Friday, July 9, 2010

Why Paint Abstract Landscapes - Here's how to do it!

Why paint abstract landscapes when you're having a love affair with pure abstract?

Pretty simple!

Never under estimate the value of "content" to the average suburban art browser and buyer. Until you hit the big time, are taken on by a major gallery and have high profile showings you will mostly be selling your art to people who visit art shows in the suburbs.

So give them what they want! And they want content. They want a picture of something they can recognize… so that's what we paint for them.

Absolutely do not throw out your love affair with abstract. Continue with your abstract works - after all in the "big" art world it is the "avant garde" abstract artists who get recognition these days. Just look at the shows at the MOMA in New York. But it takes time to achieve that status and sadly… very few of us will; meantime you can easily starve or lose heart while you wait.

There's nothing quite like a sale to get you painting enthusiastically again. The biggest rule of sales in any sphere - and I have sold things for 35 years - is to find out what people are buying and give it to them.

"Landscape" is the No. 1 best seller and "Abstract Landscape" is No. 2 followed by Abstract in No. 3 spot. So "Abstract Landscape" can be a pretty lucrative niche.

The simplest way I have found to paint abstract landscapes is to take the work of a great landscape artist (I like Van Gogh because he's semi-abstract to start with) and block out the scheme of a painting that inspires you. I usually do this by making a black and white print of the painting and blocking in the light to dark values in say 3 to 5 steps. Then decide where you want your centers of interest, choose you palette and start blocking in the larger areas of color. In abstract landscape there is no need to try to create any 3D or perspective. You can if you want but it's not necessary.

Now you need a serious center of interest. I often like to use houses and clouds in abstract landscape. But trees, boats, mountains, people and water work well too. Keep the detail to a minimum and continue to work on your color areas and centers of interest.

You can begin with the general idea of the original painting as your inspiration but as you go along you will find that your own painting has diverged greatly from the great artists painting.

This is not plagiarism - it's a short cut to inspiration and helps your painting start faster because you have a plan to follow. Of course in copying a Van Gogh you're not infringing copyright anyway, but regardless, if you're working toward developing your own style then making exact copies will only slow you down.

In fact you may even be better to seek inspiration in great photographs so as not to compromise the development of your style.

In one of my paintings I was inspired by the great Renoir work "Luncheon of the Boating Party". You know the one - it's considered by many to mark the pinnacle of his career with his future wife on the bottom left petting a dog and Caillebotte across the table in the lower right. I blocked in his areas of light and dark and started work. I ended with an abstract painting that has nothing whatsoever to connect it to Renoir except the title - "Renoir Abstraction".

Renoir Abstraction

You can view this and some of my other work here: