Priceless: A Representational Artist Painting Abstract Art Too!

Understanding abstract art through still life. Still life by Sherrie McGraw, oil painting
Still life by Sherrie McGraw, oil painting

Painting Abstract Art Isn’t Just About Squiggles 

Sherrie McGraw’s work always surprises me because she doesn’t allow the objects she is painting to dictate how she paints. Instead, McGraw paints to articulate form, masses, and her own ideas or concepts. It is like she is painting abstract art, but the results are incredibly real.

Her paintings stirs the mind, because no matter what it is you are looking at, the artist brings an abstract sensibility to the objects that makes them more interesting than they would otherwise be.

What Do You Want to Say

When McGraw begins a still life oil painting, she starts with her concept. The concept isn’t about the objects—or at least it doesn’t have to be. It’s more about the idea you want to communicate or the visual interpretation you make of the objects in front of you. That’s why every artist is part of the abstract art movement, whether you paint representational forms, hyperreal ones or abstract ones.

Crucial Questions

Thinking this way is crucial because in that concept are all the answers to the questions an artist is going to be faced with during the process of painting. With Sherrie’s input, I ask myself these questions every time I start to paint:

What objects tell the story I want to tell?

How do I incorporate the way I paint into my message? 

Where do I want quiet passages and where do I want the visual intense ones?

Abstract Art in Realism: Ranunculas and Lilacs by Sherrie McGraw, oil painting
Ranunculas and Lilacs by Sherrie McGraw, oil painting

Give Yourself a Focus

McGraw pushes herself to answer her own questions from the start of a painting, essentially knowing the end result and doing everything she can along the way to get there. In a way, working like this gives you focus.

You can remind yourself of your concept when you feel bogged down or uncertain about the next step. And with oil paintings, a still life can teach you a lot about how to get what you want as an artist.

If you have an abstract art mindset, you can explore color, negative and positive space, texture, and lights and darks. If you take it to the next level and approach still life painting as McGraw does, you are setting yourself on the path of a real artist. It has nothing to do with the objects you choose to paint, but the skill and focus to paint them the way you want to.

If you have the desire to explore abstract art further, take a look at all the inspiring guidance in Creating Abstract Art. You’ll find top-quality instruction that will inspire you toward the “abstract” approach. I know I feel that way! Enjoy!


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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

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