Friday, July 8, 2016

An Abstract Sneak Peek

Sneak Peek - Commission
watercolor on aquabord
One of the projects I used to assign when I taught high school art was based on "abstract" design.  I think to turn out interesting and successful abstract work one must have a comprehensive understanding of the elements of art and principles of design.  Without this foundation, non-representational work can often feel empty and incomplete.  Students don't always have enough experience to really understand abstraction, so I made it as concrete as I could to lead them to successful solutions.

For all of my assignments I developed "project sheets" that included 10 objectives that my students were to follow while encouraging them to think as creatively as possible while meeting these objectives.

The criteria would center around what concepts I wanted to teach.  I may limit students to following specific "rules"  - they may have to work within a complementary color scheme or put their focal point within the rule of thirds, for example.

For creating non-representational work these objectives always worked really well -- using concrete methods to teach something that's ummm . . . way less than concrete.

And to give students a starting point rather than just assigning "an abstract painting" I'd have students magnify an object or part of a still life, or a portion of a photo, etc.  They would create small viewfinders with index cards and look at things in a different way - thinking about the design elements listed in their criteria.  I felt that this method took a very "abstract" concept and gave it some concrete "teeth" that students could really grasp.

So why this long dissertation on a project I used to teach a lifetime ago?  This little tidbit from my latest commission reminded me of that assignment.  It's just a tiny little portion of the painting that made me remember how much fun it is to magnify objects to create unexpected non-representational designs.

If you never have, try out this method -- it's a lot of fun and I'd love to see your designs.  Email them to me at

Thanks for popping in and have a great weekend!

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