The beauty of abstract paintings could be a difficult and mysterious subject to many people. The fact that abstract art, and more specifically non-representational art, does not depict anything from the real world makes it quite challenging for a lot of people to appreciate it.
Challenging decisions for homeowners who wish to add a personal touch to create a certain atmosphere in their homes.
Challenging for interior designers who seek to enhance the interior environments of public offices, hotels and other hospitality venues.
Challenging for most people who just want to add something special to their own environments that could bring them simple pleasure, enjoyment and contentment.
How do you choose an abstract painting?
I have been creating abstract paintings for many years and it is easy for me to see and feel the beauty of abstract paintings. In many cases, I can judge a great painting from a good painting (not an easy task though!).
I spend a great deal of time with art, more specifically non-representational abstract art. This usually includes:
- creating abstract paintings,
- reading and analysing subjects relating to abstract art,
- discussing abstract art with other artists, and
- discussing the subject with those who may be interested in abstract art.
I enjoy talking to people about non-representational abstract art. I always try my best to answer some of the many questions about it from those who have very little interest in art and those who are not sure at all about non-representational art.
To avoid being biased toward my own paintings, I regularly discuss the subject of non-representational art with other artists. Both, those who create non-representational art and those who create other types of art. I also read a lot about how other artists (some of them are well known) respond to explaining this genre of art.
I regularly come across the following topics, which many artists and museum/gallery curators use to explain the beauty of abstract paintings:
- Quality of the abstract painting
- The intention of creating the abstract painting
- The popularity of the artist
That is a lot of deep consideration to make by a non-artist or a non-collector to go through and make a decision about whether they like the painting or they do not.
Let’s go through these topics in a little more detail. I will add the one thing that would help a non-artist or non-collector to easily see the beauty of abstract paintings.
Quality of the abstract painting
Finding the beauty of abstract painting is not different from looking at the beauty of almost any other subject or object. Individually, we all have our own ways of seeing the beauty of an object. One of the first things that will attract our attention is colour.
Colour is arguably the most important element of any painting. We are surrounded by colours all the time. Colour is the first element we immediately notice and identify in almost all objects. Why?
Because colours have meanings and over the hundreds or even thousands of years, we began to associate colours to represent certain meanings. Colour associations and colour psychology vary from one culture to another.
We all have our favourite colours. For whatever reason, we, individually, prefer some colours over others. For example, my favourite colours are gold, white and black. (I have written a blog post about What Does Your Favourite Colour Say About You. And I have explained what my favourite colours say about me).
Looking at the above paintings, which painting do you feel you prefer? Take a moment and ask yourself what makes you feel good? Is it the colours, shapes or lines? Is it the overall composition of all the elements in the painting? Perhaps, none of them appeals to you.
I’m not totally sure how we develop our individual preference for certain colours over other colours, but I believe it could possibly be genetic and also other cultural influences. Cultural influences are clearly demonstrated by the development of colour associations.
When you are looking at any painting, the first thing you will notice is the colours of the painting. The same would apply to a non-representational abstract painting. Why? Because a non-representational abstract painting does not depict anything from the real world. So there is no reference to tell you if it is clearly a flower or a river or a group of people.
Colours could be warm, cold, dark, rich, light, stunning or vibrant. The quality of the colours would stand out no matter how dark or light the colour values. Most of us, even without any background or experience in painting, would be able to tell the difference in the quality of the paints used in a painting.
When you are looking at an abstract painting, do the colours evoke any emotions? All the colours or some of the colours? In your opinion, do the colours mix and blend well? Do the colours associate any meanings to you? These are some of the questions that would come to mind when looking at a painting.
Shapes and Lines
After colours, the second element you would most likely notice is the shapes formed and created by the colours in the painting. Are the shapes large or small, soft or hard edge, mixed and blended with other shapes and colours, etc?
Like colours, we all have our preferences when it comes to shapes. Some like hard-edge shapes, e.g. straight lines, squares, rectangles, etc. and some prefer softer curved shapes and lines or perhaps natural organic shapes.
In my opinion, Nature creates the most perfect shapes and lines. For some unknown reasons, Nature does not create straight lines. However, the shapes and lines created by Nature are most amazing and that is mostly what inspires all my abstract paintings.
What may seem totally chaotic and disorganised mess in the undergrowth underneath a tree is, in fact, a simple example of absolute balance and perfection in Nature. A whole beautifully balanced world happens right in front of our eyes every single minute without the interference of humans.
Now, ask yourself the following questions when you are looking at the painting. Do you feel comfortable with the shapes of the colours? Do you feel more comfortable with straight lines or curved ones? Do the coloured shapes and lines associate with anything meaningful to you?
You may not be able to clearly answer the questions by using exact descriptive words. That is exactly all about abstract art; words cannot always describe evoked emotions.
In a painting, texture is the quality you see or feel on the surface. It could be something you could physically touch, a visual interpretation or both. For example, is the surface of the painting, rough, smooth, glossy, matt, etc.
Artists create textures in a variety of ways using paints, mediums and other tools. The painting surface could be smooth, but the movement of the brushstrokes or palette knife could create the illusion of rough texture.
In creating my abstract paintings, I use both heavy as well as smooth paints to create textures and depth. I enjoy creating the illusion of textures through the movement of brushstrokes and palette knives. Each tool creates amazing but different impacts.
I mainly use three tools, a brush, a palette knife and my hands. Occasionally, I use feathers that I find and collect in our back garden.
I find the process and application of colour contrasting to be one of my preferred ways to create textures and depth in my paintings.
