Friday, January 21, 2011

Abstract Art

I have been thinking about my art, and why I paint what I paint.  In particular, I think about why I love to paint abstracts.  I am obsessed with pure abstraction - where there is no reference to recognizable objects in the final painting.  Even though I also paint things I see around me, like in my recent paintings of the Joshua Trees or the rabbits in my backyard, I am most excited by the non-representational paintings I make.  I also find the abstract paintings more challenging.  I am sure many will be surprised to hear me say this.  I think painting a person, in some ways, is easier than painting an abstract.

Imagine painting a person.  (or an apple or a tree.)  You are able to look at the person as you paint, and whenever you get lost with your painting, you simply compare the actual person to your painting.  You can see where you are trying to get.  The person is there, where you can see the color, shapes, weight, etc.  Even if you never perfectly capture the person's likeness, you keep painting and practicing, and you do get closer and closer each time.  There are thousands of books out there about techniques for making your painting of the person look as much like the actual person as possible.  Thousands of artists before you have painted people.  You can take classes from other artists who paint people and learn ways to make your painting even more convincing.   You can take a few photographs of the person, and use them once your model has tired and gone home.  The destination is visible, the path is well-traveled.

The paintings I am obsessed by, where I am not painting a chair, a tree, a person, or some other recognizable object, do not have a clear destination.  I do not start out knowing where I am going.  I don't see a finished painting in my head before I start, nor do I look at something while I paint, to guide me.  I am not traveling a well-worn path.  Sure, there have been many other abstract expressionist painters before me.  I am not trying to make paintings that look like theirs.  I don't really know where I am going, nor do I understand how to get there.  Not only do I find this kind of painting more challenging than a realistic or representational painting, but for me, there is a better relationship between this kind of painting and my own life.

If you had asked me what I thought I would be when I grew up, I would have said "a dancer," or maybe "a gymnast."  I really can't remember what else I wanted to be when I was a child.  If you had asked me where I thought I would live, I may have said, "South Dakota," or "Montana."  Most of the things I imagined my life would be have not happened.  My life has not taken a predictable, well-worn path.  It has not had a clear destination.  I have wandered.  I have gone in unexpected directions.  I have lived in several different states, one of which was an island.  The only thing about my life that has become recognizable is change.  I like the parallel between my crazy, unpredictable life and my crazy, unpredictable art.  I have challenged myself with making paintings that have the serenity and tranquility that I crave as well as making paintings that have the drama of uncertainty.

"Blue Portal."  Oil on canvas, 24 x 24 inches.  ©kswenson2011


pRiyA said...

Karine, what an absolutely striking painting. I had to gasp. If this looks so good on the screen, how much better the real thing.
I have been reading what you've written too. I agree when you say that you don't have a clear defined destination when you start painting, just like life, and that I guess is why it is so exciting.

ArtPropelled said...

Hi Pono's Mom :-)
Karine i enjoyed reading your ponderings today and can understand that it is more difficult to paint abstracts since you have to draw out something from within instead of looking at something in front of you. I can so relate to creating something that brings one the serenity and tranquility that one craves. Your Blue Portal has pulling power! I'm drawn into it, seeking something just out of reach. Great to connect again. My blog visiting seems to have taken a back seat for a while.

Leslie Avon Miller said...

I find the work leads me. I don't seem to be able to plan.

Of course there is no on way. How wise for you to see your path is not to see the path.

Cynthia Schelzig,Cynnie said...

This is fabulous!!! What wonderful mesmerizing color! I love reading your stroy....I can relate defintely to your story especially the moving part. But you bring all these experiences with you into your art and not many people can wake up and do bunnies one day and abstract the next. Look at it this can paint realistically when the move strikes you or abstractly and many people cannot do that even if they want there you go...look at it as a forte not as any one medium holding you back from another as you can choooooose whereas many don´t have that choice
and just keep doing the same thing over and over. Have a great weekend!

Patricia said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Karine. From my point of view, abstracts are amazingly difficult. You make it look like a wonderful way to spend a day.