Identifying quality abstract art is quite a challenging task for most people. Professional artists and museum curators rely on their experience and technical expertise. But what about normal ordinary people? How can they identify quality abstract art?
I’m sure we all enjoy hanging quality wall art in our living rooms, perhaps made with oil, acrylic or watercolour paints. Most of us don’t necessarily want works of art fit for a museum. But within a realistic budget and something to please ourselves.
When it comes to buying high quality paintings, most of us would think about how to identify quality artwork. What to look for in a painting? How do you judge the quality of a painting?
I’m sure there are many more questions to consider and I will try to provide some more thoughts to help you determine a good quality art.
I will use abstract art or abstract paintings as examples in this blog as I know more about this subject than other types of art. But I’m sure the same could apply to almost all other types of paintings.
What is abstract art?
I have written several blog posts about the meanings and definitions of abstract art. For example, my blog What is Abstract Art could be a good start for those who are new to this type of art.
Simply, abstract art does not attempt to represent real objects. It relies on using colours, shapes, lines and other elements of abstract art to evoke emotions.
Let me be more clear about it. I said that it does not attempt to represent real objects, but it may use real objects which may be exaggerated, simplified or a combination of both.
One last note to make is that many people may use the phrase abstract art for non-representational art, non-objective or other styles of abstract art.
I appreciate that some people may find these meanings and definitions confusing. I try my best to explain things to do with art as simply as I possibly can.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below and I will do my best to provide as much explanation as I can.
How do you judge the quality of an abstract painting
To judge quality abstract art, you will need to consider several factors about the artwork. These factors will help you to gain a better understanding of what makes good quality abstract art. It will also help you to decide whether the art is worth the investment.
#1. Composition of art
Understanding composition in abstract art is probably one of the most important factors that would help you to assess the quality of abstract art.
Let me explain composition briefly. An abstract painting or any other painting is made up of several elements, for example, colours, shapes, forms, lines and textures. The placement of these elements in specific ways is known as the principles of art.
The overall collection of all the elements and their placements on a canvas, for example, make up the final composition of art.
I have written three different detailed articles explaining the elements of abstract art, the principles of abstract art and the composition in abstract art. I’m sure these articles would give you a greater understanding of the structure of abstract artwork.
Again, if you need further explanation, please let me know in the comments section below.
You don’t have to be a professional abstract artist or a university graduate to dig deeper into the technicalities of art or abstract art. Yes, I agree that some of it could be a little overwhelming for people who simply want to enjoy art without necessarily the added complications of the art world.
A well-composed abstract painting will immediately give you a sense of harmony and balance. You would notice all the elements seem to fit in nicely and comfortably. Whether you are aware of the technical side of composition or not, you will feel that everything in that piece of artwork complements each other and work together well. Every element contributes to the overall composition.
One of the ways I use to evaluate quality abstract art is to examine the quality of composition by taking my time looking at the art as a whole. Looking at how the various elements are working together.
Are there any areas of the artwork that feel unbalanced or out of place? Are there any elements that distract from the overall effect of the piece?
Another way to judge composition is to look closer and focus on individual elements. How do they individually and collectively contribute to the overall effect? If I take one element out or add another element, how would that affect the balance of the painting?
Is there a clear harmonious colour palette that creates a sense of unity, harmony and balance, or does the use of colour feel disjointed or haphazard?
You probably have heard other professional artists or art dealers use phrases such as ‘dynamic’ and ‘engaging’ pieces of art. This is where a skilful artist creates quality abstract art that draws you into it and holds your attention for a long period.
A high quality abstract art evokes your emotions and creates a visual language that communicates with you. It could be evoking many emotions and feelings and it could be communicating ideas, beliefs or even imagination.
Quality abstract art would do much more than evoke emotions and communication. It would try to connect with you. If you do connect with the artwork, you are likely to experience an emotional response or resonance.
The connection between you and a piece of art is hard to describe in words. It’s a great sensation which can be based on several things, including individual experiences, cultural effects or just basic human impulses.
People cry when listening to amazing emotional music or songs; people cry watching sad movies or reading sad books, but less often we hear people cry when viewing a painting.
Paintings, particularly abstract are fairly low on the list of arts that elicit powerful emotional responses.
Mark Rothko(1903-1970), a famous abstract expressionist, declared that: “I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions, and the fact that lots of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I communicate those basic human emotions. The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them.”
Communication, as we all know, is a two-way street made up of three elements. The sender, the message and the receiver.
It is a similar situation with quality abstract art. The artist or his/her emotions, the artwork and the viewer’s emotional response.
Quality abstract art can elicit a strong emotional response in us and serve as a tool for self-reflection. It speaks to every one of us in a unique way.
