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An abstract approach to painting

4 November 2015

If you're not confident with a paintbrush or don't have the eye for perspective then perhaps the freedom of abstract art might be for you.

In this second article from ISABEL H LANGTRY, Principal at Hampstead School of Art, she gives you helpful hints on how to channel your inner Matisse.

Alan Gouk 'Cretan Premomitian'. Acrylic Paint on Canvas

It's very liberating really, we no longer have to make paintings that are representational, they do not have to look like anything at all.

Isabel H Langtry, Artist and Principal, Hampstead School of Art

When Picasso painted two eyes on the same side of a face, the rigid rules to making painting flew out of the window. Art does not have to be obvious anymore, it can be about the way we feel, and we can all have a go at that.

Looking for inspiration can get our creative juices flowing. Try the painting 'Cretian Premonition' at Tate Britain, by brilliant painter Alan Gouk, it's an amazing seven and a half meters long.

The scale means that you lose yourself in the environment it creates, its beautiful colours and textures wash over you, every time I see it, it's a different experience, that's the great strength of abstract painting. (I love abstract sculpture too, but that, is a different story).

Try it, but start with a smaller scale it's easier to wrap! The painting Untitled by Frank Bowling, is very small 20cms x 15cms, and made using watercolour paints, it uses only two colours, and the white paper itself to great effect - and some pencil lines as well.

Your next painting could use shapes -look at painter Pete Hoida's 'Doctor Viper' 149cm x 109cm, to achieve a different effect, and try different materials, like coloured paper, cut out shapes, make an arrangement then, stick them down.

Pete Hoida ‘Doctor Viper’. Acrylic on canvas
Frank Bowling ‘Untitled’ Watercolour

Using nature as a starting point can also be really helpful, simplify the shape you see until they become unrecognisable. Music can really help too. Let the music affect you, and your brush will reflect your mood, it's so surprisingly energising.

There is no right or wrong way, but there is a sense of quality, and you can judge that yourself, be confident.

Look at Derek Ogbourne’s beautifully painted ‘Darling Buds of November’ it is almost delicious, the way the oil paint is spread across the canvas, the blobs standing proud of the surface creating intriguing craters.

Remember, working with other people is a choice you can make if you want to develop further, 'unleash the artist in yourself'- I would say that wouldn't I.

If you are pleased with the result, put it in a stunning frame, you have just made the perfect Christmas present.

Derek Ogbourne Darling Buds of November

How to paint 'wet on wet'

1. Relax
2. Wet the paper all over with a brush
3. Now, using a watercolour paint, mix it with a large table spoon of water and drop it onto the wet surface with your brush, in different places
4. Do the same with a different colour
5. Don't panic, let the colours merge, it's exciting. When it's dry, you can even add different textures with pencil

More from Hampstead School of Art

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