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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn Rae Morgan

How to start an abstract painting

When I first started making abstract paintings, I started by making initial marks and going from there. Each mark guided me to the next, sometimes good, sometimes awful! I would get worried and despondent, not knowing where to go next. Then I discovered the art of play, going for it without preconceived ideas, letting serendipity play a large part. I kept adding layer after layer, watching as the surface patina grew, loving what I discovered along the way.

I can imagine this is how Helen Frankenthaler approached her work, always experimenting, and always looking for something special. This is the essence of making artwork intuitively, relying on the senses rather than copying from photos or painting what is on hand.

My best advice for a novice painter is to throw caution to the wind. Keep working, keep noticing what you like and don't like, don't give up, keep adding layers, and when you get tired, put it away and start another. This way, you'll come back refreshed and be able to see with clear eyes. Also, keep researching art in all its forms so that you develop an eye for quality and can understand why a painter has made the choices they have.

The artwork below, called "Crocodile Coast" has many layers. The painting is inspired by the coast of Western Australia where crocodiles and sharks reign supreme. My overall approach for abstract painting depends on transparency, translucency and opacity, differences between shapes, light and dark, and soft and hard edges. Colours are mixed directly on the canvas. Glazing also comes into play. It is a time-consuming process that uses a lot of paint!

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