Over the next few weeks I’m going to discuss what I experienced and learned at the abstract art class I took earlier this month. There was a lot of material to cover in five days and I will likely need to go through my notes to do justice to it all!
To start, we talked about why abstract art exists and who would buy it, two questions I’ve been very curious about. I’ve wondered how someone could come up with paintings that have so little base in realism (think of splatter paintings, drips, simple stripes of color, etc). Many people see them and think “well I could do that, and this person is making x amount of dollars for something so simple!”. To those people, I invite them to try it for themselves. The paintings that you see of splatters and drips are one of hundreds of paintings done to get it to look just a certain way. What looks effortless to us has taken many hours for the artist to come up with.
Why does abstract art exist? It’s in part a rebellion against realism. Before the camera was created the purpose of most (if not all) artists was portrait work and illustration. When that became automated and obsolete, what were they to do? They had to look at subjects in a completely different light. What could they capture in paintings that photography couldn’t do? A person’s energy, their aura, their story, different views on the same figure. All of these things contributed to what we call abstract art.
So who would buy work like this, so simplistic and unreal? The answer to this is the same answer for why anyone would buy art. Love of colors, mediums, love of life in general. When I look at a painting I feel something. I get a pull, or wonder what strokes they used, or what was going through their mind. It should also be noted that seeing a painting online versus seeing it in real life is a huge killer for the appreciation of many paintings. Digital photos can’t properly show the texture and subtle colors that make up a great piece of abstract art.
The first exercise required us to paint to music, using blue for the high pitches and red for the low (with yellow in the middle). Immediately I became excited since I feel so strongly about music as my muse. The other pieces are explorations of color, textures, and layers. All of these works were very intuitive. We were given little instruction and just asked to use whatever colors we wanted. After getting our hands dirty, we settled in to study some of the principals of art which span across all styles: lines, values, contrast, patterns, rhythm, unity, composition… We were challenged to use these principals in some black and white works in the afternoon. I’m not totally satisfied with my b/w works but it was a good experience to try it anyway.
Already I’d done more paintings in a few hours than I’d done in weeks! It was great sharing that energy with the other artists in the class. I think I’m going to make it a goal to, someday, have an external studio and share it with other artists, whether they’re painters, designers… I’ve only been away from the class a week and I already miss having other creative minds around.