Sunday, November 10, 2013

Theories of Abstraction

Out of the Darkness: 1
24x24"  Acrylic on Canvas
Last week I spent a day painting with Gwen Tooth, a Toronto artist whose work I have seen around for years. When I was looking for a class in non-objective painting I was thrilled to stumble upon her listing... classes in any kind of abstraction seem to be few and far between around here. Apparently, they are not in demand. I can understand that I guess... once you get to a certain point in your painting, most people will stop taking classes and just work away on their own. And most novice painters are more concerned with acquiring technical skills than branching out into the abstract genre.

My day with Gwen was informative and fun. It was a small class of only five, so we each got a fair bit of individual attention. And all of us were experienced with acrylics, so we could focus on expression and emotion rather than technique. Everyone brought images of their work, a differing starting point for each of us. I already have a firm grasp of colour theory... my main issue is that I can't get my compositions to hold together. They always look too busy and not unified... a problem I solve by working in a figure as a focal point. With non-objective work, the entire piece is the focal point, so the challenge is to move the eye around in the piece, and the best place to start, says Gwen, is with big shapes.

Another thing I had to get over was my complete avoidance of black. Since I started painting in my late teens, I've been told that black is a dead colour. Don't use it. And many of my teachers didn't. So neither did I. Gwen is my second instructor to disagree with that theory. Go ahead, she says... there are no rules. So I did... and I have to admit, it worked. Instant contrast. I went over the black areas with transparent colour to liven it up a bit, but it is still really dark, and I love that. Overall, I found the class to be really fun, and I think my finished painting was successful. I've got another canvas the same size, so I am going to do a companion piece in the same colours.