Composition is by far the main key in evaluating and determining the level of quality abstract art, well at least in my opinion.
#2. Techniques used in art
Quality abstract art is created with skilful techniques. It doesn’t happen haphazardly as some people may think.
Evaluating quality abstract art techniques may be more challenging for some people who are not necessarily deep into the technical side of creating art.
The technique demonstrates the artist’s talents and exceptional quality such as the mastery of brushstrokes, colour blending and layering, among others. The structure and all the elements of the artwork should be consistent throughout the entire painting.
The artist’s ability to use and demonstrate these techniques effectively and skillfully can have a significant impact on the overall quality of the piece.
One way to assess the quality of abstract art is to look closely at the surface of the painting. Are there any areas where the paint of other materials appears thin or uneven, suggesting a lack of skill or experience? Or are there areas where the artist has used the materials in a particular effective or innovative way, showcasing their skill and creativity?
Another way to evaluate quality abstract art is to consider the overall impression created by the artwork. Does it feel flat or two-dimensional, or does it have a sense of depth and dimensionality? Does the painting feel static or lifeless, or does it have a sense of energy and movement?
By paying close attention to the quality of technique in abstract art, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the skill and creativity involved in creating unique and compelling works of art.
#3. Originality of art
Originality of art is so personal to the artist himself/herself. This is what distinguishes the individual artist’s style from all the other artists.
When I look at paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo or Jackson Pollock, for example, I can immediately recognise the artist from his/her style of painting. It is so unique to each artist.
When it comes to the individual art style, it always reminds me of our unique individual handwriting style. It’s so unique.
Originality, in this context, refers to the artist’s ability to create distinctive and unique artwork that is not imitative or derivative of other works.
Abstract art, in particular, is known for its emphasis on innovation and originality. The artist is often working without the constraints of realism or representation. This vital element allows the artist to explore new and original ways to create attractive art from almost nothing.
One way to evaluate the originality of quality abstract art is to consider the artist’s overall body of work. Does the artist have a unique style that is evident across multiple pieces, or does their work feel disjointed or inconsistent? How does it compare to other artworks in the same genre or style?
#4. Emotion and Expression in art
Another key factor to take into consideration when assessing the overall quality of a piece of abstract art is emotion and expression. The ability of the artists to portray a specific feeling through their artwork, frequently through the use of colour, form and texture, is referred to in this sense as emotion and expression.
Since the abstract artist is unrestricted in their exploration of their own inner feelings and experiences and is not required to depict objects from the real world, abstract art is commonly linked to evoking emotions and expressing feelings.
Depending on the artist’s intention and the viewer’s interpretation, the artwork may arouse a wide variety of feelings, from happiness and optimism to sadness and despair.
Colour plays a big part in creating different moods. Colour psychology plays a significant role when it comes to colour meanings and associations. These are very subjective as they are influenced by personal experience and cultural influences.
Bright, vibrant colours may evoke a sense of joy and excitement, while darker and more subdued colours may convey a sense of melancholy or despair.
Textures, shapes and lines can also play a role in conveying emotion, with rough, jagged lines suggesting aggression or tension, while soft, flowing lines may give a sense of calm and tranquillity.
I have written several blog posts about colour psychology and colour meanings and associations, Check these blog posts for additional information:
- Wall Art and Colour Psychology
- What Does Your Favourite Colour Say About You?
- Exploring the Power of Colour in Abstract Art
#5. Materials and Medium used in art
High quality abstract art should be created using high quality materials. Don’t expect to find quality abstract art made using low quality paints or mediums. It doesn’t work at all.
Yes, it costs more to buy good quality paints and mediums. Professional quality paints are more expensive in comparison to lower quality paints.
It’s not only paints and mediums, you would also consider other materials used such as the surface of the painting.
There are many surfaces used by artists to create visual art. Some of the most common surfaces include paper, canvas, wood, Masonite, aluminium, copper, etc.
It doesn’t stop there. Each type of surface comes in a variety of different qualities that could affect the overall quality of the art. For example, a linen canvas is much more expensive than a cotton canvas due to its strength and durability.
Quality material in the hands of a skilful artist can make a huge difference between high quality abstract art and a not so good art. The difference would be obvious even to the untrained eyes.
Evaluating quality material as well as techniques used in creating abstract art maybe present a challenge to many people.
One of the best ways to find out more about the quality of techniques and materials is to ask the artist directly.
Develop a good rapport with the artist and ask him/her all the questions you need to clarify about the artwork.
Tips for identifying quality abstract art?
Now we have covered some of the key factors to think about when evaluating quality abstract art, let’s look into some specific tips to help you more in identifying quality art pieces.
Look for balance and harmony
As I mentioned earlier, quality abstract art will have a sense of harmony and balance between all its elements. Look for pieces that draw your immediate attention.
