©2015 Mary Beth Thorne
Why Learn About Abstraction?
Once a year I teach a 10 week intensive workshop on abstraction. Why might you want to learn about abstraction?
1) I admit… when I started out making abstract art I really didn’t know exactly what “abstraction” meant. Which made it really hard to know if I was really doing it “right”.
Non-objective, pure abstraction, cubism, abstracted landscapes – it was all muddle in my head and I could never really define it – for my self or for others. By spending hours and hours studying and doing extensive reading and looking and seeing I was able to finally sort it out.
Had I just taken a class (well duh!) I would have figured it all out sooner. One of the fun things in my class is students get to try out a variety of types of abstraction to find the style that suits them best. We are all different and most all students have a preference for how they work abstractly.
[As a bonus along the way students get to try out different ways of planning their art and as a result they tend to build stronger studio habits once they sort out how they work best.]
2) To speak intelligently about our artwork we need to understand where our artwork fits into the history of art.
The history of abstract art in the Western world is only about 100 years old. While abstraction appeared in other cultures long before, it wasn’t until the early 1900’s that anyone was bold enough to claim a big black square was fine art. How did that happen? Why? How did it evolve? Where along that 100 year timeline does your work fit in?
When we understand what came before us, and why and most importantly – what were they trying to say – I believe it is much easier for us to explain the same things about our own work. Why abstract? What does it mean? What is meaning in abstract art in the first place? Once reality is removed – is there meaning? What role does the artist play in the creation of abstract work?
I could go on and on here – I find these sorts of questions fascinating and I love that by studying the history of abstraction I gain great insight into why I’m doing what I’m doing and how I fit into the world of abstraction. It makes it infinitely easier to talk to others about why I’m doing what I’m doing and what it all means.
And why it is a legitimate form of art. Do your friends and family members look at your abstract work and wonder what it is? By learning the history of abstraction you can help them better understand what you are doing and why it has value.
3) Not working abstractly? Doing landscapes but which you could put more of yourself into the work? Abstraction doesn’t necessarily mean there is no relationship to reality. For many the process of abstracting reality (either a little or a lot) is where they find the sweet spot and it is often the key for making realistic work more personal. I find abstracting reality hard – yet incredibly gratifying as it is about sorting out what matters to me and exposing it in my art.
We learn a lot about ourselves and our preferences when we start to abstract reality in our art.
So to compliment this exploration my abstraction workshop includes a lot of mindset explorations – we’ll look at personality types, perfectionism, vulnerability, confidence and a biggie – limiting beliefs. All of these can help us better understand our world which results in making better art.
My Online Abstraction Workshop
The 2016 session of Abstraction begins June 5.
There are a total of 8 assignments of the course of 10 weeks. And there is a built in catch up week midway through the workshop.
Details and Registration are here: Abstraction.
See more work and read form students thoughts about Abstraction here: Alumni Directory – Abstraction.
Mary Beth Thorne
“While paintings of the Impressionists were my first love, studying the many Abstract Art movements showed me how each new movement was a reaction to the previous one/ones. I called my own painting style “fuzzy realism” which was simply blurring the lines and shapes of a realistic object. I wanted to develop more complex pieces of art, but I had no idea how to do it.
Lisa’s Abstraction class gave us the opportunity to study many ways to abstract objects and ideas and then to practice doing them. My favorite exercise was recreating one of Kandinsky’s paintings. I became deeply involved with his shapes, colors and the placement of them. Critiquing his painting helped my identify the elements and principles of design in his work, as well as in other abstract artist’s work. This led me to a greater appreciation of modern art in general.
I found the huge variety of abstract styles to be both freeing and a little daunting. But, becoming familiar with them and creating my own pieces in those different styles gave me the confidence to be creative in ways that I previously could not have imagined. It has now been several months since I finished the Abstraction class. My mind must have been busy behind the scenes because I recently put together two painting ideas with a new awareness for abstracting them. The result was my most complete, complex and finished painting! It is still recognizable as mine, but it is so much more interesting – perhaps a “reaction” to my previous style. Now, I can’t wait to start a series of these paintings.
Lisa’s classes are like taking a challenging college course in a subject that you love, and doing it in your own space with your own tools on your own time-schedule. Combined with lots of valuable contact with Lisa and the rest of the online class, what could be a better situation?”
~Mary Beth Thorne, Hot Springs Village, Arkansas