Gestural Abstraction




What is abstraction in art?  Creating an artwork of something in the real world like a face or landscape but making it one's own way, acknowledging that it's not reality. It's a painting, altering the subject so it doesn’t look like it does in real life. The artist could change the color or change or alter perspective. Another definition of abstraction is creating an artwork where color, line and shape are the subject matter as Kandinsky said “Where one is free from the constraints of depiction and narrative. 

Gestural abstraction takes this idea of subject matter being line and color into an even more intuitive direction, the idea that you are expressing something with your marks. Everyone makes their own marks with a paint brush, no two are a like. Abstraction is by no means easy to create and gestural abstraction can even be more difficult because you have to relinquish self-consciousness. You have to trust your mark making. I find that kids under age of seven have a much easier time with this. But I do love to do this project for children about 9-13 because once they get the idea of loosening up with the materials something clicks and they just experience those materials and not try so hard to control them. 

I just did a lecture at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena on a few artists from the Blau Reiter group. Kandinsky being one of the artists and the only artist that goes purely abstraction abandoning and outside subject matter all together. This project using black lines and filling them in with color was the perfect accompaniment to this lecture. The project came from Michelle Adelsheim of Lakeside Art Studio in San Fransisco.  Check out her instagram account. It's full of wonderful images of children creating artworks.


What you will need:

black acrylic Paint
postcards or old credit cards
watercolor paper
watercolor paint
a tray or plate for black paint
a brush for watercolor paint
water

There are a few qualities of this project that I love introducing to my students, one of them is that they do not use paint brushes. Marks can come from many other sources. This project uses old postcards that can be dipped into black acrylic paint. 



The kids can be precise with their lines creating patterns or they can close their eyes let intuition take over. Some kids were even creating narratives about train tracks. 


Another quality of this project I respond to is the layers of process and materials. After the black paint is dry the kids added color. Some kids added color to the shapes the black lines made and some filled large portions of the page with colors that appealed to them.


The result is these gestural paintings that are colorful and graphic. This is a great project that focuses on process and allows the little artists to trust themselves with the materials. The kids are both learning a technique and experiencing freedom within the art making. 









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