I’ll just say it right out: abstract is intimidating! Looking at a blank canvas is hard enough when you have a concrete image in your mind, let alone when you’re working to create something that’s never existed before. Abstract canvas art doesn’t have to be such an intimidating subject, though, because most of the time you can create some really beautiful art with just a few simple steps!
How to Get Started with Abstract Art
These are the techniques that I use to get my creativity flowing and ensure that I create an interesting and balanced piece of art! You may want to try some or all of these tips on your next piece.
You all know by now that water is my secret weapon when it comes to painting!!! While I use it with clay-based DIY Paint on my canvases to reactivate dry paint or blend colors together, water can be used with many mediums to create interesting effects! I love the organic nature of the drips and splatters. Add water to your paint and flick it, spray water on your work to blur the edges, or add paint to your water and spray it directly on the canvas, there is no wrong way to play with paint!
Let Gravity Do The Hard Work
Once you’ve added some paint to your canvas and sprayed it with water, let gravity do the hard work. Allow your paint to drift, drip and blend by manipulating your canvas or simply leaving it alone long enough for gravity to do its thing. This helps you cover large sections of the canvas organically.
Use a Variety of Tools
If you’re not completely comfortable with your natural painting styles and strokes, mixing up the tools you use can be a major help! While I like to use a variety of brush sizes with varying widths to apply paint, I often also employ my fingers, a brayer covered in plastic wrap, scrapers, palette knives, and more to achieve the look I want. Some artists enjoy using unconventional materials, like bubble wrap, feathers, foil, and cardboard to add texture and pattern to their works. The most important thing is to do what feels natural to you.
Don’t Be Afraid to Mix Mediums
While most of my work is done using DIY Paint, I like to use neon acrylics for highlights! Maybe you want to add some soft pastels or alcohol inks to your work but you’re not sure? Try it anyway! Abstract art is about experimentation.
Not just your body, your canvas too! View your canvas from different angles, flip it, and view it again. I can’t tell you how many times Matt has had to hear me holler, “Babe! Come help me flip this thing!” Buuuut, whatever the number is, it has always been worth it. Sometimes that new perspective is all we need to take things to the next level.
Balance is Key
This is the most difficult aspect of abstract: balancing your canvas. Balance doesn’t mean that your painting has to be symmetrical; it simply means that your canvas is weighted in a way that draws the viewer in to the piece, moving their eyes over the canvas to take it all in. Achieving balance is a mix of understanding color, texture, and scale. When it comes to color, I like to use contrasting and complimentary colors near each other to balance warm and cool or light and dark tones. Texture is about adding interest to your piece, which can come from layers of paint, different tools, or (my favorite!!!!) adding metallics like gold and copper to your work. As for scale, I like to go back and forth between each side of the canvas, laying the foundation for my work and adding details, highlights, and broad strokes.
Don’t Overthink It!
“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”
– Ray Bradbury
The worst thing you can do for your art is get in your own way. Close your eyes if you have to, but give yourself the freedom to create something that is entirely yours. After all, it’s just paint.
Be well and love much!!