Abstraction: Golden Disc

Toward Non-Objective Abstraction

Abstraction – What?

Early on, I thought I’d explore abstraction.  I had never purposefully studied abstraction and wanted to know what it was about.  I didn’t even know the difference between abstract and non-objective abstract.

Abstraction: Golden Disc

Defined, or Not.

I looked up definitions for abstraction.  Abstraction is the result of a process…and it gets much more complicated than that.  And, abstraction applies to many disciplines.

How I Describe It.

For artist me, I think of abstraction as a process of taking what you see and know about nature, then simplifying it for artistic expression and purpose.   Abstraction, without the qualifier of “non-objective” may be a piece of art where you can recognize the subject (objective), but the artist has stylized, simplified or otherwise changed the subject to meet artistic intent.  WHEW!

Non-objective abstraction is the type of art that doesn’t look like what we might call the real world; it is based on expression, feeling, tempo, texture or something similar.  I like to think of these types of artworks as meditative; I have to be alone with the artwork.

With all abstract art, objective, non-objective, or otherwise, I like to feel the mood or expression as much as see the art.  Which reminds me, Betty Edwards in her book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” gave me my first clue about abstraction.  She describes an “analog drawing” exercise where you draw how you feel, such as when you feel joy, sad, angry, happy, etc.  Its quite remarkable how you can read the feelings in the drawing!

Abstraction: Dusk AfterglowResearch.

I looked for “how to books” on creative watercolor or abstraction.  Granted this was only 13 years ago, but finding books was difficult.  There are more today.  I did find books by Barbara Nechis, Edward Betts, Lawrence Goldsmith, Robert Burridge and Miles Batt Sr that are good and helpful.  I seem to need lots of books to acquire knowledge!


In addition to doing research, I started experimenting with abstraction on my own.  Let me assure you that abstraction is difficult.  Or, let me re-phrase.  To create an abstract or non-objective abstract watercolor painting that is well designed, has meaning and will stand the test of time is challenging to me!  It is easy to throw paint at paper; much more difficult to instill meaning.

Come to think of it, there are challenges in all types of art!  But, the point is, abstraction goes way beyond throwing paint at paper.  And, if you do throw paint at paper, do it with meaning, with rhythm, with feeling!  Joy would be good too!


I’d like to share three tips that helped me as I explored abstraction.

a.  Design schemes.  Robert Burridge has a good discussion on design schemes in his “Loosen Up Workbook and Studio Notes”.  They help give a painting structure and I think about design schemes with every painting I create.  Sometimes I start with a design scheme; sometimes I impose a design scheme upon a subject.  Example of design schemes:  grid, frame-in-frame, stripes, circles, radiating lines, and combinations!

Toward Abstraction: Composition Devices

b.  Color schemes.  I found that using every color found in nature creates an overwhelming painting.  It is better to impose a color plan.  I either select a particular color scheme because of mood I’m trying to create.  Or, I select a color scheme to see what will happen.  But, a designated color scheme or plan is helpful when creating a unified painting.  My favorite color schemes are the three primaries (red, yellow, blue) or opposites (red & green, blue & orange, yellow & purple).

c.  Negative spaces.  The shapes of spaces between things are just as important as the shapes of the things, or subject.

Oh, and, just one more tip – do LOTS of drawings and paintings!

Results.Clues for seeing abstraction in painting

I gained insight into the world of abstract art through my painting explorations.  Abstraction is a world of personal communication where each artist’s approach is their own.  Some artists seem to push the limits of what is considered “art”.  Other artists seem inspired by their own inner tempo.

I also learned that you and me, as viewers, bring our own point of view when looking at the art.  As in all forms of visual art, we complete the painting.  It just may be a bit more challenging with abstract art.

Moving On

I moved on from non-objective work because I became intrigued with understanding Cubism.  And, I had a commission that seemed better suited for a Cubist style approach.

I wouldn’t say that I learned all there is to learn about non-objective abstraction.  Rather, I would say I just scratched the surface.  I have respect for the skilled artist who devote time and energy to creating abstract art.  It’s work!

Oh, and, I can always come back and explore some more!

Abstraction: Splash


On to discussing Cubism in the next installment of this series of posts.  And, you figured it out: Cubism is a form of objective abstraction.  So, we don’t leave abstraction all together.  Instead, we go to where the modern art movement’s all began – with Cubism!

Oh, and I figure I will wait to publish until after December 25th.  Cubism seems a bit intense for the holidays!


I would like to share with you an article titled “How to Draw Better” by Jen Reviews.  The article includes several “tips” for how to improve one’s drawing skills.  Not only do the tips give you the “how to” instructions, they give you the science behind why the tips work.

And, guess what, they include a tip on seeing the negative spaces.  I love negative spaces; they’re so useful for finding interesting shapes.

The 15 or so tips help you practice smarter not just harder, so to speak.  I’d like to invite you to take a look.

More Good Ideas!

16 Ways To Make A Painting More Abstract

I just discovered Tara Leaver’s website and blog.  Also, I like her insight and ideas and though that I might need to remember them!  Check it out, she has a pdf file you can download too!   August 5th, 2018.




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