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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Abstract Realism – Yes, you can do it!


"Moonshines" acrylic on 18x24 canvas (abstract realism)
There’s tremendous freedom in doing an abstract painting. To do them well is the greatest challenge. What attracts the viewer? The colors, shapes, values, and most especially the mood. How does the painting make you feel?

Some abstract paintings are stark and limiting. Others may distort shapes or simplify images. According to Sue St. John, author of Journeys to Abstraction “The choices are vast and nothing is wrong. Abstract art can be incredibly liberating.”
Think of abstract art as fluid. Allow your brush to intuitively follow your imagination and mood. Take an idea, a theme, a feeling and express it in liquid motion. Keep in mind that an abstract artist is expressing “concepts” rather than exact depictions.


Abstract realism combines the best of both depending on what you choose to emphasize. Shapes and colors may be in the abstract with one part of the painting rendered true to life as the focal point. The reverse is also possible. Take a realistic background and an abstract center of interest. Inspiration is all around you.

I have an artist friend who gets inspired by fabrics. She can turn a small element of design into a full-blown abstract painting.
Look for shapes and patterns in your environment: the way light and shadow play out and create designs, structures, and lines. The world is full of texture, color and form. Examine how they work together and how they make you feel.

"My Trail of Tears" mixed-media on canvas

To advance a theme or emphasize a point, some artists incorporate symbols into their artwork. They are interesting. They provide additional information. For example, if the artist’s vision is “new birth” or change, a butterfly would help signify this metamorphous.

Many symbols are already familiar such as the circle (infinity, cycle of life, wholeness); the Egyptian Ankh which symbolizes the harmony between the physical and the spiritual worlds. Pentagrams (five-sided stars) represent the four elements of earth, wind, water and fire and how they are bound together with the fifth element of spirit.
The study of symbols alone would provide you with an astounding number of paintings and the basis for combining realism with abstraction. This should not only release you from preconceived notions about earth and life, but inspire you with countless stories and designs that are unique and personal. Above all, have fun!


"Moonlight Magic" 11x14 mixed media, layered acrylics

The following link should provide you with some great ideas. I’ve also included a quote by well-known artist Sherrie McGraw:

“A painting is more than the subject matter or the story it might depict. Good painting carries an undercurrent of beauty that expresses something beyond subject matter, beyond the tangible reality. It is this level of seeing that makes a painting a living thing, something that speaks even centuries after the artist is gone.”