Friday, April 17, 2020

Project #16 - Abstract Expressionist Painting

Today I was with some students (virtually) for a Friday "open studio" or hangout time,  I noticed one student, in particular, was experimenting with mud painting (Project #11). Her playful approach to painting reminded me of a style of art known as abstract expressionism (see vocabulary below).  Later, I was inspired to dive a little deeper into this approach to painting, which for me is about experimentation, play and meditation.

Materials - Cardboard scraps, collage items (collected from nature or recycled materials), glue, paint, paintbrushes, palette for mixing paint (I used a plastic lid), container of water

1.  Glue materials to your cardboard to create texture.  It's okay to do this with your own style, which could be more abstract and random or more controlled and patterned. My first attempts were more organized like a landscape. I am slowly learning to work more abstractly.
2. Using any kind of paint that you have, choose three colors that you like, plus black and white. Put some of each color onto your palette.
3.  Use your imagination! The trick to beginning is to NOT overthink or expect perfection. The whole idea is to play.
4.  Pick a color and a spot on your cardboard and begin. Keep your brush moving and mix your colors as you go. 
5.  Add water to experiment with the consistency of your paint.  
6.  If you like something, do more of it. If you don't like something, cover it with a new color.
7.  Experiment with how you hold and move your brush, for example, quick dabs or long twisting lines. 
8.  Stop when you feel the space is layered and filled up enough.
9.  Step back and take a look from the other side of the room. That will help you to see your painting with fresher eyes. 
10. Maybe a new color of detail will pop into your mind. That's called intuition. Follow it.

Often an artist lets a painting sit for days, looking at it to see if new ideas for how to finish appear.  It might feel like a struggle to experiment with painting, but it also should feel purposeful and fun. You won't always be in the mood to experiment like this, but when you are, it can really cheer up your day!

Abstract expressionism- is a style of art first attributed to American painters in the 1940's and 1950's. Abstract means that the art does not look exactly like something we would see in everyday life. Expressionism describes art that communicates emotion and energy.  Working in this style, an artist might feel focused, yet also spontaneous. Looking at abstract expressionist art, you might feel your imagination and emotions activated.

Collage - comes from the French verb, coller, which means to glue or attach different materials together.

Inspiration - Recently, more attention has been given to women artists who painted in an abstract expressionist style. One of my favorites is Perle Fine.  Perle grew up on a dairy farm with six brothers and sisters. She was the only one in her family who became very interested in art while she was still in elementary school. She continued to study art after she graduated from high school. Perle liked to collage different materials into her paintings, and work on different surfaces, like wood and metal.  Some have said that her artwork reminds us of our interconnectedness to nature and to each other. I agree!
Perle Fine, Surfscape #3, 1958
Perle Fine, Summer I, 1985-1989

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