Painting abstract art is a journey which each artist approaches from a different starting point. The mistake many beginners make is to think there is a short cut to reach your final and best work.
I’m afraid there isn’t and it is instructive to see the earlier work of established or renowned artists.
Most abstract artists started with figurative in some form. And the biggest jump is when you let go the subject. Because at that point you go back to the very beginning but without the crutch of reality.
Like any other kind of painting, abstract art is balancing a number of elements: from choice of support, mark-making, colour, value, structure, composition, balance, rhythm among others but doing this without the distraction of subject matter. So in this way it gives you also a tremendous sense of freedom. You don’t have a find a subject to allow you to say what you want to say.
So you ask…where do you start? You start with yourself first of all. No one can paint your painting in abstract work. Each piece is as individual as a signature. Of course, there are forgeries…and some of them very good indeed. But they will not have the same resonance and you will feel something missing but won’t necessarily understand the lack.
You paint from inside youself but without necessarily expressing it in so many works. An abstract artist us not saying…I’m happy, I’m angry, I’m depressed…it is much more complex than that…as complex as human emotion.
It’s funny but people are happy with instrumental music…concertos, symphonies, jazz, rock & roll. You accept that it is a personal expression of an artist’s voice but unless that music has a title or words, you also don’t really understand what was in the artist’s mind when composing. It is significant that the first abstract artist, Kandinsky as others of his generation, was a musician. Music does not need a subject and neither does painting.
A painter also starts the work composing with colours and values on a structure of mark-making, of shapes and lines until that composition has the right balance, has the right rhythm for how the artist is feeling when creating that particular piece.
As most works are produced over a number of sessions sometimes over a matter of days, sometimes over a matter of years. In abstract art you don’t know what will be the final result when you start. You might begin with a couple, particular marks and slowly the work takes over and tells you what to do next. The abstract artist learns primarily to listen.
You often find yourself looking at a phase of the work that stops talking to you. That doesn’t mean it’s finished. It just means you need to wait, park the work, and then wait until the day you look at it and it tells you where you need to go next.
This might come after a period of thinking a lot about it, other times you give you conscious mind a rest and just let your unconscious work at it. Then one day you look at that painting again and just know what colour, what mark to bring to it next.
Sometimes it is a case of taking away. Of covering or scratching or veiling…
But it is always a journey, a Spiral journey which takes you back again and again to the same places but at different levels and this is how works develop and change and grow and progress. This is true of any painting but in abstract there is nothing to tell you are on the right path, by a vague resemblance to a subject, and to keep you moving on. This is were many give up…because there is no way to shortcut those early paintings, those ugly paintings that make you tear out your hair but which are the precursor of new directions, usually of new breakthroughs. You have to respect and love your work at this stage even though you know it isn’t good because it is the gateway to a new stage.