Abstraction is a key part of how you paint or draw anything.
It is seeing completely with the eye, and not allowing the brain to
contextualize what we are seeing. But turning off the brain is no small task!
I've found that painting with acrylics has given me a bit of insight into
abstraction for two reasons: when painting with acrylics, each layer dries
fast--so I can practice seeing (and painting) abstractly over and over again in
a fairly short period of time. Also, the paints are opaque, so gesture comes
more strongly to the fore in any work because it is much less about blending
than about making successive layers work together.
|Earth and Shade II by John Harrell, acrylic painting.
As I've confessed before, I'm usually a slowpoke ditherer
when it comes to painting, largely due to the intimidation factor. When
painting with acrylics, I found my speed because those paints dry fast! But
that means that as soon as they do, I can go in again. I really enjoy the fact
if I try to paint a figure or aspect of the landscape too literally, I can wait
a few minutes, assess what I've done, and experiment more abstractly right then
||Sun Lovers by John Harrell, acrylic painting.
We all know that acrylic paints dry opaque unless you add a
medium to make them more transparent. This solidity or opacity has proven
helpful to a lot of artists who want to build up their
abstraction chops. That's because you can see your gesture completely in every
stroke you put on the canvas, as opposed to brushwork that layers on in a more
transparent way. Exploring gesture in an acrylic painting is especially
exciting if I use a palette knife because the entire surface of the painting is
looser, more textural, and all about big shapes and color.
John Harrell puts abstraction and acrylic painting
techniques together in compelling way in his new DVD, Acrylic Painting: Scenes from the City. He explores how to take two aspects of art
that are the most interesting--the figure and landscape painting--and put them
together to create appealing compositions and a beautifully painted surface that can be appreciated abstractly and on the basis of representation.