A Simple Abstract Painting Technique

Minor Rooster. 8x6, oil on linen mounted on panel. 2017

I struggle to create abstract paintings and I admire painters who can do it with what seems like little effort. I mean, how do you even conceptualize this stuff in the first place?

In this blog post I explain an easy abstract painting technique for anyone who wants to make a first attempt.

This started out like any other painting. I did a block-in then worked in transparent and opaque paint, completing the subject first then filling in the background. Once that was done I carefully worked over all the edges.

Except that I started it as a 'realism' painting and hated the finished result.

Before scraping it off, I smeared the whole thing with a large palette knife, removing all the detail from the bird and blurring the edges. Suddenly it looked better. And it was at this point that I had the idea for turning it into an abstract painting.

I picked out the few features that seemed important—the edge of the wing, the tail feathers, and so on. I emphasized those in thick strokes of paint. To finish, I added a few flecks of blue and red paint.

It's the few crisp painting knife strokes that give density to the image and make some parts jump out. Without them, the picture would be bland and formless.

The result is what you might call "abstract lite": a mix of loose painting style, dynamic edges and a willingness to let the form disappear in places.

Next time you get stuck with a failure, why not have a go at turning it into an abstract?


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