Abstract Acrylic Paintings Aim to Show the Essence of a Subject.

Have you wondered how to paint abstract acrylic paintings? I guess the first thing in developing acrylic painting techniques is to become familiar with the medium – try out the paint to see what it can do – mix water with it or a medium to make it runny or thick so it becomes impasto. Or use it like watercolour.

Abstract - blues and greens move across the canvasAbstract, Jill Booth

There is a great product that Jim Cobb from Chroma Australia has produced. Called Interactive this acrylic paint can be sprayed occasionally with water to keep it workable. When you finish for the day you don’t have to worry about it drying out and changing colour. It can be rejuvenated right on the paper or canvas so that there are no lines showing when you start again.

But what is abstract?

Of course, it is the opposite of realistic – or is it? If you paint an abstract acrylic painting, does that mean that it has no subject – or, perhaps the subject itself is abstract, such as an emotion like love or fear or happiness or elation?

Maybe the subject is real, such as a particular landscape but you may choose to interpret it in an abstract manner. In that case, perhaps you would use colour to tell something about the landscape? If it is an emotion such as fear, colour may tell us something about your emotional state? Love might be exciting, with lots of movement and strong colours, or it could be harmonious with pale tonal colours arranged in a flowing manner?

Abstraction still uses elements of design such as rhythm, movement, line, shape, perspective and form as well as achieving nuances by the application of carefully considered tones and depths of colour.

Blues abstract movementAbstract 2


Abstraction still uses elements of design such as rhythm, movement, line, shape, perspective and form as well as achieving nuances by the application of carefully considered tones and depths of colour.

Conceptual art

Many artists use a conceptual approach in the development of their painting ideas, resulting at times in a half-recognised reference to their subject.

But pure abstraction has no recognisable form, although it has shapes and colour and might even have the illusion of depth or three dimensions. It is sometimes likened to music, which evokes feelings, is sometimes lyrical, at others strident or even melancholy.

I don’t know how other abstract artists work but I always have a subject in my mind when I start. It might be the ocean, a bush scene with tangled trees, fresh flowers or people or perhaps an action story, such as walking in a particular area. I become involved in the feeling and marks on the paper just flow.

When developing abstract acrylic paintings I like to work flat, standing at a high table and working from all sides so there is no top or bottom to the picture and so that all viewpoints are equally important. That implies that the resultant artwork could be hung upside-down or even sideways!

The viewer/purchaser is thus further involved by being able to hang the work in different ways.

Ocean - blues and greensOcean 1
Blues, greens and yellows abstract painting - OceanOcean 2



See what famous artists have to say about abstraction -

"All art is an abstraction to some degree." Henry Moore

“To abstract is to draw out the essence of a matter.” Ben Shahn

"Do not copy nature too much. Art is an abstraction." Paul Gauguin

From the master of abstraction, this - "The more abstract is form, the more clear and direct its appeal." Wassily Kandinsky

For more artists’ quotes see this page.

The essence of a subject...

So, abstract acrylic paintings usually show the essence of a subject and can be produced by firstly becoming familiar with your materials - the paint and canvas or paper as well as brushes, sponges - or fingers!

Whatever the medium and equipment that you use, once they become so familiar that you don't have to consider technique anymore, they become an extension of your hand and eye - and an instrument for the expression of your ideas.

Happy painting!



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