Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Anatomy of an abstract-Steele style

Last Judgement ny Kandinsky 1912

It always surprises me just how misunderstood abstracts are in this day and age. The painting above is 100 years old this year. I am not knocking representational art, in fact I like much of it.
For me, as a painter, an abstract is far more difficult to paint. Say what you will about a three year-old being able to do it, the brushstrokes are simplistic but the composition is a bugger.
When I paint a picture of a person I know the end result, more or less. It should look like a human. An abstract on the other hand, has no defined end point, so to be successful is harder thing to achieve. This is a post about one of the ways I go about painting an abstract.
Here is how I start...

Starting with a plain. gessoed canvas, I just paint shapes with a general palette.

Brushstrokes and borders don't have to be neat at this point.

I often mix my own colors. Here, it is crimson and Titanium white. The blue on the painting is Phthalo Blue and Payne's gray mixed.

The pink is too dark so I add more white.

At this point my toddler says "I love all your colors Mommy." and you might think I am done but in my book my canvas is not yet "ready to paint".

I actually went outside! It is usually too windy here.
This is the point where my little girl says, "Mommy! Why did you ruin all my [favorite] colors?"
You might ask why paint over all of that? Why not just add color to white where you want it?
 I like the depth and texture that I achieve by doing it this way.

Here I have continued with Titanium white, Titanium buff white and hints of raw umber and neutral gray.

More white and a hint of yellow-green makes what I call a blank canvas. Ready to paint!

I start with partially mixed pink and a palette knife.
This is where it gets hairy! I have no real plan. I find that if I have too much of a plan things look oddly constrained and juvenile even choppy. If I just start and see where the painting takes me, it works out best.
The steps I have shown so far are fairly quick but things slow down to a crawl here.

I paint a few bits and stop. Not just to let a layer dry but to see what it needs next.
I have decided to soften the colors a bit

 I leave the painting out and just live with it. Sometimes I am in the middle of making dinner when it dawns on me and I whip out a brush and make a few additions. Sometimes it is only a few strokes in a day, especially if I am "not feelin' it".
Recently I took out two paintings I was working on and made a few small additions. It was a bad painting day. I nearly ruined both but luckily I realized that I should just let things be and get back  it the next day.

I have learned not to panic at this stage. Yes, it looks like S*** but this happens with everything I paint. It seems to happen in life too. Near the brink of disaster and and things turn around, one good thing at a time.
 This becomes ...

 this. A finished abstract.
You can only see traces of the original blue, orange, yellow, and pink but they are visible.
How do I tell when its done?
My personal litmus test is asking the question,"Do I like it enough to hang it in my own house?" and/or "would I spend money to have it?".
Whether or not you like it is a matter of personal taste but this is how I paint.


Kris said...

Interesting tutorial on abstract painting. It is amazing to me how the colors you started out with are not visible...I can't even see the traces you mention are in the painting. I like the end result!

Karena said...

Kerry it is always so much fun and very interesting to view an artists style and methodology.

I love your works of art.
Art by Karena

An Urban Cottage said...

I kind of liked it at the second to the last step where it had that big open white field. But cool process.

My Crafty Home-Life said...

Hahaha, and just like that's done. That only happens when you are as good as YOU! When I try, looks like my kids painted it. Not everyone was meant to be an artist; If they were, art would have no value.

My Notting Hill said...

Thanks for sharing your process. Love you insight about when to step away and to have faith when you back it will work out. Love the abstract and the colors.

Julie of Monkey Grass Hill said...

So interesting. I have to admit I couldn't see what you were doing, and thought you had messed it up in the middle there. But I really do love the end product. I would hang it on my wall.

Breezy Pointe Lane said...

Thanks for sharing...I can't wait to try painting an abstract :)