My abstract art adventure has been interesting. I like learning new techniques for putting paint on canvas, especially in wild and crazy ways. So, I’ve splattered and dripped, I’ve poured, and I’ve liked some of the results I’ve gotten.

I’m definitely coming to a fuller appreciation of art — in an overall sense — and to abstract art more specifically. I see how creativity can find a wide range of expression within the realm of non-representational painting, yet I still wonder how far we should go with that line of thought.

I don’t want to go back to those same tiresome questions about what is or isn’t art, or if it is, what makes it art. We’ll never come to any conclusions on any of those questions. There simply are no answers.

Yet having this dichotomy in my head that sees abstract art as both the highest form of visual creativity and the same time one of the least creative ways to make art has left me feeling discombobulated. That’s an old-fashioned word, and maybe you’re not familiar with it. I grew up with it. It means confused. It means being in a quandry. I learned the word from my grandfather who would probably have described it as running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Yep, that’s sort of how it feels to be discombobulated.

I have a good use for that word today, not only as the title of this blog post, but as the name of this most recent experiment in my abstract art adventure.

Discombobulated – Acrylic Abstract on 9 x 12 Canvas Paper

You can probably see for yourself the technique used. First, after choosing my colors — magenta, white, and a silvery gray — I created a background, simply applying those colors in various places on the canvas and brushing them together to cover the sheet with a base coat of color. I allowed that to dry.

Next, I took strips of tape and created different shapes, some boxes, some triangles. I added paint to each individual shape, varying my colors between the three I’d chosen. Again, I allowed it to dry.

I repeated this process a couple more times. I was finding that I liked the painting less with each new application of tape/shapes. Maybe I would have liked this abstract if I’d done the taping part once and left it alone after that.

Finally, feeling dissatisfied — and discombobulated — I brushed a thin coat of white acrylic over the entire thing. Nope. Didn’t like that either. So, I took a wet rag and pulled off some of the paint here and there. I still wasn’t happy with the painting, but so be it.

There was another aspect of this project that I haven’t mentioned, and I think it’s important to consider in light of my very mixed feelings about abstract art and my dissatisfaction with this particular piece.

Art needs meaning.

That’s the current state of my thinking. Abstract art especially needs meaning. It must be more than just random paint splatters or puddles of paint. Those things are fine — if they’re done with intent. If there is a purpose behind the method of application, a reason why a particular narrative requires a particular means by which the paint is applied, then yes, indeed, that’s part of the creative process, and yes, indeed, that is art.

So, I began this painting with some thought. I needed a narrative. I browsed through a bit of poetry I had saved on my computer, and I chose a poem. I think now that I chose the wrong one. The poem, much like the art that resulted, has a lot of mixed messages, a lot of uncertainty, a lot of ambivalence. I tried to focus on one singular, positive aspect of the poem. and I used that to guide me in choosing my colors and in the way I put down my first layer.

For me, as the artist, the ideas behind the painting kept changing as I worked. First it was saying one thing, and then it was saying something else. In the end, it seemed to be saying too many things all at once. I was discombobulated by the whole painting experience, and it seemed like the most fitting title for this painting.

I still don’t like it. I’m not sure if I’ll ever use this taping technique again. It’s a good technique to know, of course, and I’m happy to have added it to my repertoire of abstract art methods.

I invite you now, to look at this painting and make of it what you will. I could, if I wanted, look at Discombobulated and find many things there. I can make up meanings and give the painting different stories to tell. My question is whether or not, in the final analysis, it’s really worth the time and trouble.


  1. For me intuitive design is my major motivation in art – art for oneself usually has a major motivational factor – for me that is design. This is the major – regardless of whether the result is representational or abstract. Narrative can be present or absent – I have no preference…Have a good day.

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  2. I think you are right in that there are no definite answers to the questions you posed. All art, has a heart of its own. It speaks a voice of its own. One cannot say that interpretive dance is not dance simply because it does not have a strict form such as ballet. A free style poem, is still a poem even though it may not follow the ‘rules’ of the various types of poetry pertaining to lines and syllables. Art, in any form, is art, because it is heart speak. From the artist to the viewer. Rules and guidelines be danged..

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      1. WordPress isn’t letting me comment on your blog this morning (it’s telling me I’m not logged in even though I am), so I wanted to tell you here that I love your curtain! And Kokopelli is such a fun fellow to have hanging around! I’ll visit your blog again later. Maybe WP will be more cooperative.

