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Innovative Approaches to Authentic Abstraction

Understanding the role of Color, Composition and Content in Painting

Click on the image to view Workshop flyer online or as a downloadable PDF.

Have you been an admirer of glowing abstract pieces that you have seen in galleries and exhibition catalogs from national and regional watercolor societies? National Watercolor Society signature member Sandra Paynter Washburn has developed this workshop to help you reach your goal of creating authentic abstract pieces that are a reflection of your unique vision. Successful abstract painting is more difficult that realistic painting, contrary to popular belief, for several reasons. For one, abstraction does not depend upon a rendering of the recognizable, so the viewer must react on a deeper level in order to form a connection with the piece. Also, abstract work is more open to interpretation by the viewer, so in learning to loosen up, the artist forges a deeper connection with his audience.

Various options and color schemes for selecting colors will be presented that will take the guesswork out of making color choices to establish the desired mood.  We will review the elements of art and principles of design along with compositional formats that will be useful in planning strong compositions. Each day demonstrations and visual aids will highlight different approaches to beginning a painting, so students experiment with many techniques and ways of thinking. These include methods for the first application of paint, layering and veiling transparent colors, painting in and painting out, blocking out using opaque colors, and creating patterned and textured passages. Emphasis will be placed on making art that “carries” by addressing focal area, visual path(s) and resting space. Discussions and writing exercises will help students tap into potential areas of passion, interest and mystery they can explore for content that will individualize and set their work apart.

Students will come away with lots of handouts and notes, several thumbnail paintings, several starts, and perhaps a finished piece, although the knowledge they will gain will go far beyond a single painting. This workshop will be useful to realistic painters who want to boost their understanding of color and composition to make better paintings as well as those who want to work non-objectively.

Materials List

  • Artists acrylic paint, various colors (craft paints not recommended)
  • Gloss medium
  • Strathmore Aquarius paper 22 x 30, minimum of 4 sheets
  • White and black gesso
  • Brayer
  • Various paint brushes and sponge brushes, house painting brush
  • 2 spray bottles, one with alcohol and one with water
  • Variety of tools- don’t buy everything, bring what you have: scrapers or old credit cards, color shapers, rubber stamps, sponges, paint rollers, ruler, scissors, clay forming tools, exacto knife
  • Palette of your choice, small cups for paint mixing, large water containers, apron, paper towels, baby wipes
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