Painting your feelings may sound unusual and unfamiliar. How do you paint your feelings? I always wondered whether it was actually possible at all. I’m sure it would be great to physically see your own feelings.
We all know that art is all about evoking emotions and feelings no matter what the subject is. Artists know this very well and they cleverly use their talents and skills in understanding the effects and influence of the elements of the painting on our moods.
Colours have meanings so do shapes, forms, lines, composition and texture. Although that meaning may be subjective and influenced by personal experience and culture – all the elements, individually as well as collectively, do affect our moods. Some of us may realise the influence of these elements, but many may not.
As a viewer you do not necessarily have to be a skilled artist or knowledgeable of art technically, you either like the painting you are looking at or you do not. As simple as that. This is particularly the case when it comes to abstract painting and more specifically, non-representational painting.
The Slow Art Movement
However, looking at artwork plays a major part of really appreciating it. Looking is obviously different from a quick glance.
Apparently, it was noticed that museum visitor looks at a piece of artwork for less than 30 seconds, which does not allow sufficient time for reflection and appreciation of the artwork. The Slow Art Movement idea was conceived by Phil Terry in 2008.
The idea came to him after visiting a museum in New York. One year later, he launched the first official Slow Art Day event in collaboration with 16 museums. Today, several hundred museums and public galleries participate in the Slow Art Day around the world, which usually takes place in April every year. The main objective of the Slow Art Day is to help visitors to slow down to gain a better appreciation of the artworks.
The more you look, the more you see.
More about the Slow Art Movement in this article: How Can I Learn To Actually See Abstract Art.
The difference between abstract and non-representational art
Well, there is still a debate about the exact definition of abstraction and non-representational art. Abstraction can be defined as “to extract, pull away or remove”. Using this definition, some think that abstract art removes some of the elements and components of the subject. It is creating an altered or distorted depiction, but it remains representative of the subject itself.
On the other hand, non-representational art does not depict anything from the real world. It does not make reference or represent a familiar or recognisable object. I prefer to use the meaning “freedom from representation”. This type of art uses the emotional powers of colour, shape, forms, lines and the overall composition in creating visual artwork. These are among the most significant elements to use for painting your feelings.
But both terms, “abstract” and “non-representational” are often used interchangeably by most people including some artists.
Pablo Picasso, Girl before a Mirror, 1932
Jackson Pollock, Reflection of the Big Dipper
Here are a couple of great examples (above) of abstract and non-representational paintings. Girl Before a Mirror was created by Pablo Picasso in March 1932. The young woman, Marie-Therese Walter, Picasso’s mistress, is standing in front of a mirror looking at her reflection. This is considered an abstract painting style because the image is distorted to a great degree that it doesn’t portray a real representation. But it has kept its recognisable shape of a face of a woman.
When you look at Jackson Pollock’s Reflection of the Big Dipper painting, which he created in 1947, you can clearly see that there is no true depiction of the real world in his painting. Pollock was known for his radical drip technique which he used to create many of his iconic paintings.
Painting your feelings process
I think there is a process to go through to prepare yourself and I do not think you can start painting without having prepared for it in advance. I mean mental or psychological preparation and in advance could mean a few minutes, hours or even longer. The process involves two main elements, in my opinion and these are your thoughts and your feelings.
- From my experience, I know that I need to find a way to switch-off and cut out all distractions as the first step. Over the years, I believe that I could manage switching off my mind from, almost, any thought process and just focus on my feelings.
One of the best ways that I found to help me switching off and minimising distraction is by using headphone/earphone playing my favourite music loud. This has become my painting practice over several years and it seems to work. It is a practice that I have seen used by other artists, too.
- The second step in the process of painting is to engage your feelings to do the actual painting. How would you do that? I think it is mainly triggered by the elements and components of creating a painting – colours, value, shapes, lines and composition.
The thorough understanding of the emotional powers of these elements and the possible influence and effects on our moods help me to just let them take over the painting process – I just let go.
This is where and when the painting happens, but it does not happen immediately. Getting the feelings engaged and taking over may take time to develop and connect. It is that connection that I aim and look for when creating a painting. Sometimes it can take few minutes, hours or may be days and weeks.
Once the connection is made, everything begins to happen. The individual elements begin to connect and link to one another creating balance and harmony. This is when the magic starts and this is when you start painting your feelings. You will feel it and you will know it.
Nature – The Mother of All Inspiration
I take all my inspiration from nature because nothing and no one can perfect imperfection as Nature do. What may seem chaotic under a bush or a tree is in actual fact full of life. There is complete harmony and balance, but unfortunately to most of us, it looks like a mess, with fallen leaves and broken branches.
In reality, there is a whole life beneath the dirt and fallen leaves – a life so complicated yet so organised and balanced. We link beautiful objects to also organised objects but when it looks messy, it immediately takes away their beauty. Far from the truth.
Abstract art beauty follows a similar concept and in order to see its beauty, you need an open mind and more importantly to look closer at unfamiliar objects and find the beauty within.
“No Great Artist Ever Sees Things As They Really Are.” – Oscar Wilde.
As a non-representational abstract painter, I go through several phases in creating each painting. All the time I’m looking at balance and harmony in what may seem to the untrained eyes totally chaotic mess.
My challenge is always to apply the following:
- Simplicity or elimination of clutter, i.e. to express the painting in a plain, simple and natural manner. To express the feeling of painting not in terms of decoration but in terms of clarity through omission or exclusion of the non-essential.
- Controlling the balance in the composition via irregular or asymmetrical lines and shapes. To balance imperfection.
- Natural harmonious flow, absent of pretences and artificiality. This is to impress the viewer that the elements of making the painting are not accidental. There is a purpose, a meaning and intention.
- Visual implication and suggestion by not necessarily showing everything – showing more by showing less.
- Expressing tranquillity or an energised calm, stillness, solitude. But it can be quite the opposite feeling of noise and disturbance.
- And finally, expression of freedom from the familiar. This is by far one of the main factors in creating abstract painting.
I hope all the above does not seem to be complicated, but it also reminds me of the following quote:
“I found I could say things with colours and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way … things I had no words for.” – Georgia O’Keeffe.
Why Do We Like Abstract Art
Perhaps I should say why some of us like abstract art, as not all of us like art and, most definitely, abstract art. The art that is, in most cases, misunderstood to be from nothing into nothing.
This is a subject that I find extremely intriguing and I have spent a great deal of time reading, searching and analysing a lot of information about the subject with the intention to include it in this article.
My article, Why Are We Attracted To Abstract Art touches on the subject of painting your feelings from a different angle. This article was mainly aimed at examining the potential effect of neuroscience, which goes deeper into our minds. Art is subjective and is influenced by personal experience and culture, but I also think there is a lot more to do with our genes and DNA.
I came across a beautifully written article, which really explains this subject very well: “This is your brain on art” by Noah Charney.
There is no straight answer to why some of us like abstract art. Everyone has their own reasons for liking or disliking abstract art and this is one of the hidden beauties of abstract art. It is hard to define. But it is so wonderful that the same piece of abstract art can be interpreted differently by different people. That is absolutely amazing and not many other types of art have the same effect.
At the end of the day, when you paint and create a piece of artwork, I think you are painting your feelings. But the question remains whether you realise it.