05: A Jab At Abstract Expression
This week I started to dab around in Abstract Expressionism and the pivotal artists that are associated with the movement. I looked at numerous paintings and biographies of Jackson Pollock, Joan Mitchell, Adolph Gottlieb, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Wassily Kandinsky. I tried to discern some of the techniques used in their signature paintings, and it became rapidly evident that I have no idea.
Pollock placed many of his canvases on the ground, and poured paint through a small hole at the bottom of a bucket, but how did he decide what strokes to make, where to put them, and which color best suits his painting? Mitchell’s oil on canvas may look messy, but most of what you see are made with careful precision. So, how did she achieve such fluidity, and decide where and what shape to paint? While Rothko’s color fields look simple, I honestly have no idea how he made them to be so captivating. I don’t even know where to start with Kandinsky. It was almost as if he was seeing things normal humans don’t.
Anyhow, I made my first attempt at Abstract Expressionism using Mitchell’s Red Painting No. 2. Here it is.
First Attempt At Abstract Expressionism
Before you continue, please do take a look at Mitchell’s Red Painting No. 2. It is a true masterpiece, and I still have much to learn.
I used acrylic paint on mixed media paper. No water was used and only one brush was utilized. Looking back, I definitely need to use multiple brushes for a variety of textures. I should have diluted some of the paint with water for the drip effect, that you see me trying to make with a dry brush.
Acrylic paint dried surprisingly fast on this paper and my lack of control over the gray cost me in some areas. I ended up using pretty much all the rainbow colors, which honestly could be better. The colors fight against each other, straying from unity. There are little white spots similar to crayons, which make the painting feel rough.
This first attempt of mine was filled with mistakes, which I need to improve. A significant revelation is that I need to take the planning stage a lot more seriously. What structure, colors, and feel do I want? What parts go first and go last? What techniques should I use? I have thought of these before, but never effectively enforced it. So, I better practice that now.
When I was looking through Abstract Expressionism paintings, I asked myself “Is there really a concrete connection between Abstract Expressionism and traditional Chinese art?” It’s not obvious at all. Many Abstract Expressionism art probably bear no relation to Chinese art in terms of technique. However, across many paintings and artists, there is an element of randomness from “action painting.” Take a look at Jackson Pollock’s Convergence, 1952.
It seems to me quite a majority of strokes here are made through “action painting.” With a fling of a brush, or the dripping paint from a swaying bucket, these lines are chaotic, yet the whole piece is unified. This is similar to wild cursive calligraphy, where drunken characters fling across the paper and embody the chaotic and beauty at the same time!
Next week, I’ll re-approach calligraphy and try something new for Abstract Expression.