The Evolution of An Abstract Painting

As I worked on a new 30" x 30" abstract painting over several days, I took photos of it along the way.  It was not a painting that came easily, and I'm still not sure if it's "finished."  I will let it sit for a while before I sign it. 

Here's the process step by step:

Step 1  I began by painting the whole canvas in a light lemon yellow, which comes across with a tint of green in this photograph.  I was working loosely, brushing on some cadmium red deep, green gold, and a pale green here and there, blending them in.

Step 1

I began by painting the whole canvas in a light lemon yellow, which comes across with a tint of green in this photograph.  I was working loosely, brushing on some cadmium red deep, green gold, and a pale green here and there, blending them in.

Step 2  I added a lot more color here:  cadmium red light, Prussian blue, and cadmium yellow medium.  I also added in more of the pale green.  Again, I painted loosely, working in an overall fashion to develop the composition.  Then I drew lines in Prussian blue and brushed over them lightly to soften the effect.

Step 2

I added a lot more color here:  cadmium red light, Prussian blue, and cadmium yellow medium.  I also added in more of the pale green.  Again, I painted loosely, working in an overall fashion to develop the composition.  Then I drew lines in Prussian blue and brushed over them lightly to soften the effect.

Step 3  At this stage I drew sketchy lines with burnt sienna, and then brushed over them to blend them a bit with the background colors.  I also used the pale yellow background color to soften a lot of the brighter yellows.  Finally, I drew more lines with the Prussian blue.  At this point I might have called the painting "finished."  It felt good to me in many ways.  But it wasn't quite there yet.

Step 3

At this stage I drew sketchy lines with burnt sienna, and then brushed over them to blend them a bit with the background colors.  I also used the pale yellow background color to soften a lot of the brighter yellows.  Finally, I drew more lines with the Prussian blue.  At this point I might have called the painting "finished."  It felt good to me in many ways.  But it wasn't quite there yet.

Step 4  I took a bold move here which changed the painting drastically and might not have worked:  I filled in spaces with small circles of color:  light  Hansa yellow , medium yellow, and orange.  I also added more cadmium red light in places, and more of the pale green.  The image was now becoming more dense and solid.  But it felt like I'd gone in the right direction.

Step 4

I took a bold move here which changed the painting drastically and might not have worked:  I filled in spaces with small circles of color:  light Hansa yellow, medium yellow, and orange.  I also added more cadmium red light in places, and more of the pale green.  The image was now becoming more dense and solid.  But it felt like I'd gone in the right direction.

Step 5  In this final step, I first painted the outer yellow area with cadmium yellow medium.  That created a kind of "frame" for the central image.  Then I began to fill in some of the small circles of color--first some orange, and then some of the Hansa yellow.  Now I have to step back and study the canvas.  The outer more golden yellow may be too strong.  I might have contrived and controlled too much and lost too much of the sketchiness I had at the beginning. 

Step 5

In this final step, I first painted the outer yellow area with cadmium yellow medium.  That created a kind of "frame" for the central image.  Then I began to fill in some of the small circles of color--first some orange, and then some of the Hansa yellow.  Now I have to step back and study the canvas.  The outer more golden yellow may be too strong.  I might have contrived and controlled too much and lost too much of the sketchiness I had at the beginning. 

The Challenge of Painting Narrow Rectangular Canvases

I had always thought the shape that made the most sense for abstract paintings was a square, since it didn't suggest any particular subject matter.  In fact, most of my paintings are square.  But when the director of a gallery asked me to paint what he called "slice" paintings on narrow, 10" x 48" canvases, I gave it a shot.

I found myself making patterned images that could be carried over from one slice to the next.  That would allow a collector to hang two or more next to each other, creating a diptych or triptych, for example.  This one is called Pecking Order Triptych.  I worked on all three panels at the same time so that the colors and designs would be similar, yet varied in each one.

