Abstract Art and You

Geoff de Groen • October 29 2014, 2014
Geoff de Groen • October 29 2014, 2014

When it comes to abstract art, it can be helpful to determine what exactly you mean by that term. Do you mean non-representational painting, which is art that does not try to reference reality at all? Or do you mean abstract art which references reality but in a flattened, emotional or highly subjective way?

Essentially, all representational paintings are abstracted, because artists are doing their best to reproduce a three-dimensional reality on a two-dimensional plane. So even the works by a Northern Renaissance artist like Jan van Eyck can be considered abstract in the same theoretical context as the works by a modern master like Paul Gauguin – both are depicted subjective versions of a visual reality. Works by contemporary artists such as Idris Murphy and Geoff de Groen are even more abstracted to the point of non-representation, but certainly hint at the figurative forms and organic shapes found in the natural world.


But let’s be honest: not everyone will take the term “abstract art” that far. Instead, what many artists, and viewers, consider abstract art is this personal consideration and interpretation of life, of emotion, of ideas, or even nothing at all. If you are more of a representational artist, but are looking for more abstraction in your work, where do you begin?

Here are four abstract art ideas to get you started:

Flatten the space: Instead of going for full on, three-dimensional modeling, flatten by using broad areas of color. Teachers have said it 1000 times in the past, and will say it 1000 more times in the future: paint the shape, not the thing.

Consider your colors: Paul Gauguin said, “If you see a tree as blue, then make it blue.” To take it further, don’t even try to paint the tree, just paint the blue. Use a glazing medium such as Atelier Universal Medium to make transparent and semitransparent glazes to build up subtle passages. Make a painting that’s about color and nothing more.

Go big: Use big brushes or painting knives, big surfaces, and go for an extreme close up view of your subject if you simply cannot let go of visual representation. Instead of painting the entire landscape, just paint the sky or water or foliage pattern, nothing else, no matter how much you are tempted.

Add texture: Mediums like Atelier Heavy Gel and Atelier Moulding Paste can be used to build up visual interest on the surface, so your textured painting can be “about” the paint and the texture itself. Experiment with these mediums under paint, on top of paint or mixed with Atelier Interactive or Atelier Free Flow for dramatic, visceral effects.

Remember, a painting doesn’t need to have a focal point, a narrative or even reason to be anything other than what it is – paint on a surface.  This bottom line simplicity can have stunningly beautiful results, bringing order to chaos and vice versa.  In this increasingly busy, stimulated and simulated world, it can be lovey to have a painting that is nothing more than about itself.