Talk with me about abstract art

I look at a lot of abstract art.  It’s my favorite style of art to look at and to make.  But, I struggle a little with it, intellectually.  Maybe that’s the problem…thinking intellectually about it at all.  I have this notion that there is a “right” way to make abstract art, and that what I do is not done in the “right” way and is therefore not legitimate as true abstract art.  When I make an abstract painting I don’t plan it out or think about it ahead of time at all.  I sit down, look at my palette and think about what colors I feel like using and then I just start slapping it on.  After the first few completely random passes of the brush, I start thinking about what else it “needs” (whatever the hell that means) and I just keep playing until I don’t feel like it “needs” anything else.  Sometimes I like the outcome and sometimes I don’t.  I don’t really think about composition, values, balance, etc. at all.  For this reason, I don’t feel that I’m making legitimate abstract art.  Aren’t you supposed to think about these things in abstract art?  Mine just seems to come straight out of my right brain to my right hand, bypassing any analysis from the left brain at all.  So, am I just indulging myself with paint or am I making abstract art?  What else do I need to learn about abstract art in order to feel like I’m actually making abstract art?  I would LOVE to hear some commentary on this.

There are a few abstracts (or whatever they are) on my gallery page, and here are a couple more from earlier this year.

14 thoughts on “Talk with me about abstract art

  1. I see absolutely nothing wrong with this approach. Some may want it to be an intellectual experience; I do not. We can do these things automatically. It’s process. And it’s art if we say so. I say so. Keep it up.

  2. I don’t think you have to consciously plan composition. You can feel it and let the idea evolve as you work. It’s often not a plan but a discovery.

    1. Thanks, Mark. I guess I’m feeling a little more validated by my haphazard approach. Are you still painting? You used to do some beautiful geometric kind of mandala-like stuff back in the SB days. Miss you…

      1. I have not painted for quite a while. Maybe law school knocked it out of me, but your nice pictures have got me thinking about it again. I miss you too! I wish you lived closer so we do some art together.

        1. I think it would be great if you dusted off your brushes and got back to painting. I would imagine that your astronomy interests would provide some inspiration for you. I look at a lot of astronomy images when I’m looking for ideas for paintings. I wish we were closer, too… I usually paint alone but it would be fun to share a studio!

  3. So as I was saying….
    Abstract is by it’s very nature neither good nor bad, right or wrong. You certainly can feel free to utilize some basic principals of design just to make it interesting and engaging and then again… maybe the point is that it’s not interesting or engaging? It’s so hard to give constructive criticism because it’s almost always an eye of the beholder issue. For me I do tend to play by a few simple rules, just because without some interesting shapes and contrast there really isn’t much to keep the viewers attention long enough for them to interact with the art. So, in summary, you propose valid questions that there are no easy answers to. Kandinsky would say: “Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to walk about into a hitherto unknown world.”

    1. I like that Kandinsky quote, Sean. His art really does “enable one to walk about into a hitherto unknown world.” I guess I tend to over-analyze sometimes and every time I read some kind of rule about abstract art, I read something else that totally contradicts it. There was a time when abstract art was supposed to be viewed as though in a flat plane in the picture with no depth, but then the expectations changed and “good” abstract art was supposed to have depth, complexity and three dimensionality. Whatever! I tend to like depth and complexity in abstract art. I want the piece to draw me in and to draw my eye from one area to another and to hold my attention for some time while I look at and think about what I’m seeing. I’m less interested in abstract art that looks the same from one area to another, like a sheet of pretty wrapping paper. That doesn’t make a piece any more or less legitimate in my opinion, but it’s a matter of personal taste or eye of the beholder, as you said. I am enjoying hearing comments on this subject and it has given me some encouragement to continue with the approach I tend to take, which is to let my emotions and reactions guide me through the process and not fret about what is “correct” or “incorrect.” And, to also not worry about whether a viewer will like or even understand something I’ve made. It sort of relates back to why I don’t like to title my paintings. I don’t like to influence anyone’s reactions to any piece of art. Thank you so much for commenting! I love your work!

  4. The idea of abstract is that it is an idea that is abstract.  It does not require definition or guide lines.  Abstract allows you to infinitely push the boundaries of art because abstract comes from within you.  So you are only then limited in abstraction by your level of introspection.  If you feel like you are bypassing “higher” levels of restrictive or censoring thought then you are yeilding your creative processes to baser elements of your psyche.  Which, if you allow yourself over time, may reveal a level of depth that is somewhat similar to left brain processes.  The question seems to be what do you wish to accomplish or get out of abstract art? There are many theories and ideas out there because each person has their own thoughts and ways to think.  It seems to me that there is subject matter in your works shown above beyond perhaps just emotion.  If you are painting without concious thought then I would assume you are coming from an area of subconcious thought and it seems there is something there, just by viewing your work.  If you want to progress in abstract art then I would recommend finding those questions that are pertinent to you and cary enough interest to help you have a path in which to delope your creativity.  If you don’t wish to do this then keep doing what you are doing.  After a while something will come about.
    I had written a half hearted blog on levels of thinking and thought pertaining to the subject of abstract art.  
    If you are interested message me and I may share it again.  
    Nothing I say is right or wrong but they are just some things that helped me in my artistic path.
    Some people like to make abstract art intellectual because that’s where their abstract takes them.

    1. Very interesting comments, Chris. To answer your question, I’m not at all sure what I want to accomplish or get out of abstract art. I never thought about art (my art) in that way. I just do it. Sometimes I paint a particular thing or some representation of a thing and sometimes I just paint. Sometimes I have an idea in mind that I may work out in sketches beforehand and sometime I just sit down and paint. Sometimes I paint abstractly, no recognizable subject matter, but the style may be very precise and careful, and other times I paint abstractly with wild abandon. It just depends on what kind of mood I’m in when I sit down. I think I’m getting close to accepting that it’s all legitimate. It’s art if you think it is, whether anyone else agrees or not. I would love to read your post on abstract art. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

      1. Abstract art, I think, is very much like music. I have always wondered why critics of abstract painting and drawing seem to find meaning in music, even though it does not necessarily reproduce sounds observed in the natural world. Color is frequency that our brains interprets as particular colors, and thus, just like musical notes, it has a numerical component or description. Color and the relationship between colors is rhythm. Composition is melody. I think we can experience rhythm and melody in abstract painting just like we do in a symphony.

  5. I like the colors and motion, when I paint I do use many classic techniques, but more so I paint with a great deal of feeling and passion.
    If you want me feel more connected or feel like your doing it “right” I would find a abstract or expressionism painter that moves you and read everything you can about them. If you get a chance go see in person as much art as possible and study the techniques they use, you’ll find a rhythm that feels right for your style. Most of all ( personal opinion) paint for you, if people like it great! If not who cares.
    Best wishes, Benjamin

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