Archive for category Subject: Abstract

Painting Abstracts || Rolina van Vliet

This is a book of ideas for working in a purely abstract style, but also one which suggests ways of seeing and working by means of a series of exercises that introduces 65 different approaches.

These exercises are the heart of the book and each one is arranged across two pages with a finished painting on the right and, on the left, notes which explain the artist’s intention and the techniques used to achieve it.

Abstraction is as much a state of mind and a way of seeing as anything else. It doesn’t really have techniques of application that are any different to conventional painting. so what it comes down to is structure, shape and colour. As such, it’s a difficult subject to teach – and an even more difficult one to teach through a book – because you either understand the mindset behind it or you don’t. If you look at an abstract and think, “my dog could do better than that”, then it’s a reasonable assumption that this is not for you. If, however, you’re intrigued by the subject but don’t feel you know where to start, then this book will help you a long way towards the end of the road. The simple, straightforward, approach removes pretty much all the mystique and the rigidly standardised layout means that you’ll feel at home pretty quickly and won’t have to spend a long time re-acclimatising yourself every time you turn a page.

Search Press 2008

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Abstract & Colour Techniques In Painting || Claire Harrigan

Coming after Laura Reiter’s excellent introduction to the techniques and working methods of abstract painting, this book takes the study on several further stages.

There is, or has been, a tendency to view the abstract as simply a few daubs that can mean pretty much anything the artist (and that word can become controversial in this context!) says it means. Taken to its extreme this might be true, if the dictionary definition of abstract as the essence of a subject drawn out and abstracted from it is taken to its logical conclusion. However, it is perfectly possible to keep one’s feet fairly firmly planted in reality and to maintain a recognisable representation of a subject while, at the same time, recording only those parts of it that seem most important to the painter.

Done in this way, abstraction becomes about seeing rather than being about technique. Indeed, Claire’s working methods, the way she applies paint and uses colour, are really no different to those of a more conventional style. The book even includes well written and well illustrated sections on structure and composition which have a relevance that go beyond the immediate topic.

All in all, this is a worthy addition to the growing canon of books on non-representational painting. Claire will show you how to see and visualise your subject just as much as how to capture that vision on paper or canvas. And, yes, she does also have a look at works where the original subject as all but been sublimated out of existence.

Batsford 2007

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Learn To Paint Abstracts || Laura Reiter

The question is, can you teach abstract painting? Actually, the question is, can you teach painting at all? There are people who argue that art is something you’re born with, that it’s not a series of technical skills that can be learned by rote and that a taught painter is like a monkey with a typewriter. On the other hand, there’s the atelier method, which was the one favoured by the Old Masters (who did not wear mortar boards and have leather patches on their elbows, stop sniggering at the back there!). In this, students spent years filling in body colour and copying other paintings before they were ever let loose on a composition of their own. Whenever an art historian says “school of”, what they mean is that it was painted in the artist’s studio, possibly with some input by the artist himself, but largely by a student. The style is there, but that extra brilliance that betokens the master himself is missing.

Anyway, none of that, you’re all wrong. Art is, essentially, the ability to put down on paper or canvas a representation of what you see in a way that tells the viewer something they couldn’t get just from looking at the scene itself. It’s the “artist’s eye” and that is something you do have to be born with at least a spark of. That’s not to say you can’t develop it by talking to and reading other people or just looking at other artists’ work, but it’s a million miles from the mechanical process of applying paint and that, at least to a certain level, is something that can, indeed has to be, learnt.

Anyway, what of the Abstract? Well, it’s largely a way of seeing. Once you move away from straightforward representation, you start not merely to tell the viewer what you saw, but what they should see. In an abstract work, the viewer doesn’t just see the subject, or may not see the subject at all, but is rather given a set of instructions and visual clues that allow them to assemble the image for themselves. In a way, it’s a bit like reading a review rather than reading the book itself. In this piece, I’m not going to tell you what’s in the book (at least, not in page by page detail); rather, I’m going to give you an idea of what the book feels like. I want to create the impression that you own it, except that you won’t have it, so you’ll have to make up your mind whether you like the feeling of ownership and want to buy it.

So far, all I’ve done is waffle on and tell you what the abstract is (and made a faint attempt to tell you what painting is, too). So, let’s refine the question: can you teach abstract painting in a 64 page book? The answer is, rather surprisingly, that you can, indeed that it may very well be the best way of doing it. Abstract painting is, as I’ve been trying to explain, a state of mind and you really need to have got that before you start trying to do it. What Laura Reiter does here is give you some clues to applying this in practice. She’ll tell you about design, shapes, composition, the use of colour and how to use those visual clues evoke an emotional response. And the great thing is that she won’t labour the point.

Collins 2006

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