Abstract Art Ideas, Techniques and Tips for Every Medium

There’s nothing like the expressive freedom of abstract painting. Dig in to our roundup of abstract art ideas and techniques from the pros!

Red Edge (20 x 20) by Arlene Richman

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

Abstract art by Yuan Zuo | ArtistsNetwork.com
Yellow Mountain (oil on canvas) by Yuan Zuo

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:


Exploring Acrylics for Abstracts

"Random in Orange" (acrylic on canvas, 36x48) by Mark E. Mehaffey; article on how to paint an abstract painting
Random in Orange (acrylic on canvas, 36×48) by Mark Mehaffey

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:


Abstract Art Ideas for Watercolor, Pastel, and Oil

Endurance by Arlene Richman (20 x 20)

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:


Abstraction in Action: Video Workshops

Creating Abstract Art: 6 Key Elements of Success | The Divide
The Divide, by Dean Nimmer

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:


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