Keys to Abstraction

Gather your pencils, your brushes and paints. Put on some old clothes. Load up your supplies and materials and let's hang out and paint. I'm offering a workshop in November! We'll be mixing colors and shades and tints and finding what to do with them to make paintings that people will look at. They will be entranced! We'll be searching and FINDING keys to abstract painting.

image of artist's supplies

What is abstract art? Mark-making, messing around in the paint, an excuse for not being able to draw? How can art be meaningfully made without a subject? If there are no 'rules' how do you navigate?

Let's find out.

Abstract painting is difficult. But we've probably heard that humiliating exclamatory remark: 'My five year old could have done that'. Actually this comment is elucidating because the best artists have re-learned to produce art like a child. It's a paradox. We try too hard to make people human by stifling them.

Picasso painting of Dora Maar

"It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child."

-Pablo Picasso

So now we have to get unstifled. Or re-wilded. Or de-civilized.

Be assured, even the cavemen of 40 thousand years or so BC, must have been creatively repressed because they were known to come home after a hard day at the office and doodle on the walls. Today Mr. Clean's magic eraser takes care of any creative impulse enacted there by tiny fingers. I guess the caveman's parents were off trailing antelope for dinner and thus a great tradition was cultivated and we have some superb cave paintings. Creativity is what makes us human and it's still there for anyone to develop.

But no,we won't be painting bison and wild horses.

the five senses

5 senses graphic

and sensory overload

Unfortunately it's almost impossible to try hard to be creative and get unstifled at the same time. To communicate authentic emotion as artists we need to become just a little unhinged by exercising more right brain function than left brain function. We need to be running with the bulls, so to speak. It is not something most of us are used to and it can feel uncomfortable. It means being less rational and more intuitive, something that seems impractical in our buzzing world of stimuli where to cope means to turn off the response switch as much as possible.

Art is a non-verbal form of communication so we need some chest pounding, tear-jerking, hair-raising, joy-jumping, and brain-frying artistic skill to bridge that communication gap with the viewer.

Ok so maybe you don't care if anyone looks at your work. That's fine until you run out of storage space.

Yes! Let's explore the insurmountable power of non-verbal communication. It is commonly associated with our facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, posture, and tone of voice. Non-verbal modes of communication speak the loudest. This is the world of the senses. This is the world of abstract painting. Why do you think they say a picture is worth a thousand words?

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There is a huge difference between painting the hard way and painting what I call 'the faithful way'. Most of us need to actively learn to have faith in ourselves to be an abstract artist. To be a good abstract artist. Want to be one? You can do it! Whether you are an accomplished painter or opening your first tube of paint, exposure to new techniques and mind sets can revitalize your potential. Why is that so pleasant?

To be a good abstract painter means to be aware of the variables and parameters of abstract art and to learn to apply them in an authentic way. I have learned something about this through decades of abstract painting and can share my experiences with you in a respectful, non-threatening way. There is no end to exploring so if you've been to one of my previous workshops, you will continue to expand your creativity using new approaches and insights. Abstract painting is just as deeply mysterious and difficult to grasp as life is itself. I'll be there keeping it safe and together for you while you plunge into unknown territory, a terrifying thing to do alone. Together it's wildly liberating!


come paint with me

kids graphic

My workshops are designed to be experiential. I don't do many demonstrations. Would you rather be told or even shown how to do something or would you rather be lead to discover something yourself? I want to keep you engaged. Riveted.

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Here are the keys.

image of keys

See more blog posts by Canadian artist Wendy Skog.

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