I’ll be the first to admit that my sense of “normal” is a little skewed. Although I have a 9-5, it’s a world of work that revolves around art and artists, one that has blurred borders as my interests overlap and spill inside and outside of the office. Part writer, part amateur artist, I try to use every day to create or at least study. I waste very little time, because there’s so much that I want to do, and I’m inspired daily, as many of you surely are. Having our eyes open to life is part of what makes us artists–we stand out from the crowd without trying, and because we dedicate time to practice and create, we’re sometimes seen as “different.” We make things for fun, for beauty, for the simple fact that we’re unable to contain this desire.
I’m okay with that.
Dean Nimmer seems to be, too. With 40 years of painting and teaching under his belt, Nimmer has recently come out with a book that speaks to those of us who look at things a little more deeply than some. Creating Abstract Art: Ideas and Inspirations for Passionate Art-Making, includes exercises on abstract art for beginners (and those with more experience) that help define this almost undefinable style. It’s a great start, for those who like to do things differently.
Get Started and Keep Going (from Creating Abstract Art) by Dean Nimmer
A major obstacle to making abstract art is the barrier in your mind that questions whether abstract art is a legitimate art form, legitimate for you at least. This block may be because you still wonder whether abstract art is really art at all. Possibly you think you have to master realism before you can work abstractly. It could be that you worry your friends and family won’t approve. Or maybe it’s simply that you don’t know how to begin making an abstract composition. The quick answers to these issues are as follows:
1. Historically, abstract art is a legitimate art form; that judgment was settled over a century ago.
2. No, you don’t have to earn a diploma in realism before you make abstract art, and no one checks your artistic credentials at the door.
3. If you routinely did everything that your friends and family approved of, you would not have picked up this book in the first place. Artists of whatever stripe are rebels against the grain of society no matter what they choose to do, (Tweet this!) and you should think of making abstract art as an outsider’s merit badge that sets you apart from the crowd.
4. Worrying about any of the above factors can stop you before you begin, and frankly the only relevant question is “How do I start making an abstract composition right now?” ~DN
Nimmer includes 40 prompts to create abstract art, including using shadows to discover interesting shapes that you may otherwise overlook. I’ve included his “Shadow Hunting” exercise below so you can get a taste of his teaching style. In Creating Abstract Art, Nimmer explains the “how” and “why” of abstract art in a way that’s educational for the experienced, but accessible for the beginner.
With it, you can learn how to create your own works that have expression as well as meaning. Keep in mind that it doesn’t hurt to celebrate your uniqueness, even if you don’t completely rebel against society.
Going against the grain,
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Abstract Art Web Extra:
Shadow Hunting by Dean Nimmer
Though shadows are all around us, they are often ignored for their potential as subject matter in art. Shadows are a rich resource to find intriguing shapes in our environment.
This project requires searching for a variety of shadows that can be indoors behind bright lights or outside on a sunny day. The mission of the shadow hunt is to sketch as many different kinds of shadow shapes as possible without necessarily thinking about how they will be used in your work.
First, find interesting shadows outdoors, and sketch their outlines on separate pieces of paper. You can also combine two or more shadows on a single sheet of paper to make more complex shape configurations. Try to gather at least a dozen shadow sketches on separate sheets of paper, at least 18″x24″. Consider making your sketches at a time of day when sunlight is most intense overhead or when the sun casts long, exaggerated shadows as it nears the horizon.
The shadow-drawing project is also well suited for working with a partner. In this variation, each partner takes a turn drawing the shadow outlines and, alternately, posing to create the shadows for his partner. “Move this way,” “Bend your arm a little more,” “Reach out at more of an angle” and so on–until he sees a shadow to trace. Each partner takes a turn posing for shadows and tracing shadow outlines until they both have about twenty separate shadow sketches.
Once you have your stock of shadows, you can begin working into these sketches as you did in the last project using any mediums of your choice.
Choose those drawings that seem to lend themselves to a direct application of black-and-white or color mediums. You may find some interesting shadow outlines that can be developed by adding either paint or charcoal to negative (empty) space around the traced outlines or working with your medium into the positive (solid) shapes inside the traced shadow lines.
One of the objectives of this exercise is developing interesting compositions that emphasize the dramatic character of these unusual shapes.