I am not now, nor have I ever been, an abstract painter. Though I’m not a realistic painter either, I do make representational work. For you non-artists out there, that just means that you can likely see shapes that you recognize and can name as a person, or a vase, or bird, or flower. Like in this image. You want to call it a cup, don’t you? Probably full of wine, right? (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) It’s representational, even though it is abstracted. Certainly not realistic in any way like the actual cup of wine in my hand… Moving right along…
Strictly abstract art is made up of lines and shapes that are not recognizable as a “thing”, but, rather, express the artist’s thoughts or emotions, maybe about a thing (like a landscape) or maybe only about the thought or emotion.
Abstract art confounds many people.
I think that is because we humans love to categorize things and put them in their proper places. It helps us make sense of the world. When something doesn’t fit into one of our slots, it makes us uncomfortable, we don’t know where it belongs, and so we dismiss it as being scribbles any toddler could do, or call it stupid, or some such. (I mean, look at the fuss we are having about pronouns right now, just because some people aren’t fitting into their demographic boxes properly, fer cryin’ out loud.)
I’ve heard people say all sorts of bizarre and unflattering things about abstract art, but my all time favorite was this:
“Abstract art is only there to piss people off.” - actual quote from the obtuse dumbass brother of an ex-boyfriend
No, my friend, it pisses you off because you can’t put it in its place and be done with it. It makes you think, evokes a feeling, makes you uneasy, or poses a question you don’t have an answer for. Who has time for that? Move along.
As I continue to make art, I find myself more and more wanting to explore how this magical stuff is done. I don’t know that I’ll ever totally be an abstract artist, but I am terribly curious about how and why other artists choose to work this way. I’ve dabbled with the approach from time to time, with no serious intent, but now I’ve committed to making 100 small abstract paintings with a limited set of tools and colors in 100 days. Here’s what I’ve got so far:
Doing a thing 100 times and trying to do it differently each time surely will teach me things I can’t predict. I’m only several days in and already I’m recognizing marks that I like and don’t, textures, tools, shapes and techniques that feel right or don’t. I’m continuing to learn how to balance intuition and intention. And I know I will continue to learn how this style might work for me. Or not. I’m open to both. Or something in between.
One thing that I do know already is that it is hard.
And, no, your 6 year old could not do it.
Good exercise Marybeth. I love your choice of colors, repeat dot patterns, and balance.
Well said, again.