Monday, March 16, 2015

Abstract Monday #1

For the last year I have concentrated a lot more on making art. I participate in weekly figurative study sessions, and with some regularity I do plein air painting with other artists. During a local group's plein air session last Friday, I was invited to participate in an "Abstract Challenge" by artists Nelia Harper and Alisha Lee Jeffers. Here are the rules, according to Nelia:

Right now, the only 'rule' is post your creation by the end of Monday.

Some guidelines - should you choose to use them:

1. Keep it small
2. Pick a color palette before you start - can be based on anything you want
3. Keep it simple and don't spend much time on it (1-2 hours?) think of it as a warm-up/exercise
4. Post your painting and color inspiration on your blog

My two favorite exercises during my college painting class were on abstraction and choosing color palettes, so on Friday, I agreed to participate with no hesitation. At the time, I knew I would be sitting in the gallery on Saturday so I was hoping to think about it some while there. But, alas, the gallery was very busy, so I had to postpone my thinking on the subject to Sunday.

I knew right away where I would get my palette. I took an abstract photo at a museum on a visit to Southern California, and I've always loved the colors that were reflected on the thousands of hanging metal discs in that photo.

I brought the photo into my tablet version of ArtRage Studio, and used the color picker to make a palette for my piece of art. At this point, I still wasn't sure if I was going to head down to the studio and create something physically, or if I was going to try my hand at digital abstraction.

Once I had the palette, I still needed inspiration for some shapes.

I had just a few hours on Sunday after the kids finally stumbled out of bed to head over to the Loveland Museum/Gallery with my son to enjoy the Xylem exhibit before it closed. To my delight, there were plenty of examples of abstraction in the exhibit, and I found my metal-inspired palette in several pieces in the exhibit. (As an aside, I really loved that exhibit... it may be my favorite of all the ones I have seen at the Museum).

Upon returning home, I knew I needed to start getting some shapes onto paper or... something. I was headed down to the studio when I noticed the roses my husband bought last week catching the sunlight coming in through the bay window. I like to get a lot of my photographic references for botanicals at dusk or dawn when the petals have an ethereal glow. The roses had opened nicely, and I didn't want to miss the chance. I pushed the vase over into the window and started snapping photos. I had the stems jammed down into some glass rocks to help keep the arrangement in place, and the sunlight was illuminating the rocks and stems in an interesting way, so I captured a few photos of that as well, figuring I would quickly upload the photos and see if any of them were worthy of this abstraction exercise.

I took about a dozen photos of the bottom part of the vase, and decided two of them had an interesting enough composition they might work out as an abstraction... but with the palette I had selected? I wasn't sure. I decided to import the photo into ArtRage, make a sketch on a toned canvas, and do a proof of concept... on the sofa.

First I tried using the "wax pastels," and I really didn't like the result. My intention was to use the oils as I had been playing around with them during the figure study session a few weeks ago, and it was pretty fun. So, I started anew with my rust-colored toned "canvas" and went to work with the "oil paint." I futzed around with it for quite a while before deciding to go to bed.

For some reason on Mondays I freak out about all the stuff I didn't accomplish over the weekend. So, I spent most of the day doing laundry, making doctor's appointments, paying bills, and doing other paperwork I had been putting off for some time. And, I also read about time management in a book I have about making a business as a professional artist. I really know how to procrastinate, don't I?

In the evening I went with my son to a painting demo which was given by Lani Vlaanderen, a local artist. She spoke a lot about composition, and what she had learned from reading Juliette Aristides' book Classical Painting Atelier: A Contemporary Guide to Traditional Studio Practice. I learned some things I didn't know (or maybe I knew them subconsciously, but now I understand in a more concrete fashion). I planned to go home and check my experimental abstraction against the "rules" Lani mentioned in her talk, but when I got home I opened up my tablet, looked at it, and felt pleased enough to take it to the end zone.

And, here's the result... Abstract #1:

Maybe next week's abstraction will be checked against the compositional "rules."

Alisha and Nelia are planning to auction off their creations on I'm not sure how that will work for this digital work, so I guess I have something else to learn! That's how I like it.

So, a big thanks to Nelia and Alisha for inviting me to participate in this challenge.


  1. Lovely! I'm so glad that you decided to play along. I love the color combo and the depth of the darks to create shadow with the forms coming forward. Beautiful.

  2. Thank you, Nelia! I confess that when I got to it, I felt the palette kind of lacking, so I added a deeper blue/green to help create more depth.

    I've picked my palette for next Monday. I'm scanning for shapes, now.

    Thanks for the challenge!

  3. Amy, I'm so impressed with what you've been producing with that tablet of yours! I think you're successfully merging the worlds of traditional and digital mediums to come up with a contemporary style all your own. You are demonstrating that art is so much about how one sees the world...
    I love that you pulled inspiration from a snapshot in Southern California, the Xylem exhibit and a vase of flowers from your husband; synthesizing it all into this rich & beautiful image. (I have found myself gazing at the stems in a glass vase we have at home with shells in the bottom, wanting to paint it too).
    Does this image have a high pixel resolution that you could upload to Fine Art America to make prints? I think it would be lovely to see framed on the wall...

  4. Aww, thanks! That's something I'll need to work out. When I see this on a wall, in my head, it's pretty big, but on this one the resolution is fairly low. For the future, or maybe another incarnation will be bigger or done with a different program.

    There's always something new to learn! That's why I love art.