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Representational Art and Nonrepresentational Art

Representational Art and Nonrepresentational ArtIt was partly by gaining some toehold on the difference between representational art and nonrepresentational art that I was able to increase my understanding of the term “postmodernism” .

Postmodernism is very difficult, if not impossible to define, but one of its characteristics is “lack of depth.” In this regard, lack of depth doesn’t denote simply superficiality, rather, lack of depth also means a freedom from referring to more primary bases, a playing on a surface that has its own set of rules. The postmodern work (or even postmodern life) does not try to adhere to some greater or higher objectivity as we find, for instance, in Plato, whereby the work of art is an imperfect representation of the object and the object an imperfect representation of a Form or Idea.

To explain further, let’s look at the difference between representational art and nonrepresentational art. Please bear in mind that I’m going to simplify.

1. Do You Recognize Something “Real” in the Artwork?
For instance, if you look at a still life, you may say, “I see an apple, a bottle and a chalice,” and others likely will see those, too. The still life is usually (and maybe necessarily) an example of representational art in that it represents an array of commonly recognized objects; it attempts to copy, even if in a subjective manner, something that’s real.

If the artwork falls into this category of being recognizable as depicting something real in particular, chances are it’s representational art. Other examples of representational art often include portraiture (persons), landscapes and wildlife.

2. Do You Recognize Something “Fictional” in the Artwork?
Do you “see something” in the artwork that others will likely recognize, too, but it’s something that’s “not really real”? A unicorn? A troll? A tree that grows humanoid hands instead of leaves?

If you do, this also counts as representational art. A depicted object need not lead an existence independent of human imagination.

3. Do You Not See Anything (Obvious) Depicted by the Artwork?
If you’re viewing a sculpture or painting, and it looks more like a “design” (basic circles, lines, color masses, etc.) than like some immediately recognizable object, chances are it’s nonrepresentational art. Sometimes this is loosely referred to as “modern art” or “abstract art,” though the three terms are not by any means interchangeable. For instance, a piece of abstract art may intend to represent some object, but such object isn’t as clearly demarcated as it often may be in representational art. Nonrepresentational art tends to be modern (or postmodern), but by no means is all modern art nonrepresentational, nor is all abstract art nonrepresentational.

4. Recognize the Overall Significance of the Difference
As we have seen, representational art claims some affinity for the objective, the universal or quasi-universal, the “real” (even if this “real” is “real fiction” as with the unicorn). This means that it’s at the very least offering an interpretation of the world and shared objects therein.

Nonrepresentational art, on the other hand, is not referring to anything “outside of itself”.

The significance here overall is that representational art, inasmuch as it points to something outside of itself, may be considered a commentary on something external, and this places it squarely in the realm of the social (and even political), whether that’s obvious at first blush or not. The cultural productions of a society reflect how that society views itself and the world around it.

Nonrepresentational art, on the other hand, may only offer commentary on art itself. One might call it “art about art”. The onus is almost entirely upon the viewer to provide and/or comprehend any meaning.

Nonrepresentational art commenting on art eventually leads back to the social, but only indirectly as compared with representational art. You may find that nonrepresentational art concerns itself with the “how” of artistic/cultural production rather than with the “what” of artistic commentary, and yet eventually this distinction (often called “form versus content”) blurs. It is often said of modern art and literature that (the) form is (the) content, or at least that there is no absolute distinction between the two.

Representational art uses form to denote a ready-made content, whereas nonrepresentational art amplifies form for its own sake.

Tip amp; Caution
Study various artworks and ask yourself if each is an example of representational art or of nonrepresentational art. Note that there’s no absolute boundary between representational art and nonrepresentational art. Clouds might serve as a good parallel here. When you see a real cloud, you might also “see things in it,” such as an old man, a flower or a ship. Similarly, with some art, it could seem nonrepresentational in principle, yet you “see things” in it. Did the artist intend you to see these particular things? Does it even matter what the artist intends? Do others see things, too? Are they different or the same as you see? The more they differ, the more the work might tend toward being nonrepresentational. The more they’re the same, the more the work might tend toward the representational. But these are open-ended issues. p;=a a;=i ID;=589

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My Abstract Art Painting Tips

Abstract art brittoFirst you need to have an imagination and basic painting supplies.

I would suggest getting pre-stretched and primed art canvas.

The general idea behind this method is using masking tape to tape off perfect squares, circles, outlines, and triangles to make a cool picture.

Start with one basic shape somewhere around the middle of the canvas. I would suggest a square with a light brown color.

