At 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:
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.
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.