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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn Rae Morgan

How to start an abstract painting

Standing in front of a blank canvas is a great way to meditate. I gaze into the whiteness for a while, sometimes making imaginary strokes with a pencil. Then, because I want the initial marks to be spontaneous in every way, I work quickly, keeping in mind my desire for simplicity. Often three, five or seven marks are enough. Then I stand back and begin to slowly absorb the spaces and shapes created. The spaces are the most important. I'm looking for a pleasing rhythm made by the marks that guides me to the next step. Sometimes I pour thinned oil paint or begin finding tonal values by brushing over the marks. My latest favourite tool is a small roller (I have three sizes) to smudge the marks and create texture and interesting lines. It's a slow process because I need time to study each addition created as opposed to jumping in and doing too much, a bad habit I'm trying to avoid.

When I get to the stage where I'm beginning to lose vigour and everything goes out the window, I stop and rest. Better to stop and let the mind cool down before the next session. Sometimes, I don't get back to the work for a day or two. When I think I am done, I wait again to make sure. There are times when I think a painting requires more but what it needs alludes me. Then, it sits in a corner where I can see it, and I move on to the next canvas.

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