Its very simple from here. Just tape off the shape you want and paint in the spaces. Its almost as easy as paint by numbers.

Stick to the easy stuff. If you get fancy, your painting will look like crap. You want to pick out a max of 5 colors at the beginning. Make sure all of the colors are neutral. I would say a red, brown, and black are a must.

From here just make shapes and paint them in. Remove the tape, let the paint dry just a tad, retape another shape, and rinse and repeat.

There you go. You now know a simple way to paint some abstract art. Have fun.

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My Thoughts on Abstract Painting

Non-objective painting is a puzzle to many people, even to those who say they like modern art in general, meaning works that are not photographically realistic or are made with odd materials or are obvious spectacles like Christo’s fabric gates temporarily set up in New York’s Central Park in 2005.

Somehow collages and mixed-media assemblages or austere sculptural presentations or installations featuring sound or video as atmosphere and polemic are met with greater indulgence that is the case with straightforward abstraction in oil, acrylic, or enamel on canvas. Actually seeing and enjoying the intense beauty of a Jackson Pollock action painting or admitting the spiritual satisfaction encountered when visiting a Mark Rothko chapel–these are still not the average responses for educated and cultured people willing to make an effort where art is concerned.

Abstract art is widely considered difficult and often either too intellectual or too outrageous. Something about works showing flat fields of color, or structured grids, or messy slabs of paint cut with jagged lines irritates viewers who say they would much rather look at simple landscapes, recognizable portraits, or figurative illustrations. This pronounced difference of opinion, as well as the notable tension between easy-on-the-eyes realism and possibly headache-inducing non-representational expressionism, enlivens modern art for both artists and potential art watchers.

Among the best known abstract paintings are grid pieces in black, white, and primary colors by Piet Mondrian. This Dutch native found inspiration in New York’s skyscrapers for his later and most popular paintings. Another Dutch transplant and more controversial artist, Willem de Kooning produced wildly gestural works which still elicit strong responses. American born painters as diverse as Cy Twombly and Jean-Michel Basquiat have been inspired by graffiti in large-scale works welcomed in museums and by collectors. Subtle and atmospheric abstractions by Helen Frankenthaler and Agnes Martin demonstrate additional possibilities for art that is apparently free of objective specificity but still rich in formal content.

Exposure to abstract art is somewhat limited for many people. Magazine layouts, movie and TV scenes, or brief glimpses into urban gallery windows may be the sum total experience for them, as regular museum attendance is rather pricey and gallery openings cater to a particular crowd or subculture. As a result, claims of elitism or suspicions of subversive intent are only to be expected on a broad front, no matter the efforts of educators, public television, critics, and cultural commentators. The commonplace remark, “My child can do that and do it better,” with regard to an example of non-objective painting, is not likely to fade from ordinary parlance any time soon.

Reproductions and prints make fine art accessible and affordable for ordinary people, even ones not drawn to or inspired by high-maintenance decorative schemes. Daring to choose an abstract work to display over the living room sofa instead of an interesting seascape is still a novel lifestyle commitment. Such is modern life, lagging modern art by decades.

“Christo: The Gates, Central Park, New York”, Wired New York

Christo The Gates Central Park New York

“Jackson Pollock Web Feature Painting”, National Gallery of Art


“The Rothko Chapel”, official site

The Rothko Chapel

“Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow”, Harvard Art Museums Web Feature

Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow

Robert Storr, “A Painter’s Testament”, Museum of Modern Art (about De Kooning)

Robert Storr, A Painter's Testament

“Cy Twombly in Depth”, The Menil Collection

Cy Twombly in Depth, The Menil Collection

“Exhibitions: Basquiat”, The Brooklyn Museum

Exhibitions: Basquiat", The Brooklyn Museum

William C. Agee, “Frankenthaler’s New Way of Making Art”, Wall Street Journal

“Agnes Martin: Friendship, 1963”, Museum of Modern Art Collection

Agnes Martin: Friendship, 1963

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How to Paint Abstract Art at Home


painting 1At first glance, the idea that someone, much less a short article, can teach the intricacies of painting something as abstract as abstract art, may seem absurd. However, before judging this article, remember that art, although a form of individualistic expression, often still follows a loose set of boundaries or guidelines. For instance, while we cannot be taught to write like Hemingway, we can learn basic language syntax and study his work. In the same vein, while abstract art cannot be taught in the traditional sense, there are some basic boundaries of the craft which can be learned. Combined with your own imagination and some practice, these basic boundaries will help produce individualistic artistic pieces.

