Abstract painting allows viewers to not just look at art, but also experience it. Most artists attempt to reference something, whether it is something like an object or a mood. Abstract art is something beyond what is concrete and allows the artist to be mindful and expressive. This art form began in America, mostly in New York, in the 1940s. Many famous artists emerged, including Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, the former being the innovator of drip painting. These artists and others turned the art world on edge and shifted the focus of modern art.
In the 1940s, artists known as the "Abstract Expressionists" began a movement of modern art. In addition to Pollock and Rothko, such artists include Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, William Baziotes, Barnett Newman, Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, Richard Pousette-Dart, Ad Reinhardt and Clyfford Still. These artists pushed the boundaries of art and often captured their moods and thoughts on canvas. They valued spontaneity and improvisation, and the images were abstract, even when they were representing a real object. Abstract artists were often inspired by timeless subject matter like primitive myth and art. Pollock developed the drip painting technique, and many of his pieces are of a large scale.
Methods and Techniques
The drip painting method involves pouring and dripping thinned paint onto a canvas that is lying on the ground. This method differs from the traditional manner of painting, in which paint is brushed onto a stretched canvas that sits on an easel. While it is a relatively simple process, drip painting takes several weeks to complete because artists create a complicated web of paint and patterns. Pollock's technique of putting the canvas on the floor allows the artist to be close to the painting and work from all sides of it. It is a very active process that breathes life into the art. Another abstract technique that was very popular is colorfield painting, developed by Rothko, which features blocks of color that are meant to be calming or elicit an emotional response.
Materials and Tradition
The materials used for abstract art are classical. Oil paint and turpentine, which was used as a solvent, were common materials. When creating abstract art, artists use traditional techniques like form, color, space, composition and proportions, but they create a mood, feeling or contrasting qualities. Abstract artists allow themselves the freedom to be lost in the painting rather than sticking to traditional representation of an object. Oil and acrylic paints are appropriate for creating abstract art.
Creating Abstract Art
If you are a novice painter, consider starting with only black and white paint and exploring light versus darkness. Another option is to work only with a few colors and experiment with color mixing techniques. Keep your work simple. Start by giving the canvas a background color. Let your emotions seep into your work; abstract art is about expressing what is inside the artist. Do not worry and put a great deal of force into your work; it should look effortless. The painting should refer to something like an idea or mood, but it should not be literal or concrete.
- Web Exhibits: American Abstract Expressionism: Painting Action and Colorfields
- Metropolitan Museum of Art: Abstract Expressionism
- "Abstract Painting: Concepts and Techniques"; Vicky Perry and Barry Schwabsky; 2005
- Painting Ideas and Techniques: Abstract Painting Techniques
- Jackson Pollock: Jackson Pollock Drip Paintings: Fractals or Folly
- Museum of Modern Art: The Painting Techniques of Ad Reinhardt; April 2011
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