Naturally Abstract

posted in: Blog, Classes, Composition, Painting | 16

We have a preference for certain aesthetic patterns. In decorations we enjoy symmetry because regular repeated patterns do not distract us with irregular interruptions in the pattern. The reverse is true for paintings or sculpture. In a painting or sculpture we search for breaks in the pattern, flawed symmetries because they both surprise us and force us to consider what’s going on. In a repeated symmetrical pattern we recognize order as a comforting reassurance. The lulling repetition falls away from our attention. If the wallpaper kept breaking its pattern then its unexpected fluctuations would call constantly call to us.

Elegant symmetry can not only soothe the eye but it can also inspire other patterns even patterns which do not rely on symmetry, like painting.  My first example presents is a 17th century Persian Kirman dish. I found the arrangement of flora and fauna alluring. It prompted to me to wonder what would happen if I shook the pattern’s parts out of their symmetry.   That brought me to thinking of flawed symmetries.  This became motivation for my painting in the final example.

Example 1. Persian Kirman dish from 1677,

Grouping patterns into flawed or uneven symmetries has a storied history in painting. If we return to 1888 we find Vincent Van Gogh exploring patterns with uneven symmetries as you see in example 2.  Here he stacks an almost but not quite even progression of horizontal bands in a garden. This helps to suggest space in perspective.

Example 2. Vincent Van Gogh, Flowering Garden from 1888,

In 1948, Lee Krasner, a first generation abstract expressionist compiles collage paintings  with condensed textures as you see in example 3. We feel the presence of a pattern through qualities of scale, value, proximity and shared tactile sensations.

Example 3. Lee Krasner, 1948,

Contemporary artist, Josephine Halvorson, imposes order in gouache in a square by referencing a patch of earth she has wandered upon.  We find and make patterns out of random visual encounters.

Example 4. Josephine Halvorson, 2017, Mine Ground, gouache.

Like Halvorson, I wander and discover patterns I can play with such as, a collection of leaves floating on a vernal pool. After finding a source of inspiration I can begin a new journey of pattern discovery. I don’t want to record the source of inspiration but rather, I want to use it for creating new patterns in color, shape, perspective and texture. In my series of step by step examples I will take you on this journey of pattern discovery with me.

Step one begins with some planning. I lay down a field of acrylic primary yellow (example 5). I intend to cover this color with a darker color (example 6) from which I will selectively remove paint to reveal shapes suggesting fallen leaves (example 7).

In the last steps I blanket the painting with a complementary blue color to create a more vivid and vibrating visual effect (example 8). The blue can be rearranged into new shapes just as I did with the brown over the yellow.  Blue has the advantage of being a color we associate with sky and sky reflected in water. This helps to mentally anchor the meaning (or identity) of the subject (example 9).

Example 5.  Step one, laying the primary yellow substrate and, beginning to lay down the darker color which will later cover the yellow.

Example 6. Step two, covering the yellow with variegated browns.

Example 7. Step three, finding leafy shapes, fractured and overlapping,

Example 8. Step four. To avoid muddying my colors I could not begin this step until the painting had dried.  Now, I applied a covering coat of blues.

Example 9. Step five. ” surface matters II” oil on dibond, 36×36 inches.  I use the blue to further subdivide the patterns.


16 Responses

  1. Don Stewart

    Another amazing and beautiful painting. Thank you for showing us the steps you took to get to the final painting.

  2. Elaine Finsilver

    I am so glad you explained how you layer those colors. I was trying to figure out the order of brown and yellow and blue. Thank you for your explanation beautiful as usual

  3. Sandy Goddard

    The pattern of leaves is so lively and keeps the eye moving! The painting absolutely glows. Thank you for the detail on your process, David. I always look forward to your blog to learn more about your technique.

  4. Colette

    Beautiful David. Thank you for sharing this. I am excited to start today to try some of the techniques you have shared.


  5. Valerie Bassett

    Beautiful work. I assume you used oil paint after the yellow base was applied?

    • dd_admin

      thank you Valerie. Yes, I used oil paint. generally translucent colors like french ultramarine blue, lemon yellow, gamboge yellow then the opaques like titanium white were added later. Best, David

  6. Denise Grossman

    I really love how the variation of blues and violet really captures my attention and draws me into the painting. It evokes a sense of drama and mystery! Lovely!

    • dd_admin

      HI Lynda, the process requires multiple steps. I apply the brown layer and remove (excise or delete) areas with varieties of tools which include, my fingers, brushes, and squeegees. David

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