Recently I learned of Debora Stewart and her books on abstract art. Thank you, Vicki Hutchins, for sharing this with me. If you haven’t already visited Vicki’s wonderful blog, just click and go! You’ll enjoy it.
I’ve had many “abstract” thoughts going through my head since I began reading Abstract Art Painting: Expression in Mixed Media. Stewart gives many suggestions on “loosening up” and getting from the realistic to the abstract in art.
Intrigued, I followed several of her suggestions, sort of rolling them all together into my own big ball of fun. She writes of the importance of playing and how a playful mindset removes a lot of restraints. I liked the thought of creating “throw-away” art — if that’s what it came to. In other words, no grand vision, no lofty expectations, just me, my watercolors, and a sense of adventure.
The ideas I combined were:
- Using my non-dominant hand
- Drawing to music
- Making my own natural mark
Now, first, let me share a little background about my life — and my lack of artistic ability. I am a natural southpaw. I do almost everything left-handed. I was raised, however, by my grandfather who had very rigid beliefs about the evil of being left-handed. I was taught that it was sinister, coming from Latin, and meaning, yes, indeed, evil incarnate. I went through a nightly ritual of penmanship lessons — with my right hand, of course. I have beautiful penmanship, almost perfect, you might say, because I spent so many hours painstakingly copying the letters from an old Spencerian handwriting book my grandfather had.
I’ve sometimes wondered if my inability to draw has its roots in the “handedness-switch” I underwent as a child. I think it might. When computer drawing programs first came out, I had fun drawing lots of things, to the amazement of family and friends. It amazed me, too. One day as I was discussing it with a friend, I said, “I can’t explain it. I’ve never been able to draw. But for some reason when I pick up a mouse…” And then the light bulb went off in my brain. I “mouse” with my left hand.
For the past year, I have been drawing and painting mostly with my right hand since that’s the hand I use for writing. For art’s sake, I’ve come to think of it as my dominant hand, but either way, I think by this point in my life the two sides of my brain are probably very confused.
So, for Stewart’s abstraction exercise, I grabbed a clunky old brush — perfect for a “throwaway” painting — and started dabbing water on the paper with my left hand.
I loved the idea of painting to music. So, a little more background information. I’ve been involved in music all of my life. I began playing piano at age 4. I love music. It’s very much a part of who I am. My musical tastes are quite eclectic. Earlier, I’d turned on one of my Pandora stations — Seul Choix — and was listening to the quiet, gentle sounds.
As I approached my painting, I decided to call it after the song playing, to use that as a springboard for my thoughts and feelings. The song was Empty Gazing by Kyle Bobby Dunn.
Empty gazing? I drew a blank. What did that mean? It didn’t matter. It was fitting, though, because I was making my mark — with my eyes closed.
So I grabbed three colors and began.
I listened to the music, let my imagination wander, and I let myself make marks — left-handed — in whatever way felt best. I heard dark undercurrents in the music in some places. In other places I heard wind rushing in, and I thought about empty gazing, seeing nothing, seeing only through imagination, and thereby seeing everything.
My colors were muted and very dull when I finished, but I saw possibilities. Why not manipulate the image a bit with a photo program? I uploaded it to my computer and used an HDR filter to brighten the colors and create an almost unearthly glow.
As with other abstractions, I can see many things in this one, but most of all I see my mark upon it. In so many ways, this is who I am — in my own imagination.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!