green mug on table

Living a creative life can be an adventure, for some it’s more like navigating a labyrinth than following a clear path. I’ve had trails that twisted and turned, sometimes leading me to unexpected places, and shiny new paths that seemed promising but ended up being dead ends. Despite it all, I’ve been dubbed a “fearless creative,” which is both flattering and amusing. I mean, sure, I dive into artistic processes with wild abandon, ready to explore and experiment like a kid in a candy store. And my only “why” is simply that I believe “art makes the world a better place” – for the creators and the receivers alike. Trust me, it’s been a rollercoaster ride of creative chaos, but hey, that’s just how I roll!

Just Begin Somewhere

Clarify the terms Abstract vs Abstraction: Originally the terms had different intents, but today the meanings are blurred.

Cubism is subjective and abstract, it has some kind of person, place, or thing, but the artist chooses to express the subject in a new altered way, and with different viewpoints. The most familiar cubist was Picasso.

Abstraction is a non-objective, intangible expression, emotional, atmospheric, and meditative like the drip paintings of Jackson Pollack.

Step 1 – Become a shadow-artist, that’s what Julia Cameron author of The Artist’s Way, would call it. Let YouTube art videos become an obsession. I went from BBC Art History documentaries to watching Floral Bowley’s expressive, spontaneous process of painting. Watch them enough and curiosity will eventually draw you in.

Step 2 – Push and pull some paint around. The act of painting is seductive and non-objective abstraction offers freedom, while colour is the drug. The poet Lisa Robertson wrote: “Colour, like a hormone, acts across, embarrasses, seduces. It stimulates the juicy interval in which emotion and sentiment twist.”

Step 3 – Open the mind. The Post War abstractionists were the art rebels of the time embracing the interconnectedness of art, culture, and science. They played with color, space, atmosphere, movement, and emotion. They collaged commentaries on culture, explored the essence of composition, and dissected the science of visual perception. They engaged us to see and question even the simplest expressions of line and shape, and the physicality of drips of paint.  All mark-making had a purpose and science that added to the evolution of thought and art.

Step 4 – Explore the intangible. Study shape and form for it develops the eye and hand. But let things evolve, and change, and don’t define or constrict. Eric R. Kandel in ‘Reductionism in Art and Brain Science, says we are forced to use our brain in new ways when we look at abstraction. 

Kandinsky found music to be his muse, it guided his process and directed the line, form, and entangled emotions of colour. The intangible expressions became canvas portals into new realities. For Kandinsky art was an “alternative pathway to a spiritual reality.” He was a follower of Theosophy, (an intriguing story for another blog post, all about how mysticism influenced Abstract Art, a topic never acknowledged when I was in art school.)

Explore & Grow
An artist’s growth comes from processing the skills of art-making while reflecting on life. It doesn’t matter the subject they choose; portraits, landscapes, still-life, political commentary. The techniques whether abstraction, expressionism, illustrative, representational, or collage, all are flavours of the artist’s message. I define, the artist’s motivation as either an introverted communicator reflecting on beauty, joy, and love and/or an extroverted making a commentary on culture/society/politics.  The style is the artist’s unique way of seeing. Mastery comes with time and maturity. Start Somewhere.

Art History Documentaries

  1. Colour Graeme Stevenson (Colour in Your Life) he tours around and visits artists’ studios
  2. Brian Rutenberg

MOMA also has some fun free courses if you want a more in-depth study. I enjoyed “In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting”
Eric R. Kandel Reductionism in Art and Brain Science