Perhaps the title would be better as the question I have so often heard: "How can I produce an abstract image?"
Within the next few articles I intend to lead you into those dark secret places filled with wonderful tantilizing enigmas, where we will find all the passionate inspiration and the great variety of techniques required for you to be able to produce an astounding work of art worthy of Howard Hodgkin or Mark Rothko (do not worry if you do not know who they are ... you will meet them sometime soon).
So ... how do you do it?
I need to ask you a slightly different question in order for us to move forward upon this slippery creative path.
Why do you want to produce an abstract?
... here is a list of answers which I would like you to read and then decide which, if any, loosely fit your reason for wanting to do it:
1. No reason ... I just want to.
2. It looks so easy ... and it would be nice for something to go with the decor.
3. In order to make money ... lots of it!
4. I feel compelled to ... like I really need to.
5. I have visions; dreams; day dreams; thoughts; I hear voices; I am being told to by an inner something ... and these need to be brought into the material world.
6. Therapy ... this is an opportunity for venting my aggression; bolstering my lack of self confidence; visualising my inner turmoil.
7. I want to express myself ... in a strictly personal way.
This is by no means a complete list ... you may well have completely different reasons, but this is a start.
So ... which one did you tick?
Lets have a look at them in a bit more detail:
1. This is the answer of the anarchist. A very valid reason for wanting to work abstractly ... you already have within you an angry boiling cauldron, and the potential to produce truly opposing and dramatically random works. However, this requires brut strength of will, and the blinding power of obstinancy for it to work for you.
2. One of the most common misconceptions. It is NOT easy to produce an abstract work ... it IS easy to produce a mess! This will only lead to frustration, depression, and bitterness ...then you will be an a far better position to produce something like a true abstract work.
3. There are literally millions of people producing the most amazing pieces ... and none of them are rich, famous ... even earning any money at all. I stand by my belief that what I paint is not about money - it can never be. Try again.
4. An interesting answer ... the driven series worker attitude. Dangerous yet compelling. You are destined to succeed ... but success will have no meaning or interest for you and will not help you. Yet the compulsion will take you deep into darkness (not scarey darkness but mysterious darkness) where you will find more questions.
5. The surrealist. Abstraction will not be too difficult for you ... as long as you relax a little. Do not allow the explicitness of sights blind you to the potential, and more appropriate imagery, of the arbitrary joining of coincidences.
6. Here is the answer for the purist abstract producer. Inner tensions, inexplicable fears, and blinding mental flashes all contribute to a truly innovative palette.
7. The fearless explorer ... well, that is what you will expect of yourself, but you had better tread carefully. Are you prepared to hear people telling you how much they hate your work ... so much so that they want to destroy it? ... even then are you still willing to carry on?
How do you feel? Still want to carry on and produce that masterpiece? Yes? Then here is some practical work until the next article.
Get a sketchbook, ensure you make at least one mark of some kind on one page every day. Go to galleries (online ones aswell), take your sketchbook to make any observationss or scribbles. If you are a little hesitant about mark making then here is a very useful exercise:
Get an A4 sheet of paper and a pencil; find a watch, clock or timer that measures seconds, Set the timer for 15 seconds, place the paper and pencil on a table, making sure the table is clear of any objects other than the paper, pencil, and timer ... have a chair ready to sit on at the table.
Reach out for a nearby object that you can place upon the table ... it can be anything from a mobile phone to a magazine ... and, without thinking simply place it onto the table - sit down, start the timer ... and look at the object for five seconds (DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DRAW IT). Consider shape, texture, space, highlights, lowlights, tone, tints - pay special attention to the outline of the object. Once five seconds is up start drawing ... you have ten seconds to to try to capture what you have just been looking at.
Lets face it ... you are not going to produce a masterpiece! So do not even try. I want you to simply capture the dynamics of what you see ... no more.
Repeat that six times. Each time try to slow down and draw a purposeful line - no hesitant scratches. Why draw twenty little marks when you can draw one big one.