How to Create Abstract Art

Level: Advanced

Estimated Time: 1 Hour

Project Overview

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Quick Summary

Abstract Painting Recipe

1. Create a Central Color
Picture of Amy painting Abstract art

Starting a painting is often one of the hardest things, especially in abstract painting. So I like to start by creating an organic shape that covers about two thirds or so of the canvas.  

And instead of having it a primarily one solid color, an out of the tube color, I varied that color, creating a gradation. So I have the orange, and then I mixed it in with some white.

Still I have primarily a white canvas, and it can be intimidating, so this next thing I like to do in my paintings is just kind of play with them, create it like an adult coloring page and cover it up using various techniques to make it less scary and to give me things to work with.

So, what I do here is I scribble, by using some Derwent watercolor pencils.  I also like to use charcoal and sandpaper to kind of create charcoal dust, if you will, applying it to the wet paint.

Use something to rough up your surface
Add a variety of colors to your abstract painting

As I’m looking at my canvas, I have all one color, and so I want to vary that color by mixing the orange with a complement, with a blue, to create a neutral-type tone into my canvas. And as I mix that up, I apply it to a few different areas,

2. Use Unique Markings
Try out these three techniques to add some variety to your abstract art
​Next, I love to use stencils, they create such a cool mark-making, and I like to apply them all different ways. In this case, I applied it using a spray bottle with some high flow paint mixed with water. I also like to use the Brayer to apply a different texture to the canvas as well. I notice when I see paintings if it looked like they’re all done with the same brush and brushstroke, and everything’s the same, I tend to not be as intrigued by those. The last mark-making option is the toilet paper roll technique. It’s very serious. These are high quality, very expensive materials, so good luck affording that, guys.
3. Adjust Color Balance
Add some charcoal to make the black color pop

​At this point in the painting, I’m really looking at my color balance and I decided to add in some bright yellow and a lighter tone to help balance out some of these midtones. Again, I’m always thinking about the color balance. I like to show a wide range of values in my paintings, so your lightest light all the way to your darkest dark.

In this case, I used a charcoal pencil to add some of those dark black color into the painting. I like to work with charcoal because you can easily blend it away or cover it if the color seems a little too hard for you.

I like how the turquoise popped in this painting

Now I’m creating a cool color, I have a lot of warm colors in the painting and I wanted to add something a little pleasing that I thought would pair well with the orange. So I’m applying some of this cool turquoise-type color.

I also have a mild obsession with turquoise, I find these bluish turquoise-type colors finds its way into a lot of my paintings, and this painting is no different. It just is a nice color, what can I say?

Next, I added a really dark color. I needed something to kind of stabilize this painting and ground the painting, so I mixed up a variation of some orange, some black, and maybe some of my complements and blue. I wanted to bring out a darker color contrast, more than just the little bit of black on the charcoal. And to me, when you mix up your own dark, you get a lot richer of a color than say if you use just black out of the tube.

And of course, using this card is again, another very expensive material that very few artists can afford, because it’s not like anyone has credit cards lying around. Who would have thought that this could be used for art as well as buying coffee? Of course, use it after you’ve already bought all the coffee with it.

Use a credit card to apply your paint
4. Add Small Touches of Intrigue
Don't be afraid to not cover up your entire canvas

Once I have a lot of the ground covered, I start looking to go in with a smaller brush and add little touches of intrigue. I’m thinking about how your eye’s going to move throughout the canvas, so one of the ways I’m implementing this is by thinking about, what are some small color touches that you can add throughout the canvas to help move your eye across?

In this case, I have some of this light pink and the light blue that I’m kind of dabbling in, touching it. Again, always turning it 90 degrees, because it helps me to not fall in love with one particular orientation and to see things in a new light.

When you paint intuitively like this and your whole canvas is a playground, it’s good to be constantly aware of the things that are working in the areas that you’re liking. Because there have been too many times in my painting life that I have destroyed or covered over something really cool in a painting, and I really regretted it.

In this painting, I really liked the white of the canvas showing amidst that stencil spray area, and I made a conscious effort not to cover that up. When creating an abstract painting you don’t have to cover your canvas with paint completely, free yourself up from that, don’t feel like you’ve got to cover the whole thing with paint.

At this point I had some random bingo cards from a bingo night I went to, gosh, at this point maybe a year ago, and I thought that would be a nice addition. I didn’t go overkill with the collage, I just added it in a few areas to kind of be some extra interest.

Hit the goldmine with this addition.

Kind of like the cherry on top of the sundae, if you will, and it’s one of the little details that people will notice when they get up close to it and see it. Hopefully, they’ll enjoy that as much as I do. And I just apply it with matte medium, really simple. It’s nice, you can kind of lay it in different areas and see where you think it works best.

Sometimes I’ll go back through and darken up an area of paint if it was too light and not heavy enough for me, I’ll go back through and try and match that color and cover the surface a little better.

Thanks so much for reading through, I’m excited to see how your creations turn out. Feel free to send your DIY masterpieces to amy@paintloose.com for a chance to be featured on our social media sites.

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