How to Create an Abstract Painting
How many times have you looked at an abstract painting and heard someone say, "I could do that!"? While abstract painting looks easy to some, it can actually be more challenging than traditional or classical painting. This is because abstract art defies rules and conventions. It's up to you as the artist to break rules, be expressive, and decide what is art.
To begin with, you should find a canvas. You can buy a ready made canvas of any size in a craft store. It will be prepared for immediate use. In fact, abstract artists often use unstretched, unprimed canvases. If you prefer a colored background, buy a jar of Gesso to prime the canvas and give it a touch of color. Choose your paints. Decide whether to use acrylics or oil paint. Acrylics have no odor and are easy to work with since they dry fast and can be painted over if you make a mistake. Gather brushes and other tools. Pick whatever brushes you like to use with the paint you've already chosen. Quite simply, a color wheel is a circular tool that features a variety of colors. It's useful for showing the relationship between colors - what looks good together, what clashes, and so on. Find a color wheel at a local artist supply store, craft store, or paint department.
To become familiar with color creation, try making your own color wheel. Learn about warm and cool colors. Warm colors, such as reds, yellows, oranges, tend to create a sense of movement and advance in space. Cool colors, like blues, greens, purples, recede or show little movement. They are calming colors. White, black, and gray are seen as neutral colors. Work with color harmonies. Analogous colors: Choose two or three colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. One of the colors will probably stand out, but all three will look great together. Complementary colors: Choose two colors that are directly opposite of each other on the color wheel. These colors can really pop out. Triadic colors: Choose three colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel. If you drew a line to connect the colors you chose, you would have a triangle. These colors will really stand out.
Create a textured background. One of the easiest ways to do this is to apply artist-quality Gesso, a thick gel-like primer. Apply it like paint, or spread it around with a palette knife, if it's thick enough. This will allow you to control the style of the texture. You could also leave the canvas smooth and blank. Again, there are no rules for abstract art saying you must have a textured background. Tape lines at intersecting points across the canvas. Use blue painter's tape and place several lines, creating geometric shapes, such as triangles, squares, and rectangles. The goal is to create images that aren't representative of reality. The taped lines will help you paint Painter's tape will ensure that your painting has crisp, clear lines and shapes. Use rulers and pencil lines instead of tape. If you don't want to deal with the gaps that the painter's tape will cause when you remove it, try marking your canvas using a ruler and pencil. Again, lay your ruler down across several points to create geometric shapes. Mix your paint colors. Decide which colors you'll be using to complete your painting. Mix them on an artist's palette or plate. Also, don't feel as though you must fill your entire canvas, or all of the shapes, with color. As soon as you've decided the painting is complete, remove the painter's tape. Fill in the blank space from the tape, optional. Once you remove the tape, you'll notice white lines from where the tape was covering the canvas. While you can leave it, you could also paint the lines in.
Use a ruler and pencil to create lines. You should make several horizontal lines with varying spaces in between, as well as vertical lines. Mark as many as you like, but be aware that fewer lines will mean larger squares and rectangles. Paint the lines. Use black paint to create bold lines. You can make some lines thicker and others thinner. Your painting will now look like a grid with black lines. Paint only a few squares and rectangles. Use primary colors (red, blue, yellow) and fill in several shapes with paint. While you could fill in every shape, this will make your painting look busy and overwhelming. Instead, choose just a few shapes to paint in. They'll stand out more. Leave the white space. The white space will make your primary colored squares pop. Move your canvas to the floor.
Clear your mind. With gestural abstract art, you're not attempting to represent an image. Instead, focus on the process of applying the paint. Try a variety of applications and see what you like. Mix your paint directly on the canvas. Since this is more about the process of painting, you don't need to worry about creating a specific palette to work from before you begin. Instead, work on the colors as you're painting. Pour paint onto the canvas, optional.
Try closing your eyes and painting. If there's one thing that most abstract artists agree on, it's that an abstract painting shouldn't represent reality. Allow the brush and paint to move over the canvas without worrying about the image you're creating. This type of painting is more about the experience than the outcome. Stop when the painting feels complete. Do not go back to improve or touch it up. Abstract artists don't think about the outcome; they just stop when they feel ready. Do not overwork your painting, but learn to finish it the moment you feel it is finished.
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