Do You Speak the Two Languages of Art?

19 Jan 2014

Looking Down from Monte Castello, A Garage with an Open Door by Stuart Shils

Stuart Shils blends atmospheric color effects with
visual references to the physical world in this
painting, Looking Down from Monte Castello,
A Garage with an Open Door
All works by Stuart Shils.

No, not Spanish or Italian or French. An artist needs to be fluent in the languages of realism and abstraction. By realism I mean the formal aspects of art--the painting techniques and drawing skills we develop over time through experience. Abstraction is the other side of the coin, the visual language that frees us to paint and draw what is going on inside our heads. It means that I may be looking at a tree, but I want to paint power, life, majesty, and wisdom. The tree becomes a vessel for my message, not the message itself.

The work of Stuart Shils exemplifies the delicate balancing act between abstraction and realism. His work is attuned to the physicality of the real world, often referencing landscape, time of day, locale, and architecture. But his works manifest far more. "I sit in front of nature and make a response that isn't determined by stylization," he says. "No worrying about what it is going to look like--just painting." 

The results are paintings where a cityscape vista is abstracted into a striated grid and loosely colored geometric forms. Or the intense heat of a summer day translates into a vision of hot pink and orange. Shils attempts to capture a sensory moment, not document every detail his eyes take in. "It isn't a compulsory or mandatory inventory of what's in front of you," he says. "The point is to learn how to edit and make choices."

For Shils, being fluent in realism and abstraction means getting in front of nature on a regular basis, and being ready to do something more. "Look and respond," Shils says. "Hard looking doesn't kill anything. It nurtures your capacity to see and the quality of your vision. You can look out there and copy nature, but how about looking at your painting as well? Ask yourself hard questions about what is going on in your work."

Sun Passing Quickly on Lower West Side Buildings, NY by Stuart Shils
Sun Passing Quickly on Lower West Side Buildings, NY
(above). Naples Walls in Late Afternoon Heat (below).
Naples Walls in Late Afternoon Heat by Stuart Shils
Shils' range of subject matter extends from urban to rural
to countryside, and each work gives a distinct, albeit
loosely depicted, impression of time and place.
Does that ring true for you? It certainly does for me and my work. Art isn't about painting only one way or being a slave to your subject. It is about seeing and interpreting, feeling and reacting. Claudia Nice's DVDs focus on allowing you to do just that, honing hand-eye coordination with How to See, How to Draw, while Texture Drawing Basics shows you how drawing skills allow us to harness the elements of realism and abstraction. Works of art become powerful and emotive, and you express yourself the way you see fit. Enjoy!

Featured Products

Drawing Basics: How to See, How to Draw with Claudia Nice Digital Download

Availability: In Stock
Price: $21.99


Create realistic drawings instantly with the help of Claudia Nice! Learn to train your eye and see the essential details and master technique that will have you drawing realistic in no time!


Texture Drawing Basics with Claudia Nice Digital Download

Availability: In Stock
Price: $21.99


Master the challenges of creating realistic textures in your artwork! Follow step-by-step instructions that will have you drawing wood, eggs, clouds, and more with the help of artist and educator Claudia Nice!


Related Posts
+ Add a comment


KatPaints wrote
on 20 Apr 2011 5:03 AM

thanks, I like the combination of realism with abstraction and especially like the garage above. Check out the works of Diebenkorn, Dan McCaw and  Bato Dugarzhapov. I've done the tightly "rendered" paintings and would like to move toward more juicy even abstract painting. Yes it's about responding and editing and it's not as easy as it seems.

Yamakawa wrote
on 20 Jan 2014 9:53 PM

Yes I tried to paint an abstract painting  of sunset, trees and pond  - it was going to be beautiful and abstract !  But maybe I tried too hard- I'll try again using wet on wet.all of the videos and different artists have their own methods so I'll have to find my own way ;)