Abstract or representational? There’s a Thin Line Between

In the studio I never know what will develop using my current creation process. I start with abstract designs or near abstract— all done to music

14x11 soft pastel on mylar. The original is a bit lighter, more fog-like

Most is the time, the drawings are pencil or my favorite— charcoal. I start out just making lines using the side of a pencil or blunt end of charcoal. Most thumbnails Take no more than 2-5 minutes— no longer than the musical pieces I’m listening to.

Sometimes the drawings don’t look like much. But in them I see composition designs that I’ve studied. At the moment I see something, the subconscious mind is tuned down and the conscscious mind begins to develop shapes that I recognize from my many years of landscape art, hiking and studying botany. I suppose, if I were a figuractive artist I’d see what I know and learned about anatomy and in the unconscious drawings I might see figure and human composition forms. I just pick the best sketch design from the many pages of sketches. I then pick a color pallet.

For this painting, I chose violet for my center of interest, green as my dominant color and variants of red and blues as my highlight colors.

Finding Composition in Abstract Drawings The above sketch design has two compositions working in it— the cross and the radiating lines appeared to be hinted at when the music stopped. . Sort of like musical chairs: when the music stops everyone sits in a chair and the one left with no chair is out of the game. Sometimes when the music stops, there’s nothing there, no apparent design appears. That’s ok because these are just 2-4 minute thumbnails. There’s nothing precious lost since I put 4-6 drawings on a page. Using the front and back, thats 8-12 drawings on an inexpensive paper. While time is precious, in just a few minutes and a few songs, there's usually one interesting design with promise to work from. .

From the sketch, the concept is blocked in and usually something recognizable begins to emerge.

In this case it was a clump of dead trees or dormant trees on an island in the river. These are common features in the Eel and Wabash rivers near me.

Still, surprises emerge. For example, the cross composition of the light areas stayed but the radiating lines disappeared as the work progressed. In its place came a kind of three spot composition using the darker elements— the large island, its smaller reflection and the the smaller more distant island. Also gone are the greens in favor of a violet and blue combination with warm reds and the complementary yellows. My goal is only to create the suggestion and simplify or abstract the reality just enough to make the painting walk the thin line between the two art genres— abstract and representational.


* be flexible and let the art take me where it wants

* my subconscious is only a starting point- my knowledge of design must kick in and work alongside my subconscious

* knowledge of subject matter is critical. Drawing or knowing how to draw the subject is essential with this process

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