Abstracting with Emotion

Episode 158 · December 26th, 2020 · 39 mins 25 secs

About this Episode

Abstract artists are sometimes stereotyped as uninhibited people who slap paint down in direct response to strong emotion. But this idea is far from accurate. While many abstract painters do aim to express emotion and mood, their approaches vary widely --from spontaneous to highly controlled. And even the most intuitive artists need to thoughtfully consider their use of the visual elements and design principles. Today we will look at painting abstractly as an expression of emotion, mood, remembrance, or other states of mind.

While we may think of abstract expressionist painters of the mid-20th c. as being the epitome of emotion-based work, with their bold brushwork, huge scale, and lots of color and contrast,
they may simply be the most obvious. The very name of the movement, abstract expressionism, implies painting with abandon and feeling. But expressing emotion, and working in a very loose, spontaneous way are not necessarily the same. If we think emotional work should look gestural and loose, we may fail to really see the emotion in other work that is much more subtle in its effects.

A restrained way of working emphasizes that as people, not all of our emotions are out there, easy to read. There can be depths of emotion and even spirituality to more austere work. The degree of personal emotion that we express in overt ways is an aspect of personal voice and also of where we are in our learning process. Beginners don't yet have the skills that help open the channels to inner experience.

Creating paintings that connect with your own feelings or inner experience and at the same time with that of your viewers can be very challenging, Over-thinking, shielding our feelings even from ourselves, and settling for half-measures when we could be pushing the expressive aspects of scale, color, and mark-making can all stand in the way. But recognizing what is powerful in our work in subjective ways is a good step toward opening the channels of emotional expression, whether in subtle ways or bold.

Website mentioned in today's episode: www.richarddavidson.com

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