View Full Version : Why do you paint the abstract?

01-29-2018, 10:58 AM
I'm trying to figure out the why.
Why do I/you paint the abstract?

I'm not sure I even know.
It's just what I do.

the closest thing I can come up with is I wanted to be an artist (painter) and I can't draw realistically. That's the truth but it sounds terrible. This is exactly why I think abstract painting gets such a bad wrap. It's art for the person who can't draw or do "real" art. (I don't really believe that, but maybe I do deep down.)

What really got me into it was when I was surfing and I remember reading a comment something to the effect of you don't have to draw realistically to be an artist. I remember my mouth dropped open and my interest was piqued.

Why do you paint the abstract?

the reason this has all come up for me. I'm a big fan of Simon Sinek and he says if you want to market well you need to know the why, what, and how of what we do. He says most of us know the what and how but very few know the why. He goes on to say you can't say to make money because that is a result of the why.

01-29-2018, 12:59 PM
yeah, well, i don't.
whenever i've attempted true abstract it's representational abstract - it has some level of grounding in 'reality', even a very small percentage of it, inevitably happens, moves in, takes over.
because i just can't wrap my head around successfully painting 'nothing'.


Ol' Don
01-29-2018, 03:35 PM
I read a book on Jackson Pollock, then Marc Rothko and others. Got interested in the idea of paint and surface. No center of interest etc. I thought, how easy can this be? I've been at it for years now and I have found that it is really not that easy to create an expressionist painting, about nothing, that is still interesting. But I keep on trying! Because I enjoy it.

Katie Black
01-29-2018, 04:34 PM
I like to think that I am capable of painting totally realistically (and have done so) but quite honestly I don't see the point of it. It bores me.

Abstract painting has always been my 'thing' It's an exciting ride for the most part.

Recently though, I have become more interested in realism buried in abstraction and vice versa. This is now where I am heading and I believe my latest painting 'Abstract/Landscape' was a tentative start. The juxtaposition of the two images excites me a lot.

I am also interested in finally starting a series of Abstract 'Casitas' in Costa Rica as there is soooo much material out here it's just criminal not to paint it!!

These are the challenges I have given myself for this year.

01-30-2018, 08:00 PM
For me its becoming more fun to start out not knowing where Ill end up or how Ill get there. When you 're in the mood for it its more fun than the drudgery of representation.

02-02-2018, 04:59 AM
Because for me there's too much reality in realism :).
Also I'm with Katie realism bores me generally.
I've found recently that I like photographing birds and nature so maybe I'll do a few realistic paintings from them - my mum would approve cos she doesn't really understand the stuff that I produce although she professes to like it :)

02-02-2018, 10:13 AM
I started of as a realism painter and then switched into abstract/impressionist/contemporary painter and I know this is the space I will be for the rest of my life. Abstraction is where I can express my creativity to the fullest extent. I can be who I want to be. That freedom is priceless. I am glad I started with realism though as it taught me technique and composition. What I love most about abstraction is that it's challenging and exciting!

02-09-2018, 08:03 PM
I've been almost a "photo" realist painter and colored pencil artist for almost 10 years. All that time, I disdained abstract, even though I preferred abstract when I was young. Always trying to get better, I decided to last year to read all kinds of books to improve my range, including a couple of books on contemporary art, which I found very interesting. I looked at that and thought, that can't possibly be hard, and started to do it. Damn, it's hard. I challenge anyone who says, "A child can do that..." to actually sit their rear-end down and start. Most of the time, those folks don't bother - all talk and no action. So, they never know what a challenge it is to produce an abstract work of art that is interesting, different, stunning - and most importantly, a great composition. If it looks so easy that a child can do it - then maybe that's because the artist made it look easy.

What I like about doing abstracts now is just how freeing and almost "spiritual" the activity is. I think of it as attention to myself. Realism for me was more about the external - pleasing others. Almost like realism is analytical right brain and abstract is creative left brain. It's hard to start a "photo" realistic painting now and I have to force myself (got 3 undone paintings on my desk). But, even on a bad day, I find myself just pouring paint into an abstract to see what kind of magic happens, and suddenly I relax and feel better. Until you cross that bridge, you just don't realize what a freeing experience it can be.

I just realized that I said abstracts are freeing and difficult at the same time. I sounds like a contradiction, but it's strangely just true. They are difficult and do test your skills of composition and color harmony, among other things, but it still seems like a right brain difficulty - open and enlivening.

02-10-2018, 07:21 AM
I like the flexibility of not conforming to anything in a pure sense. Abstracts are a great way to free oneself from the surface of the world and "see" the energies that the world, landscapes, mind, thoughts, emotions or what ever, are built around. One can experience color or texture or dynamics, for the pure reason of embracing them. I can draw ok, but I do the legwork and go to a figure drawing class to improve my observation, accuracy and motor control skills. At some point I will be able to comfortably bridge the gap and link color and form vs color and energy. Abstract painting has so many challenges and directions one can go. I think it is often looked at as splashing some paint around, but there are many decisions that are made as one creates. I believe those nuances that abstraction embraces, is what ads depth and vitality. One can charge a representational subject with out of the box colors, and boom, you're on a different playing field. The real world just became your experience of it, the same can be said of photo realism though. Different aspects of the processing of our experiences with a subject OR no subject are the seeds of creation.

02-10-2018, 04:54 PM
I like the joy of discovery, the idea that I donít really know what a piece is going to be like at the end. Oh, I might have ideas, but in practice things always change and I have to adapt and thatís pretty exciting.

