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Exploring Abstract Art - Ideas and Projects

For some artists, philosophy, literature and art itself is a source of inspiration. Drawing can provide a way of exploring concepts, bouncing thoughts around and expressing feelings that are difficult to put in words. Traditional art forms often used allegorical figures and dramatic gesture, realistically painted, to express these ideas. Modern artists often use abstract means to expess very similar thoughts. Consider some of these approaches:

Experiment with mark-making: Create patches of scribbles and squiggles. See how many different types of mark and texture you can make. Try aggressive, harsh, angry marks. Make smooth flowing lines, both continuous and short. Make rhythmic, orderly marks and random crazy ones.

Use text as a design component: Use a poem you've written, or print one out. Try printing it in an interesting font, or writing it out in a scrawling longhand. Print it in large type, cut up the text and pick some interesting words. Glue them onto a page as if for collage, and draw designs, doodles and patterns around and over them.

Illustrate a favourite text: Literature has inspired many artists. Think about a favourite poem, novel or play. How do you envision the scene or the characters? What atmosphere has the author created? If you were making a backdrop to a scene, what sort of texture would you use?

Respond to a text without actually illustrating it: How does a certain poem, story or song make you feel? Try to translate that emotion into marks, shapes and colors on the page.

Destroy an Image: Start off with a photocopy of a realist image, and deface it. Tear the surface with tape, add layers of texture with restoration paper, thick pencil, and collage. Be aware of copyright issues with collage materials.

Sources of Inspiration

Read philosophy: Try Ludwig Wittgenstein, Friedrich Neitzshe, Bertrand Russell.
Read poetry in translation: Rainer Maria Rilke, Odysseas Elytis, George Seferis, and the Japanese collection 'Ogura Hyakunin Isshu'
Re-interpret some famous images: How would you have painted the Death of Socrates?
Discover Great Artists:Look at Anselm Keifer, Paul Klee, Jasper Johns, Tom Roberts, just for starters.
More on abstract art- Getting Started With Abstraction
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