 

I think that sometimes a 10" x 48" painting might be just what is needed to fill a space, either horizontally or vertically.  I tried out this idea using WallAp by OhMyPrints.  It allows you to show a painting in various rooms to get an idea what it might look like in your own home.

Now I'm in the process of stretching more 10" x 48" canvases, and looking forward to working on them. 

Abstract Pattern Paintings

Recently I've been interested in the patterns made with overlapping lines that can be filled in with color to draw the eye across a canvas.  I usually begin by painting a solid background color and letting it dry before beginning to draw the lines.  In "Concatenation," I painted the whole canvas yellow.  Then I drew lines in white, gray and black. 

I was conscious, while filling in spaces with white, gray and black paint, of the patterns and connections being made between shapes.  There are various paths set up, depending on whether you follow the white, the gray, or the black connections. 

Concatenation , 60" x 40"   

Concatenation, 60" x 40"

 

In "Pecking Order Triptych," I painted three vertical canvases, each 10" x 48," in a light teal for the background.  Then I drew the lines in white, lime, teal and Prussian Blue.  I worked on all three canvases at once, developing each color pattern on all three before going to the next color.  By working on them all at the same time, I was able to ensure that the three panels would work together as a whole when hung side by side.  They also work if spaced further apart, depending on the room and space they are hung.

In "Sea Escape," which is a very large canvas (72" x 46"), I painted the background a light blue.  Then I drew lines in white and Prussian Blue.  This painting was more problematic, perhaps because of its large size.  I filled in spaces with white, pale green, a darker green, a medium blue, and Prussian Blue.  Sometimes I had to paint over one color because it didn't work.  Finally, I felt I'd gotten to the point where the image worked as a whole as well as in its parts. 

Sea Escape , 72" x 46"

Sea Escape, 72" x 46"

Which of the above abstract pattern paintings do you think is most successful?  Which one appeals to you the most?

When A Painting Gets Stuck

Some years ago, after a long holiday break, I had trouble getting back into a painting I had begun earlier.  What was I thinking when I started this canvas? 

Who knows, not me.

The background on this painting was black with two-inch parchment stripes across it.  I had worked on it once or twice after that, and there was a design or pattern taking shape, but it seemed too amorphous.  What I like to do often is to bring order out of chaos while leaving in enough signs of the chaos to retain a sense of ambiguity or chance.  There is a delicate balance that I find if I'm lucky. 

The reason I bring "luck" into it is that you have to simply take the plunge and try something to see if it works.  If it doesn't, you can't simply "erase it" and start over.  Once you've made a major move on a painting, you are pretty much committed to making it work.  You're not going to be able to remove the last layer of paint without disturbing what was beneath it. 

Well, on this particular painting, I chose to use raw umber lines to outline the parchment shapes, thereby creating more definition and less chaos.  From there, I went on to feather those lines with a brush, and the painting did look much better at that point.  I could almost have signed it and moved on.

That might have been the wiser choice, but instead I kept working at further definition. That is, I went too far in the defining direction, which then left the amorphous background looking out of place or "wrong."  To sum it up, I destroyed the delicate balance I had going for me and now the painting was completely out of kilter.  There was no way to simply "tinker" with it to bring it into balance. 

I waited a day for the canvas to dry, and tackled it again.  This time, I had some success.

Here it is, finally finished: my "stuck" painting:

Ringed Migration, 40" x 40" (sold)

Ringed Migration, 40" x 40" (sold)

Abstract Artist Linda Jaekel

Linda Jaekel is an abstract artist living near me in Ithaca, New York.  Her work has a lot of texture, which she achieves by using various tools other than brushes to paint with.

 

Stratosphere , 24" x 18"

Stratosphere, 24" x 18"

Linda grew up in the San Francisco and New York City areas and has been making art since she was a young child.  She won her first art contest at the age of five from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Linda says, "I explore the ways of creating a peaceful beauty out of chaos, but I leave a portion of chaos for the viewer to use to create their own story. "

Linda currently works with acrylic paints on canvas and paper.  You can find her paintings on her own website, or at Vangoart.com.