IAS371: methods of abstraction

In my ever-present quest to gather some shreds of confidence and not be overwhelmed by the infinite possibilities of mark-making, I began by looking online at the "how to" of creating abstract art and found a literal ton of information related to methods and techniques but none of them went deep enough for me. They were mostly step by step guides separated from any internal process and it's the internal process of abstraction that interests me most.

So what are the deeper questions for me (as a beginner) in attempting to make abstract art?

What am I trying to express? Do I want to create emotional engagement? What's my concept? How personal do I want this to be? Is it even possible to create art (no matter how abstract) in a non-personal way? What specific elements am I attracted to in abstract art?

I enjoyed a few videos. Especially the one below about how to paint like Mark Rothko:

This video was helpful: Process of a painting: chaos precedes order. I liked seeing how the artist uses drawing and painting and removing and applying medium.

This article and video was great. It's a very cool idea... I could put on some grief-wracked music and draw blindfolded. I've never tried to draw music before. Could be fun.

Some tutorials to dive into:


Probably the most helpful getting started path I stumbled was on a closer look at composition in abstract art. I found a great .pdf of classic compositions to explore (below). This article explores underlying structures in more detail. The author speaks of these underlying shapes as acting as a glue to hold the artwork together:
  • grids in any axis
  • horizontal, diagonal and vertical line
  • L, H, S or Z shapes
  • cruciform shape
  • bridges that connect one side with the other
  • radiating lines
  • curves and circles
  • balanced and unbalanced
  • group mass

Techniques to play with...

Focusing on...

  • drawing
  • monochrome
  • creating contrast
  • applying and removing medium
  • layers of wash and transparency
  • subtle and bold
  • smudging, blending, feathering
  • balance and eye movement
  • medium embedded in the surface
  • my embodied physical motion
  • large scale works (eventually)

Good to note:

While the prolonged application of alcohol can have an adverse effect on the surface consistency, a quickly brushed application onto a lightly applied pastel underpainting makes the pigment adhere to the surface, producing a nearly permanent image. Once dry, pastel can easily be applied without mingling with the under layer, or mixed-media techniques with watercolor can be applied without disturbing the initial alcohol/pigment underpainting. The rapid drying nature of the alcohol also produces a more fragmented, loose brushstroke appearance that is an interesting effect to which to respond. (source)

So far...

I'm finding myself a little overwhelmed with options and lack of experience but there's only one way to fix that, Mira darling - just get into it. It's been supportive to have a closer look at methods and especially understand more about how composition can be used as an underlying structure. I'm excited about discovering how each structure tells a story of it's own and how I can use that to capture the essence of what aspect of grief I want to express. Also, I love the idea of how an alchemical change can occur in the image by working back into a medium again and again (as in burnishing). This is perhaps the deeper meaning for me personally in grief - a sense that grief polishes the soul in a horrible but necessary way and brings us closer to a life itself. I find myself really attracted to the horizontal line in the abstract works I've seen so far. I'll start there and see how it unfolds! Love this...

"Of all the arts, abstract painting is the most difficult. It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened sensitivity for composition and for color, and that you be a true poet. This last is essential." - Wassily Kandinsky

Squares of Concentric Circles
Wassily Kandinsky
Watercolor, gouache and crayon on paper
9.4 × 12.4" (23.8 × 31.4 cm)