One of my favorite kinds of art is abstract expressionism. It’s not just one of my favorite kinds of art to look at but it’s fun to make too. Upon first glance abstract art may seem questionable. Some people have even ridiculed abstract art suggesting that it’s so simple anyone could make it. I dare say that’s what makes it so great! Anyone can make it! Abstract art does not struggle to replicate reality. When you look at abstract art you are not necessarily going to see objects from the world that you recognize. You won’t necessarily see beach landscapes, or dogs playing poker in abstract paintings because abstract art doesn’t tell the viewer what to see. When looking at abstract art the viewer gets to imagine seeing anything at all they want and they are only limited by their own imagination. The arrangement of lines, shapes, and colors in abstract art give the viewer the freedom to interpret as they wish. The vagueness of abstract art is also the thing that makes it fun to create. You don’t have to be a seasoned artist to enjoy making abstract art.
When abstract expressionism first made the scene in New York in the`1940’s the world wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. The craziest thing to come out of the art world up until this point was surreal art. Now don’t get me wrong, surreal art is odd and unusual but it at least replicates reality to some degree. It takes the real world and twists it up into something a bit more bizarre than normal but it still contains recognizable objects. Abstract art really requested a lot of it’s early audience in asking to be taken seriously and considered art. It begs the question, what is art? Well, to put it plainly, art has ingredients called the elements of art and those are line, shape and form, color, space, value and texture. Abstract art uses the elements of art but it doesn’t use them in expected ways.
My students have enjoyed making abstract art because there are so many fun ways to go about it and there are excellent well known abstract expressionist painters to look to for inspiration. Jackson Pollock introduced the world to his drip paintings and Mark Rothko made color blocking famous and who can ignore the action paintings of Willem de Kooning. There are a lot of really fun websites where you can go and experiment with making digital abstract art. One of my favorites is bomomo.com. This website uses preset line configurations which allow you to choose twenty different options to layer and build a work of abstract art. Because the website is free and digital, you can make endless amounts of abstract art here. Another great resource for making abstract art is jacksonpollock.org. Here you can create digital art that looks like paint splatters and it’s a lot of fun!
Making abstract art in the studio is fun too. A favorite project of my students involves paint, paper and marbles! This technique requires a box or square pan to keep the marbles from rolling away. Marbles are just a suggestion, any round object will do, rubber bouncy balls, ping pong balls, golf balls, even a diecast car like a hot wheels would work for this project. To begin, place a piece of paper in the bottom of the box. The paper can be plain white or colored paper. Then you will dip a marble into any color of paint you want. Acrylic, tempera and poster paint are all good options for this art project. After you have coated the marble in paint, place it in the box on the paper and roll it around so that the marble makes painted lines. Using different sizes of marbles and different colors of paint will give your abstract art more interest. When you are done you will have a piece of abstract art that rivals the master, Jackson Pollock.
If you were doing this project with a young student this would be a great opportunity to explore color theory. Using primary colors for your paints, students would be able to observe secondary colors being made as the primary colored lines overlapped and mixed on the paper. Another great take away from this project is the observation of all of the different kinds of lines that can be found in the painting, such as thick and thin lines, straight and curved lines, broken and dotted lines just to name a few.