Abstract Art 101

turquoise cruciformbluewithyellowcruciform writtenwordcruciform

I’ve been reading a lot about abstract painting lately.

And one thing I’ve learned about are all the different design formats.

I guess I’d always just assumed abstract painting didn’t follow any.  It sounds silly to me now that I’m typing these words, but until now I guess I just thought these paintings ‘happened’.  They look so spontaneous and effortless.

Just to give you an idea how many different design formats there are

There are:

  • Symmetrically balanced
  • Asymmetrically balanced
  • Cantilever
  • ‘L” designed
  • ECC designed (Expansion, Compaction, and Containment)
  • Axial Hold format
  • Directional format
  • Shapes within Shapes
  • The Golden Mean
  • Cruciform
  • T-Square format
  • Opposing Forces format
  • Overlapping shapes
  • Constellation format
  • The “H” format
  • The Bridge format

and I’m sure there are more.

I found this information in the VERY helpful and informative book, ‘Exploring the Abstract: An Instructional Journey’, by Joan Blackburn. A great book to have on hand if you’re even slightly interested in learning about abstract painting.  I highly recommend it.

The images I’ve attached above are simple cruciform format paintings.  I find this format a really easy one to start.  Simply place a loose cross-shape on your paper or canvas, preferably off-center and distorted a bit and…begin.  You don’t have to stick with this composition – you can let your painting evolve after you’ve begun …but it sure is an easy way to cover up that stark, white canvas in the beginning.  And it makes for a really easy format to follow – as it isn’t too complicated.

Jane Davies talks about the cruciform composition on her site: She says that the areas that form the arms of the cross are generally busy, whereas the four quadrants are relatively quiet.

The last image I’ve attached shows it the best.

8 thoughts on “Abstract Art 101

  1. I’ve been reading a lot about abstract painting. really awesome blog.

  2. Finally i quit my regular job, now i earn decent money
    on-line you should try too, just search in google – blackhand roulette system

  3. My art group has been studying this book and a few others since January. It has been an eye opener for all of us. It is also surprising how many of us already have a favorite “comfort zone” format that we will use. I don’t think any of us will ever forget Joan’s reminder to use three different shapes, “Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear” !! lol If you haven’t done the exercises in the book do try them. Thanks for posting this. :)Bea of Dogintheholestudio.com

    • Hi Bea – thanks for commenting!
      I will have to check out those exercises – it’s been awhile since I’ve done anything in the studio and that might be just the thing…

  4. As a very old Brit and previously a realist painter, I had a stroke late 2014 and found my mind has changed dramatically as regards my artwork. I wouldn’t give abstract art a second looks but exporing it. I will try and find this book and learn. Thanks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s