Friends often ask me how they might start painting in an abstract way because it feels so intimidating to them. I started to think back to my art experience and found that I have 10 tips to help jump start any 2D creative abstract project.
Here is Tip 3 out of 10 for "How to Jump-start Abstract Paintings Practice."
Art-making (any art-making) is a practice just like anything else. The more you practice, the better you get.
One of my favorite ( well-known) quotes by Picasso is:
“It took my 4 years to paint like Raphael and a lifetime to paint like a kid again.”
What does this really mean? Child-likeness brings such wonderment, delight, freedom and energy to any activity. When we think of our own children or kids that we know and are around, we witness their total abandonment of any fear or uncertainty because they still haven’t reached that “self-awareness” stage. Everything is new and exciting to their minds, and it's all about exploration.
In its essence, to me, it is a reminder of being engaged in the moment of creating: no worries, no fears, no distractions or self-criticism. We are in the “zone” of creating and reacting to what is in front of us without judgment. Afterwards, there is a space where we can judge if something is "working" or "not working," but that safe space is sacred and must be fostered with care.
Trust in yourself. Access your inner-kid that’s still in you. You might be surprised!
One of my favorite exercises that I first participated in 2015 was "The 100 Day Project." Basically the idea is to take something that you would like to do or learn and do it every single day for 100 days.
I referenced this video in my last post about mark-making, but this is the Day 1 of
You might have heard of this project encouraged on social media (especially Instagram) by the visionary artist, Elle Luna. At the time, in 2015, it was the perfect project for me to jump back into practicing painting (I hadn’t painted for almost 2.5 years due to having my son). I needed something with a little structure (but not too much or I wouldn’t do it!).
I choose to do a painting each day for 20 minutes or less. Twenty minutes because that seemed to be a logical time span for me to feel like I accomplished something, a “sketch.” It also was enough time to sustain the threat of boredom if going too long but more importantly, combated any overwhelm I might have put on myself to bite off more than I could chew. For first time in a while, it seemed actually doable and practical.
Ideally, I set everything out and kept everything out on my designated studio table (which I feel has always been a KEY element to my creative process - the paints, the water, the brushes, the paper or canvas boards, etc are never picked up. All I would do was come downstairs to my basement studio and pick it up and start the timer on my iPhone.
All-in-all each day took about 30 minutes of my time. And if I missed one or two days, it was doable to do three 20-minute sessions in a Saturday night (I didn’t think too much of it). By the end, I wasn’t even using up my entire 20 minutes, most of the work was around or under 15 minutes.
It was different for me because I am used to working on several pieces at once and yet this exercise forced me to work fast, from beginning to end and keep at it for the full 20 minutes and then to decide that I was finished.
The "finished" part might be the most challenging part of any artist but especially a newer artist. How do you know when you are finished? This exercise, over and over and over, allows a newer artist to experiment and not think about it. Literally when my iPhone timer went off, I put down my brush and walked away.
I found I've always been a quicker thinker and a faster artist, especially my latest abstract series, the decisions I make are much faster. And this exercise allowed me to experiment though, with even faster and faster decisions! Yes, some of them were horrid - in that they were not the best decision for that painting or that layer or whatever.
And I also found that it was a challenge because I could never have enough time to allow a layer of paint for example to dry. Which is key in my artwork.
But that opened up a much greater field of experimentation and a lot of it was with new materials and wet-to-wet approaches and even mixing traditional dry mediums into wet ones (aka pastel into watercolor/acrylic washes etc.).
I have now participated in this project every year since 2015. It has been something to look forward to as a critical opportunity for me to dive in and make some progress with my artwork. And each year each 100 couldn't be more different. There are so many different kinds of sketches and a lot of them end up looking like a part of a series because I finally land on something that keeps my interest.
I have found that it takes at least through the first 25 if not 50 days to finally find my "groove" where the "flow" happens. After Day 50, it consistently seems like I just sit down and let it all come out and I can see that ebb and flow visually in the entire series.
I will always highly recommend doing this type of project and sticking to it. There are millions of people out there especially on Instagram, who do these projects and some of them do a painting a day entire year or even have done if for years and years. The fun aspect of that is to post the image no matter what.
Practice not perfection.
Remember this is just like a visual journal of your thoughts and ideas, the process, the bits & pieces and impressions that you have in that moment in that day. These are NOT finished pieces or even well thought-out compositions. The point of this type of exercise is to hone your own intuition and to allow you to trust yourself.
Trust me. You will get better.
My son just began his first piano lesson last Wednesday. He is five years old. I played piano all my life for about 18 years before I finally stopped practicing after college when I didn't have access to a piano.
I look at my son and yes, I can help him, but how in the world does a piano teacher start a five year old on piano? Well, you guessed it, practice, practice, practice, practice. And practice some more. And practice and practice.
He will not be "perfect" at his little piano piece for a very long time. But all of a sudden, after days and weeks and months of practicing and memorizing the placement of the keys and the order and what they mean etc., a song will suddenly come out!
I think those of us who think we are not artists, have this misconception that artists just sit down and it just comes out. The only person I ever read that actually did that was Mozart. And he was a freaking genius.
So this 100 Day exercise allows us to visually practice. The only difference between my son and you, is that you have a visual "record" of your practice. Whereas, there isn't anything materially created from practicing piano.
But that would be the case with any other art or craft form, or even cooking or baking. Practice not perfection.
And remember the little kid inside you. Take the pressure off yourself. Again, you don't need to show anyone if you don't want to. These sketches are just for you.
But if you every wanted to join me, the 100 Day Project seems to be going every year so far, so the next one will most likely start in April - July. I would love to go on the journey with you because the more the merrier and the more support, the more likely you will finish the project.
Check out my projects here and some of my earlier blog posts about my process for the first 100 Day project. I hope to invest more time and energy in the 2019 upcoming project.
(My 2018 project only made it through Day 20 because my second son was born April 4th right at the beginning so I couldn't finish it in time! Perhaps I'll finish it before the next one starts!).
If you do end up trying this on your own, I highly recommend the timed part of the exercise. No more then 20 minutes a session. And stick to it! You will be amazed at your decision-making process and how much more efficient you get by Day 50!
And please tag me on Instagram so I can comment on your progress! I would love to hear from you any questions you have during your journey.