There’s nothing like the expressive freedom of abstract painting. Dig in to our roundup of abstract art ideas and techniques from the pros!
To modern eyes, abstract and abstract expressionist paintings can look so effortless and so familiar that we might forget how revolutionary abstract art was in the 20th century. Those paintings — and the artists who made them — set the art world on fire. Today, abstract and non-representational art is one of many rich, relevant genres of painting. But is it easy or effortless? Most artists would say no. Like representational art, painting successful abstract art takes practice, and an understanding of composition, color mixing, and values. If abstract art emerges from vision and intuition, it’s still grounded in discipline.
Yet there may be no purer joy than painting for the sake of painting, and making abstract art can often feel like that, with its expressive freedom in color, texture, and emotion. Whether you already love to paint abstracts or are just beginning to explore the genre, we’ve got a roundup of ideas, techniques, and inspiration to keep you delving into the possibilities.
Getting Started With Abstract Art Ideas
Sometimes the idea that “anything goes” — those infinite, adventurous possibilities — is just plain daunting. If you don’t know where to start, we have guidelines and guardrails for you. While abstract art may not have rules, there are techniques to create balance, harmony, and interest in your paintings. Check out these resources:
- Our Artists Network free downloadable guide to abstract art techniques is an essential starter.
- You might be asking these questions, and we’ve got answers: What Is Abstract Art? And Why Should I Care?
- Mark Mehaffey breaks down the fundamental structures under even the most lyrical abstract paintings in What Is Abstract Art? Five Solid Designs That Work.
- Follow — and be inspired by — Molly Herman’s detailed, step-by-step demo for a mixed-media abstract painting in How to Paint Abstract Art: Develop a Composition.
Exploring Acrylics for Abstracts
Even if acrylics are not your go-to medium, they’re a great tool to explore abstract art ideas. It’s not surprising; acrylic paints came into wide availability and use at the same time that abstract art began to take hold. Today, the paints are better, with an incredible range of ever-improving additives and mediums for texture and range. Their fast-drying capabilities and plasticity seem made for abstract paintings, and for abstract mixed-media collage work as well. Find ideas and inspiration here:
- Get seriously inspired by Filomena de Andrade Booth’s work in Painting Abstractions With Spontaneity and Speed.
- Read about artist Sally Cooper’s process in From Chaos, an Abstract Art Painting Evolves.
- Follow in the footsteps of Jackson Pollock and try Pouring Acrylic Paint Like a Pro.
- Check out this comprehensive Guide to Acrylic Paint Mediums, Gels, and Pastes, with abstract technique samples from artist Sandra Duran Wilson.
Abstract Art Ideas for Watercolor, Pastel, and Oil
If history links acrylics and abstraction, there are also countless fabulous examples of abstract works in other mediums. From the richness of oils to the fluidity of watercolor to the sensual color of pastels, abstract art can play up every medium’s best characteristics. Find abstract art ideas and inspiration here:
- Find your watercolor joy with 12 Tips for Fun and Freedom with Watercolor Abstraction.
- Artist Arlene Richman has mastered the very fine art of Expressing Intuitive and Vivid Color in Abstract Pastel.
- There can be a beautiful depth and gravitas to abstract oil paintings, as in Arcenio Martin Campos’s work in A Representational Artist Painting Abstract Art Too.
- This artist was invigorated by switching from acrylic to oil mixed with cold wax for her dimensional abstractions: Donna Watson Overcame Creative Block by Switching Media.
Abstraction in Action: Video Workshops
Finally, don’t forget that Artists Network offers video workshops that are downloadable for purchase, or free access with membership. Here are a few selections that focus on abstract art ideas and techniques:
- Creating Abstract Art: 6 Key Elements of Success with Dean Nimmer
- Exploring Composition & Color in Abstract Art with Debora Stewart
- Texture Techniques for Abstract Art with Jodi Ohl.