Zen and the Art of, Well, Art!

There’s a special state of mind that we can achieve while tapping into our creativity and expressing it via painting, drawing, or other means. Those who don’t allow themselves to experiment with creative endeavors may think it sounds crazy, but I bet you can relate. When we find that space, all else disappears and we’re elevated to a higher state of thinking. Perhaps this has been documented as fact, but I know that when I allow myself time to focus on my craft, I experience serenity and am at my very best.

Inside the Box, abstract painting by Marie Cummings

Inside the Box (acrylic, 30×22) by Marie Cummings, is featured in Journeys to Abstraction. She says, “Inside The Box was started on an old painting that was not working. Sometimes it is easier to have color down on paper or canvas rather than staring at a blank white sheet of paper. There is also an attitude that frees up your mind; you have something that is not working, so loosen up and play.”

Earlier this summer, on my way home from a workshop weekend/festival, I pulled over to a gas station–inspired to dig out my journal from the trunk of my car and write about the experience. A couple of guys stopped to fill up their gas tanks while I was out of my car, and we began talking. Neither of them looked like the type of person who would be interested in or even aware of metaphysics, but one of them flattered me greatly by telling me that I had a “nice energy.” I hope I remember this moment always. The weekend, so full of artistic acts and people, had left me radiating with a joy that was not to be contained, exhausted as I was by that point.

Being able to free yourself through your art is a gift; and exploring this in abstract ways can expand that gift. In my humble opinion, I think that it’s best to learn the rules and then break them. Specifically, Picasso said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” I try to live by this. It takes learning the techniques and understanding theories to the point that they’re part of your unconscious mind. Then, you can explore completely with your intuition and create abstract art that has a foundation of concepts in shape, design, contrast, and more.

If you’re new to creating abstract art, reading Journeys to Abstraction: 100 Contemporary Paintings and Their Secrets Revealed by Sue St. John is a great way to learn more about it. The introductory sections offer a definition of abstract art, compare it to realist art, and describe various aspects that artists should consider when creating an abstract piece, including the use of symbols (there’s even a special section with demonstrations). And of course, it’s a great resource for those of you who already create or simply love abstract art.

I hope that you’re able to tap into that wonderful zen-like frame of mind, where you paint or draw for awhile, only to stop and be a little disoriented with where the time went, because you were so enjoying the process of creating art.

Until next time,
Cherie

Cherie Haas, online editor**Click here to subscribe to the Artists Network newsletter for inspiration, instruction, and more!

 

 

 

How Sue St. John Created the Abstract Painting Rusty Window

Rusty Window, abstract painting by Sue St John

Rusty Window (watercolor and collage, 30×22) by Sue St. John

I began this painting on the soft surface of Rives BFK printmaking paper. I was experimenting with stencils cut out of old mat board. The idea was to cut a stencil that looked like a window. I used a ruler to draw the exact size and number of window panes. I cut each section out with an X-Acto knife.

Next I used ½-inch blue painter’s tape and taped a border 1-inch inside the edge of the paper. The use of painter’s tape for delicate surfaces will protect the paper from tearing when it is removed carefully.

Using my pre-cut stencil, I placed it on the paper off-center to the left side. In Rusty Window, I used minimal color. By using a limited palette, I maintained the soft texture. I mixed Cobalt Blue with water and placed in a spray mister, testing the color to make sure it was very light blue. I sprayed through the stenciled window panes very lightly on a hit-and-miss basis. Next I spray-misted the edges of the paper where the painter’s tape was placed.

After this dried, I removed the stencil. Using a ½-inch flat, I painted areas within the window panes with Cobalt Blue, making some panes a little darker than others, and also saving the whites in areas. A charcoal pencil and a no. 2 pencil were used in the upper left corner and the middle of the top, as well as in the lower right corner and up the side of the painting. With the pencils, I formed small circles and ovals in varying sizes connecting some of the shapes. This takes some time to get it to look just right. The goal is to vary the soft and hard edges. Most of the edges are straight with the exception of the Burnt Sienna watercolor that seems to flow down from the rust.

The fun part was when it was time to glue on the pieces of rusty metal to achieve the texture of an old worn-out window and an interesting accent. The shapes and forms that emerge are more varied and interesting than anything I am able to paint. A thick tacky glue will hold the rusty pieces firmly in place. I added one larger piece of rust in the lower right corner of the painting. Three tiny pieces of rust were glued on the window’s three hinges. Using Burnt Sienna, I brushed paint under each piece of rust on the hinges and a larger area under the upper rust pieces. In the lower right corner, I painted in a little Burnt Sienna broken-square shape.

The finishing touches include the collage of three 1-inch (25mm) blue squares from a failed painting that I had cut up. This painting really came together in the last stages.

Get your copy of Journeys to AbstractionOrder your copy Journeys to Abstraction: 100 Contemporary Paintings and Their Secrets Revealed by Sue St. John from North Light Shop (also available as an eBook).

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