What is Abstract Art to You?

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Defining Abstraction


What is Abstract Art to You? For some people abstract art is nonsense, others self-expression, exploration, or symbolic expression. There are as many answers to the question as there are people who care to answer it. 

Some people require that in order for art to be art it has to be realistic, or beautiful or both. Over a hundred years ago groups of artists began to challenge the traditional requirements for art. Before then, artists painted what they saw using a method of perspective that had been established by Italian Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi in 1415. Leon Battista Alberti, another architect, wrote about it in 1435. The first challenge to the tradition came from the Impressionist painters known for what has been called painting with light. They painted with dabs of paint that the eye mixed together and the brain interpreted as shape. They were more concerned with how light affected an object than the object itself.

Paul Cezanne the Father of Modern Art

Influenced by the Impressionists, Paul Cezanne became known as the Father of Modern Art. He took Impressionism a step or two further and is responsible for the Cubist and Abstract Art movements. Cezanne brought an analytical approach to his work, concentrating on creating form with line and color.1 He was also concerned with seeing each object in his painting as it existed on its own. And then, how the objects existed in relationship to the other objects in the composition. This approach was opposed to creating a composition by using the principles of perspective.

“The painter gives concrete expression to his sensations, his perceptions, by means of line and color,”

Paul Cezanne

Although Cezanne pulled away from realism, he was very aware of the Italian traditions and frequently visited the Louvre in Paris to observe the work of the masters. Cezanne’s experimentation with line and color opened up new ways to think about painting. These ideas influenced Picasso, Matisse, and other post-impressionist artists who took their paintings further from realism. This began a slow acceptance of differing ways one could view the world through art.

Artists Today

Artists today are free to express themselves in a myriad of styles. In fact, they are encouraged to continue to challenge what art is and to find their own unique expression of doing so. Creating abstract art is just one of the many avenues open to them, in part because of the rule breaking artist that came before them.

Abstract art is defined as nonrepresentational or non realistic. Abstract art can be removed from what is real by degrees from slightly altered to completely obliterated.

To better understand how artists interpret abstract art today, I thought it would be a good idea to ask a few of my new artist friends from The Collective, an artist mentoring group I’m in, ¨what is abstract art mean to them?¨ Here are their answers.

Looking at abstract art is like listening to a language you don’t understand. You hear the sounds (see the image), but the meaning you comprehend is what you yourself apply to it.

Elizabeth Alice

For me, abstraction is a bit hazy and dreamlike. A suggestive and non-obvious way to express feelings, ideas, and concepts. My abstract artistic work is subtle, playful, and detached from realism yet inspired by it. It is intuitive and guided by my inner world. It does not mean one cannot at all tell what something is, but it is definitely not fully realistic.

Sheyla M Stevens

I love abstract because it can be whatever you need it to be. I believe our brain has a need to make shapes/objects out of everything (why do we stare at clouds?) and that’s part of what draws us in. It captivates us so we can see something and it’s fascinating because we all see something different.

Crystal Blake

I discovered abstract art through my love of watercolors. I’ve been a realist most of my life, but one day at the beginning of 2020 I had an anxiety attack. I recovered by instinctively painting aimlessly. When I stopped to look, I found I was painting abstract art! I was so surprised! I discovered that painting abstracts helped me work through things when I had no answers. Since then, I’ve created 4 Abstract Watercolor Painting classes on Skillshare to help others find an outlet to relax and deal with their stress. This art has resonated with many.

Chris Vabre

Abstraction means capturing emotion, time, and place within the bounds of color and texture. I work with fiber primarily as a weaver, so the physical experience of touching the yarns is really transportive and meditative. My abstract work can be interpreted in different ways by different people, so I try to instill a feeling of nostalgia in it. There’s no one right or wrong way to view it, and I love the fluidity of that!

Emily Ip

Abstract art is art that is boiled down to its basic elements of line, shape, color, value, texture, form, and space. It can use one or a combination of these elements to be effective. That is why the simplest line drawing is art or a splotch of red paint on a canvas is art. It contains an element and so it “works” as art. It has what it needs to capture our attention, imagination, and emotion.

Kathleen Broaderick

“Abstract art is a subconscious communication. It is amazing how the energy felt while creating any piece of artwork is communicated to the viewer through the art, even without realistic imagery.”

Jane Collins Boutwell

I love abstract art because it doesn’t have to fall within a confined set of rules. It expresses flexibility, and a lot of times with simplicity. Abstract art can allow interpretation to the viewer, and really is just meant to invoke a feeling, and suggestive ideas. Then you can personalize it to whatever you’d like it to be. Isn’t art such an incredible thing?

Carly Andelin

“To me, abstract art is art that speaks from and to the heart. Each brush stroke, gestural marking, bits of texture are words and emotions whispered from my heart dancing across the canvas. Abstract art is powerfully emotive in nature, whether it evokes a sense of calm or excitement; and the really good works have a way of doing both.”

Kristi Mann

Thank you ladies from The Collective for contributing to this post!

When I talk about the style of art in which I paint, I describe it as being somewhere between realism and abstraction. I hoover back and forth between the two, moving away from realism by simplifying the subject and intensifying the colors. My work has been described as peaceful, serene, and spiritual.

Biz News

The last few weeks have been spent adding new Art Cards to The Shop and my Etsy Shop along with some original art work.


1 The Met


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