Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A walk down the path of abstraction

Despite the self-imposed label of "representational artist" that I assign myself, I secretly (well, okay...maybe not so secretly) want to be an abstract painter as well.   The problem for me is that, while I have no difficulty finding abstractions in nature (clouds, rocks, reflections, patterns, etc.) and as subjects for my camera lens, my mind simply does not work in the way that I can just spontaneously create an abstract painting out of the mental aether, as it were.

So, I rely on photos to some degree as the starting point when I set out to paint something that I hope will be a little more on the abstract side of the fence.  What I love about abstract art is that it encompasses a wide range of painting styles:  that is, an abstract painting can be anything from tightly rendered and hugely detailed to a few blocks of color...and everything in between.  It really depends upon the context of the subject and what the artist intends for the viewer.

Eastward
6x6 inches - pastel on Artagain
© S.Johnson
A great thing about experimenting with abstracts in my studio is that there really are no rules.  Anything goes.  It's a great way to use many of the beautiful color-saturated pastels that normally see little time on the paper, and for me, I think my use of color is sometimes one of my weakest points as an artist.  And in some cases, the less it looks like whatever it was based on in the reference, the better.

In September
6x6 inches - pastel on Artagain
© S.Johnson
Color.  Value.  Design/Composition.  Edges.   Just like a representational painting, an abstract painting needs these elements in order to be successful in my opinion.  Of course, "successful" is a somewhat nebulous term in itself, and is open to interpretation.  For some, that might be a sale; for others, it might be accolades from fellow artists.  For me, it's generally:  "Did I accomplish what I wanted to with this painting, and am I satisfied with it?"

High Country
4x6 inches - pastel on Artagain
© S.Johnson

These are a fun break from the pieces I usually do; I spend far more time considering the four elements I listed above than doing the actual painting, which in these three paintings, were supposed to be very loose.  The last one was done as a "memory painting" - another exercise I've found useful:  study the photo but do not refer to it while painting.

If you find yourself getting into an artistic rut, feeling burned out from your current painting style or subject, I'd recommend taking a walk down this path, if even for a brief time.  For those used to doing realism, it probably won't be easy at first.  But, I can almost guarantee it will be fun, you might find something useful for your primary style of work, and who knows:  you might end up adding abstracts to your repertoire!

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We are heading up to Moab early tomorrow for two solid days of slickrock and canyon hiking adventures in the small window before temperatures drop into the 40's.  Everyone have a great Thursday and Friday!

10 comments:

  1. the texture created in the paintings are amazing! interesting to read your write up and the thoughts that go with the painting!

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  2. Hi M.R. - there's even more texture when you see the paintings in person in the areas where I made the thicker, gestural strokes. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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  3. Great post....why are we so afraid to venture forth in the privacy of the studio? You've provided inspiration for my entire day (maybe week??) Thanks, Sonya.

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  4. Love your abstracts -- perhaps because they still have a "natural" feel.

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  5. Those are my-favorite colors.

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  6. Hi Cindy - good question, isn't it? Nothing ventured, nothing gained the saying goes, and I figure what's the worst that could happen? I'm delighted that I could provide some inspiration for you - how cool!

    Thanks LeAnn - I think any abstract I ever do will be grounded in reality on some level.

    Hi Helen - glad you liked the colors in these; I enjoyed using them :)

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  7. Thanks for this post! I too am drawn to try abstracts but have no idea where to start. I will try using abstracts in nature as my starting point, and your pieces as my inspiration.

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  8. Hi Gabrielle - thanks for stopping by, and I'm delighted I could be a bit of inspiration for another realist painter. I hope you enjoy the process, although it isn't necessarily easy. I am guessing it becomes easier over time, just like everything else.

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  9. Dear Sonya, fabulous work! We completely understand your desire to be abstract as well, no rules, that's the most beautiful part! Fantastic work, really, keep experimenting, thank you for sharing!!!

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  10. Antonia and Fabio - thank you so much for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoyed the paintings, and the experimenting is definitely a good thing, isn't it :)?

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Your thoughtful comments add value to this blog - thank you so much for taking the time to leave them!

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