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  3. Oh–heart speak! What a great term! Here’s another little variation for you to try. In my past, I had some great fun tearing and twisting the tape on my watercolor paper. Not straight and flat at all and my mind turned the images into Tape People doing various activities. We see what we want in our abstract adventures……….!!! It’s all about the fun for me, not serious art study as you do!

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    1. Twisting tape! Hmmm… that sounds like a fun thing to try the next time I dabble in abstracts again. Oh, you’re giving me lots of ideas now! Thanks. πŸ™‚


  4. I think what makes something ‘art’ is that a viewer is touched by, feels something when they look at a work. I like this piece, whether there is a narrative or not. (You might create a picture with a narrative in mind; we usually have some story or message we want to share in a picture – but your viewer may not ultimately become aware of it. It is the viewer who decides/feels for themselves whether your picture is meaningful to them. Everyone will have a different reaction!) Doesn’t need a narrative every time – this piece is soothing to me – like a soft polarfleece blanket to wrap up in with a warm cup of tea. I like the variety of values and color, as well as the soft, lost, and hard edges. It’s nice!

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    1. Thank you so much! Maybe in some way all my “discombobulated” thoughts came together to tell a story of their own. I like that thought. πŸ™‚


  5. I do like it, a lot. I’d hang it on a wall and gaze at it daily, finding solace and depth in it. It goes back to my previous comment about integrity, cohesion, and meaning. For me, the meaning in this one comes from the fractal like patterns, which lead me to ponder the various patterns in the structure of my days, and also in space. I think autistic individuals may be especially well disposed for appreciating abstract art. At least it often makes sense to me!

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    1. Interesting viewpoint! Even though I started with a specific “narrative thought” in mind, it kept veering off into other thoughts, similar to how new shapes were coming through, so I think this is an instance where the art created its own sort of story to tell. I find that interesting. It’s another aspect of abstract art that I’m beginning to appreciate more and more.


  6. Being a Brit, I know the word Discombobulated, and use it regularly. My thoughts on the picture (and forgive me if I say anything the offends, absolutely not intended; cultural differences and all that); The colouring discloses the artists feminine aspect. The underlaying structure of strong lines indicating directions of travel, but the multiple intersections at different levels disclose the complexities of life. Now, that is pure waffle. Please take it in the jest with which it is intended.

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  7. I really like your painting πŸ˜€ ! I believe it has dimension. Transparency has been used well. It’s so pretty! πŸ™‚ I agree with the comments that I read above that it’s not necessary to have a narrative. For many viewers, art is meant to be attractive. Laws, rules and meaning are the areas that potential designers deal with. There’s of course purpose in art, too!

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    1. Thanks! I was surprised (pleasantly) at how many people like my “discombobulated” art. That’s part of the awesomeness of art, that different people can see things in different ways, and a single abstract can have many different meanings. That makes it all the more interesting, I think! I’ve really enjoyed exploring abstract art techniques and will do more in the future.

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  8. I would hang it on my wall. I don’t know what’s art and what’s not. I just know what I like and dislike and that’s enough. The colours are soothing somehow, it makes me think of kittens in a basket – soft, beautiful and pleasant. Liked!

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    1. Thank you! I do like the colors, too, and I love how you thought of kittens in a basket! I will cherish that comment and remember it each time I look at the painting. πŸ™‚

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  9. It’s making my eyes happy. 😁

    Maybe the “art” is in living with the discombobulation.

    LOL – I grew up with that word, too (and also the headlessly ambulating chicken).

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    1. LOL… so glad it makes your eyes happy. I love that expression. πŸ™‚ My grandfather had a lot of interesting old-fashioned words and expressions. Sounds like you’ve heard a few of them, too!

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    1. That was another thing about this… no idea if it’s right-side up, upside-down or if it needs to be turned on its side. I guess it’s “versatile” LOL.


  10. I agree. There are no answers to these questions. I’m a new, self-directed art student. I’ve been having these very same conversations with my family as they look at my pieces and NEVER get my meanings behind them. So I’ve been thinking on this a lot: is it more important for me to just create my vision without explanation; or should I give the viewer a hint, a clue, so they’ll know my thinking. Again, there are no answers because both can be wrong and both can be right at different times, with different people, and even for myself. So I’ll probably go both ways from time to time.

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    1. I’m learning that I need to create something I like,,, and when I do that, I can discover lots of meaning behind it, even when I didn’t start with that specific intention. And that allows me to “let go” of the piece and let it be whatever it is for whoever views it. Does that make any sense? Whatevery they see in it — or don’t see — is fine, because I know what the work means to me. Somehow that seems to be what matters most for me. But then again, art is very personal, and your approach to the process could be very different.

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