Thursday, 7 March 2013

My Joys and Struggles With an Abstract Painting

When I started painting seriously, and in the style that I currently work (with drawing and painting combined) I focused a lot on animal studies. On my online gallery, you will notice that the 2011 work is all animal studies.

When I figured out just how I like to work and got the flow down, I had this moment when I realized how much fun it would be to focus on that technical approach without representing a “subject”. This led me to begin a small series of abstract works. Below is the step by step development of the first of this series!

I was doing a show in West Vancouver last August called Harmony Arts. I often like to work on a piece of art at shows that I do – it attracts attention and is a great starting point for a discussion about technique. People love to see the process. So my girlfriend suggested that I work on a new piece at the show, and I figured doing the abstract work would be the best approach to showcasing how the layers of my paintings work!

I started this work (and other abstracts) with loose paint applications. Usually, when doing a representational piece, I would draw the first ink drawing before painting it in very loosely. By starting with paint applications first, I ensure that I can really play around with the notion of spontaneity and expression.

I worked with large, broad marks. I wanted a very loose structure. As the paint dried in the sun at this show, I was able to quickly move into drawing finer detailed line work.

The process is so much fun in these works. It’s so uninhibited, and a complete overload of endorphin production. I put myself in such a good mood while meditatively tracing over paint and drawing new lines, etc. The more areas I fill in with paint, the more layers that are established. Then, as those get traced over/drawn into, new opportunities for deepening colour layers appear. It’s an ongoing process of exploration and fun.

 Working on larger works (this one is 30” x 30”), I’m able to get really lost in the process for a long time. I spend time carrying these works around various parks or public places in the nice weather and start to draw lines..the work carries me for hours and I’ve actually found myself getting close to it so that most of my peripheral vision is dwarfed with art. This makes for a really amazing experience of being lost in the excitement of the work developing!

 I had a couple of moments working on this new piece where I just wasn’t feeling it. I thought it was getting sloppy and overworked, so I ended up doing a couple of radical paint dumps – one with a big pool of red, and another where I drizzled clear primer all over the canvas. Once these dried I was still unhappy with it, but I learned an important lesson to my methods, which is that its important for me to make a mess with paint then clean it up with ink lines. That’s what I spent more time on, and eventually I ended up loving it in the end!

This piece was great for a building exercise in spontaneity, technique and overall layers and structure. I also pushed my textures and material combinations; the final canvas has a nice texture to it. The final varnished piece is now among my favourites!

I think as time goes on I will continue to work on some abstract works casually, if for nothing else than the sheer joy and relaxation and focused escape it brings to my day. See the final work and other abstracts at

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