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.

Persistence of Memory
The Weeping Woman

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.

Mothlight – Stan Brakhage [1963]

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.

Squares with Concentric Circles  – Wassily Kandinsky
For One’s Well-Being – Karen Robinson

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.”

Synchronism – Sally Trace

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Abstract Afternoon

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.

Conclusion

comparison

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!

References:

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.

2 thoughts on “Abstract Art

  1. Hi Jacklyn! I had a similar experience when I found out I had to create a piece of abstract art—I like looking at it but I had no idea how I would go about making a piece of my own. Being able to mimic another artist’s style definitely helped me feel better about this assignment.

    I agree that Sally Trace’s “Synchronism” piece has a cartoonish look to it and is structured in a way that encourages the viewer to find recognizable shapes within it. Personally, I saw an elephant. You did a fantastic job mimicking her style. You have that same mix of geometric and organic shapes that encourages each viewer to piece together the image in their own way. It’s kind of like cloud watching but with art.

    The homage to the triangle was a great idea as well. I feel like one of the reasons the triangle in “Synchronism” is a focal point is because it has those three dots inside of it. I see that you added a few dots throughout your piece as well, but I wonder if maybe your crescent moon would be more dominant if it had dots in it as well. Right now, my eye is drawn to the large green shape in the upper left corner of your piece. And that’s totally fine—I just wasn’t sure if you wanted your crescent moon to be the focal point. Overall though, I do think your piece is well-balanced.

    Something I love about your piece in comparison to Trace’s piece is that I think it has a more playful feel to it due to the subdued coloring and the spray-paint like texture. Trace’s piece looks like a stained-glass window you’d see in a church, which adds a more serious tone to it for me. Yours feels more inviting and cheerful, which I love.

    Great job overall! I can’t wait to see what else you create 😊

    Like

  2. Hi Jacklyn,

    Your abstract art piece is outstanding! I love the way you use the shaping and color grading to convey the spirit of the original piece. Even with that, it still feels like something unique and different. I agree that with the Sally Trace piece my eye was also drawn first to the triangle at the center of the image. For your piece, my eye was first drawn to the shapes with red coloring and the waving lines to the left of the image.

    A major concept of abstract art is automatism, or creating art without a direct purpose. How you describe the process as “letting go of control” is in a way following the automatism style. I find the process difficult as I also like to plan out what I am doing, but sometimes true art can come from chaos. A lot of Joan Miro’s abstract art is indicative of automatism.

    The texture gradients on each shape work well in creating depth to the piece. None of the shapes take up too much dominance of the frame, but they stand out in the own way. Another way you could make your piece stand out more from the original is by adding more with the foreground and background.

    Overall, your piece communicates the energy and style of the Sally Trace artwork well. Even though there are some spots my eye went to immediately, The lines and color grading had my eye flowing from shape to shape.

    Like

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