So, with that little disclaimer out of the way, here are some tips on how to paint abstract art:

Foundation Techniques

Intensify colours based on the intensity of moods

Imagine that each colour on the pallette is a mood, in your hand you hold a set of moods or expressions of self. Keeping this in mind, the intensity of the colour you use for a particular section of the piece may be used to represent the intensity of your mood towards that section. If the subject matter excites you for instance, you may choose to use an intense colour or colour blend, which helps symbolise your feelings towards that subject. The brighter the colour, the more intense the emotion; the darker the colour, the more subdued.

Change colours to suit moods/feeling

In addition to simply allowing the colours you use to mirror your internal emotions, you may choose to change the colour of the subject completely in order to strengthen a particular connotation. Using both intensity and hue to convey your internal thoughts helps create a multifaceted expression of self, while colour intensity may symbolise the intensity of a feeling, colour itself will refine that feeling into a more concrete illustration.

While the ideas of colour symbolism are beyond the scope of this article, for abstract art simply focus on how a particular colour makes you feel. For instance, a guitar lover may choose to paint guitars in a bright hue of pink, while a poor student may represent his resentment by painting report cards in a dull grey colour. Simply look at a certain colour and focus on how it makes you feel, what emotions it expresses about your inner self. There is no right or wrong answer, it is merely subjective.

Alter the shape of objects

Altering the shape of a subject is a powerful way to further place your intrinsic feelings and thoughts into a visual form. While changing the colour and hue of a subject is extremely overt in terms of conveying emotion, altering the shape of an object can be as subtle or pronounced as you wish it to be. Indeed, the most masterful use of subject shape reforming comes from subtle adjustments that are mostly subconscious. However, if you do wish to make a pronounced effect, you can choose to wildly exaggerate anything in your composition.

In order to choose a suitable shape for your subject reforming, simply look inside yourself and find a geometric shape that conveys something about your subject matter. For instance, a circle often denotes a relaxed feeling of holistic well-being, while a square may imply determination or stubbornness. Despite this these conventions, you, the artist, ultimately decides how you wish to symbolise a subject in your work.

Advanced Techniques

Manipulating levels of detail

Manipulating the levels of detail used to portray certain portions of your composition is a powerful tool for adding depth of emotion to your piece. A level of detail can correlate to several feelings or intensities. For instance, a shared level of detail between two or more subjects in a composition can show their connections to one another. Likewise, a difference in the level of detail between subjects can be used to denote their relative importance.

In addition to using levels of detail to show rather concrete ideas, such as a subject relative level of importance or inter-subject connection, the level of detail used to portray a subject can also show a connection to reality. Especially when most of the composition is extremely abstract, a stark difference in the level of detail a particular object holds helps not only draw viewers into the focal point of a piece, but also may symbolise an visceral emotion or understanding within the artist. For example, while the background of a neighbourhood street may be rather abstract, a dying grandmother on the sidewalk, who is simultaneously being helped by paramedics and clutching her grandson, may be in complete realism.

Imagine your brush to be a camera and the levels of detail you use for certain subjects, to be the equivalent of a focus setting. Use different levels of detail to your advantage not only for emotional expression, but also to help create focal points in your piece and draw the viewer into understanding the image.

Changing subject perspectives

Distorting the perspective of the subject, or portion of the subject, is one of the ultimate tools for skilfully showcasing your emotions in your work. Changing the perspective of a single subject can help illustrate a focal point, an emotional disconnect, or simply highlight some oddity in nature or in mind. For instance, an entire portrait may be done in front-perspective, while the left eye is done in a right-profile.

Pablo Picasso is an excellent example of an artist who used odd subject perspective shifts in his work. Depending on your personal style and preference, you may wish to do as he has, changing perspectives as a stylistic trait. Or, you may simply choose to be more reserved when choosing and changing perspectives. The choice is yours.


Depending on the emotions you wish to convey, as well as your own stylistic preferences, you may choose to outline all or portions of your work in some form. While it is perfectly acceptable to skip outlining altogether, if you do choose to employ outlining in your artistic style it is easy to add another layer of symbolism through the outlining itself.

For instance, using a jagged outline for an object may symbolise a negative emotion towards it; using a smooth outline could indicate the inverse. The intensity, colour, and width of an outline might all be taken into account as tools to heighten the depth of expression within your piece. Conversely, you may choose to not outline anything at all, which is equally acceptable.