It could be the harmony of the colours, shapes or other elements in the artwork that caught your attention. A good quality abstract art would project complete harmony and balance in the overall elements of the artwork.
Even if you are not familiar with art techniques, you would feel it. You would feel that the entire artwork looks and feels harmonious and balanced.
Look closer at each of the elements and their individual placement in the artwork. Then take a step back and look at the artwork as a whole and see how the various elements work together to create a sense of harmony and balance.
By doing so, you can gain a deeper appreciation of the artist’s skill and the emotional impact of the art.
Consider the artist’s reputation
Find out who is the artist behind the piece you are considering. Talk to the artist directly, if possible. Find out about their level of experience, skill and creativity.
A well-known artist with a good reputation is likely to create high quality artwork that is considered valuable and sought-after by collectors and art enthusiasts.
But it doesn’t always have to be a well-known artist
There are many other talented and skilful lesser-known artists who may produce equally high quality artwork but have not gained the same level of exposure or recognition.
Discovering and appreciating the work of lesser-known artists can be an exciting and rewarding experience for art enthusiasts and collectors. These artists may offer a fresh perspective or unique style that is not as commonly seen in the work of more well-known artists.
I always think a piece of artwork is a piece of the artist himself/herself.
It’s worth noting that the artist’s reputation can provide valuable insight and context into the quality of their work, but it shouldn’t be the sole determining factor in your evaluation of quality abstract art.
Take your time
In the composition section above, I mentioned the importance of making that personal connection with a piece of art. To allow yourself to make a connection and to allow the artwork to pull into it, you must allow plenty of time to look at it.
I can’t put more emphasis on giving yourself plenty of time to engage your feelings with the artwork. Yes, you would be looking at the artwork with your eyes, but you have to let your feelings ‘see’ it.
Do you know that a study was carried out to check how long museum visitors’ spend looking at a piece of art? The answer is less than 30 seconds. Some say that the average is 17 seconds.
That really surprised me a lot. There is no way anybody can enjoy looking at any painting in 17 seconds.
Whenever I visit an art gallery or a museum, I would start from one end and spend as much time as I feel comfortable looking at each individual painting. And it’s definitely a lot more than 17 or 30 seconds. That’s not all. This is only the first round.
When I have looked at all the paintings, I would go for a second round and start again. This is the time when I could be spending more or less time looking at each painting again. This could take a few hours, depending on how many pieces of art there are.
It does not stop there. When I leave the art gallery or museum, I would be thinking about those pieces of artwork that attracted me the most. What was it about that painting? Why did it attract my attention? What did I like about it? And so on.
There would be several questions in my mind about those pieces of art that stayed with me long after seeing them. And I might go back again for another viewing.
Emotional connection to a static object could take some time. You need to be willing and prepared to allow yourself the time and engagement with the artwork that it may deserve.
Taking your time viewing a piece of art and the importance of composition are probably the two main takeaways in this blog.
Taking your time to appreciate art doesn’t guarantee that you will always have a connection to it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
Trust your gut
I left the best for last. I truly believe art is a language of feelings. Whether you are a professional artist, an experienced art buyer or just somebody who is simply interested in art, we all look at art because it could move us.
It is that sensation of feeling comfortable, feeling good about looking at art. A quality piece of art is always trying to connect with us, it tries to tell us something, to make us feel something, to resonate with us in one way or another.
If you feel everything I mentioned earlier in this blog is a little overwhelming with art technicality, trust your own instincts and feelings. You can’t go wrong with that. Because, at the end of the day, you are buying that piece of art for yourself, not for anybody else.
Examples of quality abstract art
All the images above are of my own original abstract paintings. You can see more of my paintings in all the blog posts I have written on the Blog page.
Have a look around and you can decide for yourself whether any of my paintings would fit in with quality abstract art.
The following images, most definitely, are quality abstract art. They are unquestionably works of excellent abstract art created by some of the most famous abstract artists in the world.
- Joan Mitchel (1925-1992): Field for Two I, 1973.
- Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986): Black Hollyhock Blue Larkspur, 1930.
- Willem de Kooning (1904-1997): Gotham New, 1955.
This is only a small sample of high quality abstract art. There are many more great abstract arts created by several great artists.
And here is a good video about some of Jackson Pollock’s paintings: 62 Stunning Paintings by Jackson Pollock.
Final words about quality abstract art
There is no doubt that there is a lot to think about when evaluating quality abstract art. Some of it may seem a little overwhelming. Take your time and enjoy the experience.
Talk to the artist and ask whatever question to help you learn more about the quality of the piece of artwork. Also, looking at several paintings can help a lot.
If you have any questions or comments, please let me know in the comments section below or just drop me an email. It’s that simple.