6 Tips for Creating Abstract Art

Abstraction isn’t the most popular artistic mode around. Sure, it has a loyal (and growing) group of practitioners, and it makes up a large portion of what’s hanging on the walls of fashionable New York art galleries. But many artists and appreciators tend to keep their distance, perhaps because they’re intimidated by it or because they don’t trust those snooty galleries. More likely, however, they haven’t had much exposure to abstract art, and as a result they just don’t know what to make of it.

But that’s a shame, because those who shun abstract work are missing some of the most exciting and expressive artwork there is. Of course abstraction presents a distinctly different way for artists to convey their ideas, but that’s not all. It also expands your imaginative abilities, because it forces you to think about your ideas in ways that don’t mimic the objective world, and it requires you to see in unfamiliar ways. There’s no better way to exercise your imagination than to set it free from the boundaries of our everyday visual experience.

  • Look inside, not out. Instead of turning to your surroundings for images to depict, concentrate on your own feelings and experiences and see what they suggest.
  • Visit the masters. As an exercise, break down a masterwork into individual shapes, ignoring the details, to get a sense of how the picture is composed. Redraw the shapes yourself (or assemble them in paper), then try rearranging them altogether.
  • Start in black and white. For beginners at abstract work, it’s often easier to concentrate solely on shapes and composition before moving on to working with color.
  • Focus on space. First and foremost, the abstract artist has to deal with the arrangement of space. Try to see each element as a part of the overall balance.
  • Make it big. When artists lack confidence, they tend to work small. Don’t be afraid to start with big shapes so you can stand back and evaluate them.
  • Doodle. Whether on paper or in clay, whether completely open-minded or with a vague idea in mind, begin with simple doodling and you’ll get a glimpse of where your ideas might lead.

Award-winning artist Andrew Peters paints oil landscapes throughout the United States and Europe. He keeps studios in Arizona and Wyoming, balancing his work with hunting and fly-fishing.

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