The Art of Developing an Abstract Art Painting

Recently I was asked if I paint abstracts. My quick answer was "No, but I'd like to someday". As it happens the universe gives us opportunities every day if we're listening. Two weeks ago I was trying to decide what I was going to paint next with my art teacher, Wayne Epperly. Maybe an abstract would be an interesting thing to try was my thought as the above question was still lingering in my head. I feel I understand how to develop a landscape using balance, unity, color temperature, edges-hard and soft, having a focal point & etc. Do all these same requirements show up in an abstract? I'd been curious. Wayne and I talked it through, answering some of these questions, and decided that I should try to do an abstract. For the fun of it, if nothing else.

Here are some notes on the process:

First thing you've got to do is decide how you are going to start. I think some artists simply put color on a canvas, or pour colors on the canvas, and then look for something in the paint as it incorporates itself. I think that is called intuitive painting and I don't know that I'm comfortable with intuitive painting at this point in my art life. I felt I needed more control than that.

Wayne suggested that I start with one of my landscape photos.  I want you to see the process, so here's the photo I chose.

We turned it sideways, split it in half, cropped one bold area, and made it into a black-and-white photo. And that, folks, was to be my jumping off point. Then I spent some time thinking about the colors that I wanted to use and I chose red, blue and yellow: all primary colors. Then I wanted to add various shadows of turquoise to the mix. I also knew that I needed some type of neutral. Grays seemed to be very calming with all these strong colors. The first day I "laid in" the basic shapes in the colors I'd assigned them. After allowing that to dry, I came back in to soften and unify the painting on the second pass.

Okay. Remember this is my first abstract in oil and I've a long ways to go before this could be something I'd do very often. I will say that I had to think about a lot of things along the way and I also spend at good amount of time sitting and looking at this painting before moving forward each time. And yes a lot more contemplating than I do as I'm doing my landscapes. Maybe there's a lesson I need to take to heart as I doing those landscape paintings in the future.

Here are the end results:

I've been told this is nothing more than another landscape, just abstracted. Some think it's water and sky ... the things I love to paint. To me, it looks like a view from an airplane of the earth below. What are your thoughts as you look at it?

Or maybe you'd like this view better:

I've shown it to many of my painting friends for their thoughts and one friend saw all kind of things: people, animals, The Scream's face in the painting by Edvard Munch and much more. I'm wondering what you see or do you even like it. Maybe the horizontal is more to your liking. I'd love for you to share your thoughts with me.

I will tell you I'm not sure I feel comfortable doing abstracts, or that I even like this painting. Landscapes are definitely easier for me. Yet, being vulnerable like this is how we grow, isn't it?