When you hear the term abstract art, what comes to mind?
When you hear the term abstract art, what comes to mind? Salvador Dali‘s Persistence of Memory? Or how about Pablo Picasso‘s The Weeping Woman?
The graduate class I’m taking now is Visual Design, and I was tasked with creating an abstract art piece. I immediate wanted to crawl into a hole. I love abstract art, but creating it myself? I love structure! I knew this would be a difficult assignment for me. I immediately had to buckle down and do some research.
My undergraduate degree is in Film Studies. So the abstract, experimental, films that I think of are from artists like Stan Brakhage and Andy Warhol.
Abstract art can come in many forms
Abstract art can take whatever form it pleases– paintings, film, multimedia, and the like. The clear cut definition of an abstract shape1 refers to a simple or complex arrangement, alteration or distortion of representation of a natural appearance. This kind of art is used for stylistic distinction and can be used for communication purposes.
Abstract art is not my preferred art form. I enjoy looking at it, deciphering any meaning I can, or just appreciating it. But creating it myself is very difficult. I like to produce my work with structure, a linear message and clean cut appearances. Because I was a film major, videography and photography is my most used art medium.
What’s my inspiration?
For my visual design class, I was tasked with creating an abstract art piece. I knew this would be a difficult assignment for me, so I immediately buckled down and did some research. I looked at some abstract art online to draw inspiration. I love color blocking, geometric shapes, and strong lines, so I started there. I found some artists that fit the style I like: Karen Robinson, Wassily Kandinsky, and Sally Trace.
The art piece I chose to mimic was Synchronism by Sally Trace. I love the bold lines, shapes and overall pops of color throughout the piece. I enjoy looking at the shapes and creating mini, cartoon-like creatures from them. This painting was made with acrylic on canvas and the description reads, “A structured painting with warm and cool colors moving through each other.”
Let’s talk composition
What’s a composition? Technically speaking, a composition2 is the combining of distinct parts or elements to form a whole. When I mention the composition, I’m referring to the art piece as a whole. Before creating my own piece, I needed to dissect this composition and understand the elements in order to mimic it. Here’s a few questions I asked myself:
- What are the dimensions of the composition?
- The dimensions of her original painting is 48 x 24 inches. Since I’m using Photoshop, I decided on 1920 x 1280 pixels.
- What format is the composition in?
- Synchronism is acrylic on canvas. My format was Adobe Photoshop, and I knew mimicking paint digitally would be difficult because I was not too familiar with the paint brushes in Photoshop.
- Is there symmetry in this piece?
- There are a lot of different geometric and organic shapes in this composition that are obviously not symmetrical. But the colors in the piece felt balanced to me.
- Is there any dominance or hierarchy in the image?
- I didn’t feel any single element in the piece was stronger or more dominant than the others. The first thing my eye does gravitate towards though, is the triangle that is almost centered.
- What colors and textures am I seeing?
- I thought the colors she chose were quite bold. There are a lot of complimentary colors (opposite side of the color wheel) next to each other and a broad rainbow of color. Within each shape is a gradient of color, creating more depth to the image. There is a series of bold, black lines separating the elements, making them appear almost like stained glass.
- What else can I identify?
- There are a few dots and lines within the composition to add more complexity and interest points.
My creative process
Where do I start?! I have to start somewhere..so I started with a 1980 x 1080 Photoshop white canvas.
I selected a paint brush and just started doodling. It was not as easy at it looks! I wanted to create organic shapes along with some geometric shapes that felt balanced throughout the image. I wanted to create a small “homage” to the small triangle in her painting that first drew my eye. So I made a little crescent moon in a similar spot.
After I drew all the lines, I needed to fill my shapes. I first tried the gradient tool, but it felt too smooth and digital to me. I wanted to create more texture and make the composition feel more like a painting. I used bold colors, but I wanted mine to feel a little more subdued than the original painting. I tried my best to create a balanced composition with the colors and shapes, making sure nothing was too dominant.
Here is my finished piece, Abstract Afternoon. This composition was way out of my comfort zone. My personal style is clean cut and usually representative of nature. In this assignment, I had to let go of control and listen to my gut. Again, it’s so hard for me to not see little creatures in the shapes! But, I think that’s all in the fun of creating something abstract.
I do feel quite satisfied with the outcome of my piece. I think it would be fun to try something like this with actual paint and canvas. Though abstract art is not my thing, I think it’s good for everyone to break out of their comfort zone and try something new. This project in particular taught me that letting go of control is okay!
1“Quickstart: Graphic Design Basics.” Graphic Design Solutions, by Robin Landa, Sixth ed., Cengage, 2019, p. 20.
2Fontana, Anthony. “2d Foundations.” Intro to Composition – 2d Foundations, 2dfoundations.wikifoundry.com/page/Intro+to+Composition.
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