In this previous post about painting abstract watercolour painting, I talked about what abstract art is and how you can apply five specific strategies, I called S.E.E.D.S to develop ideas. I really recommend reading that post in addition to this one to get a good overview of the subject.
Abstract art is all about discovery. For me, at least, it is most successful when you take an initial idea as a starting point and see where it takes you through an exploration of the possibilities.
In this series of abstract watercolour paintings. My starting point was quite simple. Take a brush and play around with it. Just making random marks, and seeing what naturally came out. It’s fun and it’s easy, so why not give it a try?
I could have done these paintings with any brush but I chose a Squirrel hair mop brush which is a type of round brush that can form a range of marks from very thick to very thin. No particular reason, it was just the first brush that came to hand.
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Painting With Two Colours
To make things a little more interesting, it occurred to me that I could take two colours that blend well together (I chose Magenta and Pthalo Blue as they mix to create a beautifully vibrant violet) and make some more marks.
Rather than get overly technical here, (This is supposed to be a fun exercise!) if you don’t know anything about colour mixing I would just suggest that you choose two colours through experimentation and decide what looks good to your eye.
For the sake of simplicity, and to avoid having to constantly wash out my brushes, I loaded two separate mop brushes with separate colours and started to make marks. The wave-like shapes below emerged without too much conscious thought. They were just pleasing to my eye and felt like a natural progression.
This whole process of painting should feel organic and natural. You don’t need to copy what I’ve done. I would encourage you to use a different type of brush and use different colours and simply make marks until you start to get bored. You’ll probably start to experience an inner voice guiding you by saying something along the lines of “I wonder what would happen if I…?” When this happens, that’s your intuition telling you that it’s time to move on and change or add something.
Experiment With Abstract Shapes
Intuition was telling me to see what would happen if I introduced some kind of design. I took a pencil and quickly and lightly made some swirling shapes. Then I started painting over the top with some large teardrop shapes. I continued painting, generally following the lines but not too rigidly.
So, having filled a sheet of paper with this design, a natural rhythm and flow was starting to appear in my painting. What started out as a playful exercise in making brushstrokes was beginning to develop and become something else, an exploration of movement and colour. So it was time to move on and see where this would go next.
Experiment With Colour
Abstract painting is a great opportunity to break out those colours that you may not ever normally. I’m a big fan of mixing my own greens. Viridian is a particularly tricky colour to use in a conventional landscape painting. It’s a bit too bright and unnatural looking. This is no doubt why I just happen to have a tube of it lying around that I’ve hardly ever used. For the purposes of this painting though, it’s perfect.
You can see in the images below how each stage of the painting developed. There wasn’t too much thought in the process. Each mark I made was simply an intuitive response to the mark that preceded it.
Once I’d filled one page of the sketchbook, the thought occurred to me that the opposite page was looking a tad lonely.
On to the next iteration!
The next obvious step was to balance the painting on the left with one on the right. The inner voice was asking me questions again. Did I want to just continue with more of the same? How about if I shifted to a warmer colour palette balancing form with colour.
Taking It To The Next Level
The fun wasn’t quite over yet though. What about combining warm and cool colour palettes in one painting perhaps using masking tape to separate one area from the other?
What would happen if I combined masking plus blended wash techniques?
You get the idea.
I didn’t feel that all of these experiments were 100% successful but that’s not the point. It’s all about allowing yourself to explore new ideas without putting yourself under pressure to arrive at a specific destination.
By taking a basic starting point and systematically adding something new to the mix, a very simple idea can quickly develop into a much more richer and complex one. Where you decide to stop is ultimately up to you.
While this is not specifically a book about watercolour painting Jane Davies does a great job of analysing and presenting the elements and principles of abstract art in an inspiring way. Buy Abstract Painting: The Elements of Visual Language from Amazon