different from the original.
Another method, which requires the artist to make compositional decisions, is to cut a number of shapes from colored paper. Use basic forms such as circles, squares, ovals and triangles in different sizes. Toss the shapes onto the floor. Push them about and reposition them. Try dropping them again until you find a pleasing composition. The student can cut a mat or use an empty frame to move over the space looking for interesting compositions. Use part or all of the arrangement as a composition for a non-representational painting.
Look at the world from a different perspective to find inspiration for an abstract piece. An image from an electron microscope of plant life, animal life, a microbe or germ has great potential. Space photos or DNA sequences can arouse an idea. There is great beauty and symmetry in the universe that can be developed into a myriad of non-objective art themes. Find something that is appealing and translate it into your own work of art, using colors and textures to redefine the shapes and spaces.
A final method for developing an abstract image is painting negative space. Set up a simple still life. Paint the shapes around the objects. You are not painting the objects, but filling in the space between and around them. You may do that with interesting color combinations or transitions, textures and brush strokes. The artist may focus on just one interesting portion of the still life, or include the whole.
Color In Abstract Art
The color, form, line and texture may be the subject of the painting, or may provide the local color to enhance the design. In either case, it is paramount that the artist plan how he will use color on his painting.
One simple way for a student to proceed is to limit his palette. With fewer colors, it will be easier to keep the color theme controlled. Create a minimalist color scheme. Use a monochrome palette of shades of one hue or a palette consisting of only two or three colors. Use only neutrals and add just a touch of a vibrant accent color to highlight a focal point.
For a jarring tone, use opposites on the color wheel. This will need a good deal of attention to pull off successfully, as it will surely be noticed.
A student’s art can be static with intensity or fluid with apparent spontaneity. There will be careful planning in this organized chaos, and practice and study of basic art theory will give the student the tools he needs to create successful, thought provoking abstract art.