By combining and building upon the techniques shown, you can create a visual expression of self through abstract art. Keep in mind, that abstract art, and art in general, is completely devoted to personal expression and the symbolism of your own feelings as reflected by the world around you. It is this quality of personal expression, coupled with a particular viewer’s interpretation of that expression, that makes abstract art so wonderful for both the artist and the appreciator. Since abstract art is by definition abstract, there is no correct way of expressing yourself. The only difficulty you may face, is allowing your true emotions to flow through your brush and onto the canvas. Other than that, your art is as meaningful and expressive as anyone else’s, regardless of technical skill or experience.

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How to Easily Create Original Abstract Art Using Photoshop

abstract art made with photoshop
Abstract art made with Photoshop

Abstract art is fun and easy to make using Adobe Photoshop. This is a great project for children, someone who is looking to decorate their home inexpensively, or anyone who just wants to kill some time. The only things you need to do this are a digital camera and Adobe Photoshop. I do this about once a day , and find that it is very relaxing and stress relieving. In this article I will show you how to easily create a piece of abstract art, like the photo to your left, using Adobe Photoshop.

The first thing you need to do, is take some pictures. They can literally be of anything. You can take pictures of your pets, your house, your car, the floor, your back yard, the sky, some trees; it really doesn’t matter. After you snap a few shots, load your pictures on to your computer and open them in Photoshop.

Now, before you start twisting and bending these photos into all sorts of bizarre shapes and objects, I suggest enhancing them a little bit so you have a nice solid and colorful image to work with. Go to “Image + Adjustments + Brightness/Contrast.” Bring the contrast up about 50 – 60%. Normally, this would probably be too much, but in this case we will be altering the image tremendously, so it doesn’t matter. You may also want to experiment with adding some filters and adjusting the color balance, too.

Next, go to “Filter + Liquefy.” Your photo will open in a new window with a new set of tools and brushes. Just go crazy with it. Let out all of your frustration. There is a myriad of different tools to choose from on the left side of the window. Try experimenting with each different tool; They all have different effects. The sloppier and crazier you are with your image, the cooler it will look when you’re finished.

After you’ve warped your image to your satisfaction, click the “OK” button. It should take about 30 – 40 seconds to finalize, depending on much you altered the image. That’s basically all there is to it. If you still feel like you could improve your new piece of art, try adding some more filters to it or adjusting the colors some more. Another great tool for making abstract art is the “Distort” filter. Just go to “Filter + Distort” and select one of the many options from the drop down menu.

If you like a piece of art you create so much that you want to frame it and hang it in your house, make sure you save the finished file at the highest setting possible.

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How to Make Votive Candles

votive candle artVotives are often one of the first things candle makers learn to make, and for good reason- they are small, easy and attractive. Votive molds are one of the most inexpensive of all candle molds and very little wax and color are needed.
The only equipment that you absolutely need is wax, a wick, a votive mold and something to melt the wax. The wax can be melted in a pouring pot, a double boiler or in an old pot of any kind.

The only real criterion is that it should be a pot that you don’t ever plan on cooking with. For larger projects, a candle thermometer is a necessity to keep the melted wax from reaching its flash point, which is the point that it bursts into flames. Liquid wax is just as flammable as gasoline at that point, so extra caution is always a good idea. But, if you are making nothing more than a simple votive, the thermometer step can be skipped. The amount of wax needed will be so small that it will melt quickly and will be ready to pour right away. If you want to add color or scent to the wax, add these at this time.

While the wax is melting, affix your wick into the mold. This can be done by taking raw wick, tying it onto a stick and hanging it into the pot, or you can buy a wick attached to a wick tab. Those are the simplest- you just drop it into the mold and pour in the wax. However you affix your wick, once the wax has melted, it is ready to pour.

Pour the wax into the mold slowly. After the wax is poured close to the top of the mold, gently tap the sides of the mold. This will loosen any small air bubbles that were made during the pouring process. If the wax was poured too quickly, there may be more bubble, and you can stir the wax in the mold gently to try to loosen them. Of course, the best idea is to have as few air bubbles as possible, so make sure to pour as slowly as you can.

Once the wax is in it will need to have time to cool. Check it every 10 minutes or so to see how the wax is shaping up. Wax shrinks as it cools, but never seems to shrink in exactly the same way twice. Some votives will shrink unilaterally across the top, and some will shrink toward the middle and leave a sink hole in the top. If there is a sink hole, pour a little extra wax into it to even it up. Through trial and error, and some really hideous candles, I’ve learned that the trick is to pour just enough to fill the hole and to come even to sides of the top. If you fill it with more than that, there will very likely be a line all the way around the candle that shows where you added the extra. If you put in too little, there will be a line showing the edges of the extra amount you added in. This is the hardest part of making votives, but if the fill-in wax just touches the edges of the candle there will be no weird lines and no one will ever be the wiser.