To add more depth to the painting, I create my abstract paintings with several layers of paint. That definitely helps me and I’m sure it helps my customers to see and actually feel the depth of the background from the foreground.
The colour contrasts, shades and values can create amazing visual texture. It is a great skill of an artist to be able to create such an illusion using his/her skilful understanding of the medium(s) they use.
The artist’s skill could also be demonstrated by the ability to create, physically or visually, the illusion of three-dimensional depth on a two-dimensional surface.
Texture creates feelings. For example, a heavy thick texture may be associated with a more active and dramatic atmosphere. While smooth texture promotes calmness and quietness.
Again, when you are looking at an abstract painting, do you visually see and feel the texture of the painting? Can you see the depth of the different layers and elements in the painting? Can you see what’s closer to you and what’s further away from you?
Bringing all the elements of the painting into complete harmony, rhythm and balance is the main challenge of every painting. That is known as the composition of the painting. The prime elements of a painting are colour, shape, line, space and texture.
Composition is the result of the painting that tells the artist as well as the viewer whether the painting is complete. Complete in the sense of a whole one unit that combines and blends all the elements to create a total balance.
This is easier said than done…
Each element must contribute effectively and complement each other elements of the painting. It means that without that element in that colour, shape, line, space or texture, the painting is not balanced and it is not complete. Each element in the painting adds a certain meaningful value to create an overall meaningful story.
You probably have heard this before about abstract paintings creating meaningful stories and you wondered how? I use colour meanings, associations and other descriptive words of colour, shapes and lines to create meaningful stories in my abstract paintings. You can find out more details about this subject in the Storytelling Through Abstract Painting article.
Abstract painting is far from random splashes of colours here and there. Many painters create this type of painting that can be aesthetically beautiful and pleasing to look at. It is a piece of wall décor in your living room or office. The difference with this type of art is most likely you will soon start to notice it less and less until you probably would forget it’s actually there.
A true abstract painting will always pull you towards it and will maintain evoking certain emotions every time you look at it. On your wall, it is never a piece of wall décor as it makes its own statement. It is abstract art with deep meaning. If it doesn’t create that special deep meaning for you, then look for another one.
Abstract art with deep meaning is what every artist strives to create, every gallery seeks to display and every art collector aims to invest.
The intention of creating the abstract painting
So far, all the above details have focused on the painting itself and you viewing it. Nothing else has been involved in this process. I believe that’s the most important engagement with the painting without any additional influence. Just you and the painting.
However, many artists, gallery and museum curators would highlight the intention of the artist to create the painting. I totally understand and agree that additional information can add significant value in terms of both financial and meaning.
But, in my opinion, the intention of creating the painting is very personal to the creator, the artist. Knowing about the artist’s intention in creating the painting could be a significant influencing factor. In turn, it could directly influence the viewer’s opinion and judgement of the painting.
Notice if there are now changes in your opinion about the painting after learning the intention of creating the painting. Has your judgement of the painting changed? Do you still have the same feelings about the painting before learning the intention of creating the painting?
Knowing the intention of creating the painting can and does alter people’s visual perception. They probably will view and analyse the painting again from a slightly different direction influenced and guided by new knowledge. This knowledge could affect and impact your initial visual perception when you saw the painting itself without any other influencing information.
The popularity of the artist
Similar to the intention of creating the painting, the popularity of the artist is even a stronger influence.
Over the years, I spoke to many people (not artists, not professional collectors or museum/gallery curators) who saw the painting of the Mona Lisa. The majority of them could not see the true high value and popularity linked to the painting.
I also carried out a little experiment with a group of people who were interested in art, but not necessarily deeply involved in the art world. The experiment involved viewing some of the most famous abstract paintings in the world. The images included paintings by Cy Twombly, Mark Rothko, Wassily Kandinsky, Gerhard Richter, Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler, etc.
Unaware of the artists or the paintings, the viewers’ comments were mostly anticipated, as you would expect. The majority commented positively on the colours mainly and some towards the shapes and lines. But, there was some hesitation as to whether they would hang any of the paintings on their living room walls.
Again, as expected, none of them could understand or appreciate the levels of fame and financial value of such paintings.
Although this experiment was not scientific in any shape or form, it just indicates how most normal ordinary people would view abstract paintings. And there is nothing wrong with that at all. That’s very normal.
I think and I hope the idea is clear. Abstract painting is not necessarily for everyone, and that is fine. However, for those who are interested or semi-interested in abstract painting, I believe they would be able to make up their minds, without any other information, when they:
- approach the painting with an open mind, not expecting to see something familiar,
- give themselves enough time to really see the painting,
- allow the painting to draw them into it,
- see it in their eyes, but also engage their feelings to recognise any evoked emotions,
- recognise their feelings as a direct result of visual engagement,
- appreciate the communication process between the painting and their feelings, and
- begin to see the unique beauty of abstract painting from within themselves.
The creative visual process to connect with a painting could take a few minutes but it could be much longer. It varies from person to person. Connecting with the painting is the key element in the entire process.
That connection, in turn, is very dependent on seeing the beauty of the painting with your feelings, completely independent of any other external influencing factors such as the artist and his/her intention of creating the painting.
If that connection does not happen, that’s absolutely fine. Just move on to another painting and repeat the process.
I do help some of my customers to choose abstract paintings that would add a personal touch and contribute to bringing positive energy to their personal environment. However, at the end of the day, they would have to make the final decision.
This entire process is primarily to help people who do not wish to be involved with too much information, which may add unnecessary influences and more complicated considerations for simple life enjoyment.
I’m very interested to hear your views on abstract paintings and this article. Please add your comments in the section below and I’ll be happy to discuss and respond.