The Challenges of Abstract Art

Want to hear two words that can spark a debate? Abstract art. In social circles, abstract art often gets a bad rap, with many believing it’s something anyone can do. Let’s be frank. It takes an educated eye and an open mind to both appreciate abstract art, and to create it.

While we may not be creating pieces with the intention of having them displayed in national art museums, it’s beneficial to experiment with abstract ideas. Doing so can help change the way we think about painting, as well as the way we see our art, and the art of others. Debora Stewart is the author of Abstract Art Painting: Expressions in Mixed Media, in which she teaches the “whys” and “hows” of this complex form of art.

To become skilled in any art discipline, it’s essential to study as many aspects of it as you can. While many artists lean toward one specific style, it’s those of us who go beyond our comfort zones who expand our art and minds.

Abstract painting techniques
Art by Debora Stewart, author of Abstract Art Painting: Expressions in Mixed Media

How to Create Abstract Art

“Working abstractly seems like a mystery to those who want to but do not know quite how to begin,” says Debora. “While there are many different ways to create them, abstract paintings fall into two basic types. One type is nonobjective, which involves using shapes, colors, line and other elements of art to create an abstract composition. Another type, figurative abstraction, includes abstracted landscapes, figures, still life or animals. I usually tell artists to start where they are to create an abstraction. If they are coming from the point of view of a landscape painter, they can start there. To abstract the landscape they would eliminate detail and bring the landscape to its essential and basic structural shapes. They might also add intuitive and personal color choices instead of realistic colors.

The basic way to create abstraction is to simplify down to essential shapes. Eliminate the details in a photograph or drawing. Look at the same thing in a different way. Bring emotion and spontaneity to your work. Utilize the elements of art just as much as in realism. Be open, experiment, change directions, and try new materials and ways of working. Give up control over outcomes; have a plan but be willing to change it.

More inspiration for abstract art can be found in the new book, Abstract Art Painting: A Celebration of Contemporary Art, edited by Jamie Markle. It features more than 100 abstract works rendered in an array of mediums, including pastel, acrylic, oil, mixed media, and watercolor. The range of styles represented is astonishing, and Q&As with some of the artists offer great insight into their artistic processes, influences, and techniques.

Art Journey Abstract Painting: A Celebration of Contemporary Art
Art Journey Abstract Painting: A Celebration of Contemporary Art showcases an array of abstract art.

I enjoy creating art, including poetry and dance. When people don’t “get” what I’m creating or doing, it doesn’t stop me, and it shouldn’t stop you. With resources such as Abstract Art Painting: Expressions in Mixed Media and Art Journey Abstract Painting: A Celebration of Contemporary Art, you can go from thinking about creating, to actually doing it. From there, it’s up to us to appreciate the work of others and, if it’s what we’re driven to do, perhaps take the next step of sharing it.

Keeping an open mind,

Check out these two fabulous resources on Abstract Art!

Posted March 19, 2015. Updated May 1, 2017.

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Blog, Mixed-Media Painting Techniques

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