02-11-2018, 09:22 AM
I mostly do realistic spaceflight paintings and aviation drawings, but sometimes, I just have to take a break and let myself "wander".
Good for the creative soul, IMHO!

02-11-2018, 01:12 PM
I do a fair bit of both (never photorealistic, I don't have the chops or the patience for that) and I think I'm happiest in the gray area (expressionistic colors on representational art, stylization, "primitive" styles, mixing approaches). As a viewer, the middle ground definitely attracts me most as well. And even in mostly realistic I want to see the stamp of the mind of the artist rather than slavish reproduction of what the eye sees or mindless adherence to a set of rules.

I often find abstract easier and more relaxing than realism, and I don't think there's any shame in doing abstract even though you find realism challenging. Doing realistic art probably teaches useful skills for abstraction, but I highly doubt it's necessary. Saying "YOU DO ABSTRACT BECAUSE YOU CAN'T DO REPRESENTATIONAL THEREFORE YOU FAIL" strikes me as a bit like saying "YOU DO ACRYLICS BECAUSE YOU CAN'T DO WATERCOLORS THEREFORE YOU STINK." Two different, legitimate types of art, each with its own challenges, and some people will find one easier and more congenial than the other. Yes, the benchmarks for quality in abstract are considerably more personal and less obvious than "does it look like the thing it's supposed to look like?" but I also feel that anyone who looks at much abstract art will develop strong preferences. And I object to the idea that art is primarily about developing hierarchies of meritówhy should art be a contest? (Okay, a large part of me is very competitive, and this can be useful in making me make art that is better/that I like more, but I think people can make way too much of the importance of their various, narrow definitions of artistic quality.)

02-11-2018, 05:08 PM
Abstraction allows me to express what words cannot. Realism speaks for itself but abstraction speaks for the emotion and spirituality of the artist. That's how it is for me.

02-11-2018, 05:40 PM
Aside from realism being tedious and boring, Carly, took the words right out of my mouth. Here's how I said it in my artist statement:

"Whether I'm exploring nature, or man's imprint upon it, or human emotion or spirit, color is at the foundation of the metaphor. Whether my work is representational or non-representational, I deconstruct a moment, a place, or a feeling and recreate it in line, form and color.

The essential thing, for me, is to offer a visual expression of those things in our human experience that words cannot express.''

02-12-2018, 09:21 AM
I don't produce a lot of abstract work. Historically for me, I found it much more difficult than representation but I recognized early that at some level, EVERY work is an abstraction. So I initially began trying abstracts to connect with that level and bring it forward. More recently however, I have a variety of reasons ranging from pure catharsis (I have broken brushes...), to technique experimentation, to produce a feeling of accomplishment when I hit a wall, and sometimes for just simple play.

02-13-2018, 08:13 AM
I've preferred to paint in the abstract for a long time, and have kind of beat myself up over it, if I'm honest. Every time I try to do something representational I get pretty bored immediately, and I've just never been able to foster the right kind of energy to cultivate robust representational skills. It's just not how my brain is wired, I guess. So, for a long time I've wondered whether or not choosing to be an abstract artist is a consequence of a lack of discipline to develop those representational skills, or if it makes me a hack, or if I don't have real ideas, or if my preference for abstract work is indicative of a real intellectual failing.

But the more I paint, the more I come to appreciate that abstract is just a totally different skill set, and neither is more valid or technical than the other, they're just really different. And the more I paint, the more I realize how easy it is to make cruddy abstract work, and how hard it is to do something great. There's no less cultivation of skills with abstract work at all.

It's a different way of interacting with art, and a different conversation that you're having the whole time, one that my brain IS wired to have. And that's reflected in a lot of other sentiments here, as well, which is wonderful to observe. I love painting in the abstract because the things that have always compelled me the most in life are catching a little glimpse of refracted light here, or the way the shadows move there, or how the light looks through the clouds at a certain time of day, or the reflections of lights on wet pavement at night, or the way a sound makes me feel. And since those things are more ephemeral, there is a sense of real wonder and discovery that comes with painting abstractly that I'm totally addicted to, as well. I don't know what the mood that I'm painting is going to look like until I'm done, and that's so exciting to me. The bigger picture is beautiful in its own right, but moods, details, textures, lights, sounds, those are the things that captivate me the most. So I paint abstractly not because I don't have ideas, but because those ideas are something about zooming in, freezing time, distilling moments. It's more like trying to capture the essence of the story than it is trying to tell the story by showing the scene, I guess. But both are story telling, just at different resolutions in time and space.

02-17-2018, 09:59 PM
An abstract is taken from reality, a nonobjective is just that, having no objective matter. So what is painting the abstract?, a bowl of fruit that looks like a buffalo?

02-18-2018, 09:05 AM
Mmmm i have to think about that....is it taken from reality.....yes definitely some abstraction is .... But what then does one call the ones that are not from reality.....or indeed are they reality beacause the artist is the reality.....now i am just totally confused....

But back to the original question.....because it is so much more interesting for me to look at how color responds to color and how that feels to me......

02-18-2018, 03:46 PM
I paint in a few styles and mix them at times.

Realism is what I see.

Abstract is what I feel.

For me that's the difference. I'd rather feel most of the time since most of the excitement that happens in the studio is feelings and process. Abstract seems perfectly suited for feelings and process. It's much more of a spontaneous release. Realism is hard work, study and tedious days for me.