Exploring the Abstract

I have never really understood abstract art, and mostly didn’t like it. Every once in a while I would see a piece that appealed to me. Generally, though, my reaction was just to pass it by. So it seemed to me that the best way to understand abstract art was to create abstract art.

It was an interesting process, and I discovered some things about abstract art itself and some things about myself as a painter. It turns out that abstract art uses all the same principles as representational art. I guess this should not have surprised me! As I painted, I paid attention to form, to variation, to color harmony, to composition. In fact, although I have often looked on this kind of painting as somewhat random, I found myself making artistic decisions with every mark I made. So much for the “any four-year-old could do this” theory!

The process, however, was different than my process for making representational art. I did far less planning. I experienced myself as somewhat more driven by feeling, even though feeling is also an important component in my other art. I worked faster, with pauses to look at the work before acting again. It was a kind of staccato rhythm rather than the more even tempo of painting a landscape.

Because representational painting is more structured, it is easier to work toward what I want to depict, just continuing on through challenges. Abstract art has no roadmap, or at least it does not at my current level of experience, which is virtually none. This meant that I made several pieces, and larger pieces, then used a mat to find the parts of the painting that were strongest.  Thus it took more paintings to get one (a part of a larger work) that was worth framing.

I was much more aware of my creative impulse as having depth and an embodied quality. It’s there with any art-making, of course. But without representational form as an intermediary, I had nothing to “represent,” so to speak, other than that impulse. I imagine that some abstract painters start with a particular feeling or experience that they wish to paint. Perhaps I will try that too. But in this case, I just painted what wanted to be expressed in the moment. It was freeing. Here is the result (16″ x 12″).


I’ve titled it “Winds of Change.” Partly this refers to the artistic change of working abstractly. But it also refers to the changes occurring in this country. May the winds of change blow us toward justice and love.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Exploring the Abstract

  1. Karen Grace says:

    and, may the force be with us all!

  2. Susan Bettmann says:

    I like hearing about your artistic process. Have you ever talked with Heidi Broner about painting? She’s a second generation fine art painter, and has really interesting ideas about how to set up a painting.

    Thanks for your post. See you tomorrow,



  3. jamie miller says:

    OK, last try
    I really like this painting! I too have not been a fan of abstract art usually. When I was growing up, my father did a lot of painting, usually landscapes in oil. They were quite good, I thought. In his 70s and 80s, he switched to abstract painting. We all hated it and tried to get him to go back to painting landscapes, but he wouldn’t. Said he was done with realism. So it was a treat to see an abstract painting I liked ! Thank you!

  4. Gail Anderson says:

    Quite appealing, drew me in. Both the bright bold color and the playful shapes amused and entertained me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s