When a votive dries, unlike many candles, the top that you see is actually the top and not the bottom. Larger candles are generally inverted after taking them out of the mold so that the shrinkage area isn’t as apparent. But with votives, the world will see that top surface. If you used the hanging wick method to make your votive, cut the wick so that it stands about 1/4 – 1/2 inch above the wax. And there it is- a lovely new votive ready to burn. Or, you can leave it lying around and warn everyone not to ever burn it, not that I ever do that. Whichever.

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Should You Buy Abstract Art?

The 20th century brought about many forms of art with abstract painting being a major one. Abstract art dominates many contemporary art galleries and can be found internationally as well as in your town or city. The general rules to buying abstract art are the same as purchasing any art. Buy what you enjoy and love. If you follow that rule you will always be heading in the right direction.

Purchasing art for the sake of investment can be an extremely difficult gamble with the odds usually not playing in your favor. Whereas you purchase a painting you thoroughly enjoy you will at least be able to appreciate the work of art while it is on your wall. If the artist does gain fame and recognition then consider it an added bonus to your purchase.

Abstract art is not for everyone where many people feel the need to have a painting that looks like an actual object. Many people are usually drawn to the colors and composition of abstract paintings. Many interior decorators use these abstract works of art to accentuate rooms or even add the painting as the center of the room.

Art is very subjective and truly a matter of beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You shouldn’t purchase an abstract painting if you’re hoping to gain money or follow a current trend. Buy an abstract painting that draws you in and captivates you. A piece of art in your home should be able to last you a lifetime and even be able to pass it on to your family.

The great thing about abstract art is that it is readily available to anyone. Some would even say that the art market is heavily saturated with these paintings. Take your time shopping and looking around. Look up local art galleries near you and make a weekend of it spending time learning about what you like and what artists you are interested in. A lot of towns and cities even offer art festivals where you can purchase original art direct from the artists themselves.

Purchasing abstract art should be a fun and enriching experience. As long as you buy art that you truly love you can never go wrong. So attend as many galleries and festivals as you can and see what forms of abstract art you are attracted to. With that knowledge of personal taste you will be building a small abstract art collection in record time.

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Invent Your Own Abstract Art in Microsoft Paint

abstract art paintingHave you ever wondered if you could make some abstract art? Did you know it isn’t that difficult? In fact you can do it on your computer in Microsoft Paint.

Go ahead and open up MS Paint and get started. There is no need to be afraid of abstract art. No matter what others may tell you there isn’t any rhyme or reason to it. Even and elephant can paint in abstract. You may have seen that in the news.

Pick some shapes and place them wherever you want to in the drawing field. They can be any size or colour. You make the choice. The first picture you see with this article was done with the block template and colored in with basic colors from the swatch you have displayed in front of you.

You can try duplicating this picture or create something completely different. Maybe you might just want to color it differently.

I was actually thinking about The Partridge Family series when I decided on inventing this picture.

Take a look at the other pictures. You may see patterns or not. The second one could leave one guessing what it is. Is it bubbles, white stones in water, or stones in the grass? What is it? Your guess is as good as mine. That is what makes it abstract art.

The third picture may make you a bit woozy. As mentioned, abstract art can be anything. I just picked random colors and started making circles. With a little modifying here and there, I could have made this look like the background to the Merry Melodies or Loony Tunes intro.

Maybe you have seen something that you thought may need some “tweaking.” Take it and run with it. Maybe you have an idea of what you want but aren’t certain how to plan it out. Use some copy paper or post-it notes to sketch out your idea. Refine it in more detail. Do you have a scanner? Scan it onto your computer and save it as a gif file.

That will keep it from pixelating, which can be tedious to clean up on the computer in MS Paint. If you accidentally save it in bmp or jpeg form, you can always resave it in gif form.

The fourth picture I purposely left unfinished. I will complete it with the lines on all four triangles. The real question is, “How would you finish it if it was your drawing?” Would you leave it like it appears? It does look like you are looking down a hall, or maybe you are entangled in ceiling wire and you are upside down.

Whatever you choose to do for an abstract picture will turn out well. It is only finished when you feel it is finished. Don’t worry about what others think. Remember, they would have never thought of your exact idea.