How To Paint Abstract Art For Beginners
You suddenly got inspired and decided you want to paint an abstract painting? You always wanted to do this but you just never had time? After watching numerous youtube videos, seeing so many techniques, styles, and so many tools that artists use you are feeling lost and you don’t know where to start?
In this article, I will try to explain how to paint abstract art as a beginner with a focus on having fun. We will cover basic preparation, paint mediums and tools, and abstract styles suitable for someone who is just starting.
How to Start Abstract Painting?
Pick your painting area wisely
First, you need to choose a place where to paint. I assume you are not an artist and you don’t have an artist studio set up in your home so you will have to improvise. You might use your kitchen table, living room table, or garage workbench. You can even use the floor if your back is serving you well. Don’t forget about possible distractions. Having kids and pets running around the painting area might not be a good idea. It would also be great if you had a water tap somewhere around. Water is always good.
Depending on what you plan to use in your creative process, you also might want to protect the surfaces. Old newspapers and magazines are always handy for that purpose. A plastic drop cloth sheet will provide the best protection especially if you plan to pour some paint in your creative process. It’s also a good idea to have an old t-shirt or a towel within the reach of the hand in case something goes wrong.
How to choose the right painting medium for your art?
You are a beginner, your idea to make a painting is maybe even impulsive and you didn’t do your art supply shopping. In that case, just use what you have at home keeping in mind the surface you will paint on.
It would be great if you had some acrylic paints, watercolors, or acrylic inks sitting around. It makes things way more interesting. But if you don’t, you can always start with anything that can leave a mark on the surface and is safe to use.
Acrylic color paints, especially if they include white are probably the best choice to start with for a beginner. If you have a couple of tubes you are probably good to go. If you plan shopping and you are on a tight budget start with a basic set of primary colors (Red, Yellow, and Blue) accompanied by black and white. You can use primes in color mixing to get new colors like purple, orange, or green.
Acrylic inks are also a great and fun painting medium to start with. Acrylic inks are very fluid, and being water-based you can also use them in a mix to tone your acrylic paint. You can describe them as watered paint with pretty strong pigment.
There is one question that can divide abstract artists’ opinions. Can you paint with water-based house paints? This is an interesting topic on its own, but in short terms, yes, you can. Industrial paints are made to spread evenly, their pigment is not that strong and they behave strangely when you mix them. Industrial paints also don’t last that long and tend to crack or peel from the surface. But if that is all you have, in my opinion, go for it.
What about oil paints? You have some old oil paint tubes that you got from your uncle. Should you start with those?
Don’t start with oil paints as a beginner painter.
One thing I wouldn’t recommend to a beginner is to start with oil paints. They are a mixture of paint pigment and oils and they stay reactive for a long time. It may take from a day or two, up to a couple of months until they dry on the surface. Also, most of the oil paints on the market are poisonous to a certain level. You should be very careful with how you use them and keep them away from the reach of children. I’m suggesting that you don’t use oil paints at least until you gain a bit of experience with water-based paints.
If you don’t have color paints or inks u can start sketching or drawing abstracts using just a pencil.
Another option is to use old colored magazines and with some paper glue. You can create fun abstract collages without getting your hands too dirty.
Choosing a painting surface for your abstract painting
The painting surface will depend on the medium you choose. In an ideal scenario, your acrylic paints are already on the table and you are choosing the stretched canvas size from your stack. But not everybody has a spare canvas at the reach of their hands. I’m sure you can find a piece of paper, cardboard, wooden panel, or something similar. Artists often use, acrylic boards, glass, metal, tiles, or even objects to paint on.
Of course, watercolor paper is by far a better choice if you are using watercolors but if you don’t have one starting on a regular sheet of paper will be just fine. Just try using the logic. Pouring a lot of water on thin soft paper will probably tear it apart and leave a hole in the middle of your painting. Leaving a wet paper soaked with water and paint on a smooth surface will end with the paper sticking to the surface. So it’s better to use a thin layer of thicker paint on papers that were not designed for painting purposes.
Abstract Painting Tools
Now that we have our medium, and we have our surface to paint on, the next logical step is to pick some tools to apply that medium. Ideally, you will have some artist paintbrushes, but if you don’t you can also use industrial brushes of appropriate size. After all, you are going to paint an abstract piece so your brush strokes don’t have to be so precise.
Painting with paint scrapers, catalyst wedge, or rubber squeegee can be so much fun. There are many techniques in which those tools are essential. Don’t worry they don’t have to be those expensive ones from the art store. You can just use the ones you use to clean your windows or scrape the ice from your car’s windshield in the morning.
As a beginner, you probably don’t have silicone brush and clay sculpting tools but if you decide to continue your art adventure those are one of the main tools worth having in your arsenal.
You can also use a fork, a hairbrush, a comb, old sponges, aluminum foil, and other household objects. Those tools can help you to add textures and extra depth to your painting.
A rubber brayer is a great tool if you plan to do some linear work as well for paint transfers or stamping techniques. It’s also an essential tool for abstract collages.
I left pallete knives for the end for a reason. Again, as a beginner, you probably don’t have them at home but if I was starting again those would be the first tools I would invest in for my work. They come in different shapes and sizes and I just love them all.
Abstract Painting for Beginners
5 General Rules for Painting Abstract Art
When we talk about abstract painting for beginners, some common rules generally apply to the painting process:
- Many artists prefer painting the background dark and building their way up with brighter colors.
- It’s also common to start the painting with thick lines and shapes and work with thinner ones on top of them.
- Filling all the shapes can make the painting look too busy. While there is nothing wrong with that, some painters choose to add fewer shapes to make them stand out more.
- It can be beneficial to start a color painting on the top of a pencil sketch.
- Using the rule of thirds, a compositional method where artists divide the painting surface into three equal sections, both vertically and horizontally. Then they place the focal point at any one of the intersecting points.
But do such rules apply when we talk about abstract painting for beginners? Do you have to follow those rules while trying to paint one of your very first paintings, especially using abstract style?
I would forget all that and advise you just to have fun for a while. It’s your first abstract, enjoy the process. If you feel that you really need some guiding points here are some simple things you might want to try while you are painting.
How To Paint Abstract Art And Have Fun
Playing With Paint
Experiment with the medium. Pay attention to how it reacts on the surface or how far can you stretch the line. See how much paint do you need to fill a certain amount of the surface or how the colors are interacting when you mix them.
You can have your laptop somewhere and watch abstract video tutorials on youtube to get some inspiration. There are tons of inspirational videos on how to paint abstract art. Just remember to use them as a guiding point and don’t forget to be yourself.
Abstract art is an intuitive process so let your intuition guide you. There are no mistakes here, you can always add more paint on the top of the part you don’t like. Do whatever you feel is the right thing to do.
Use Elements of Abstract Art
Start To Paint at the Top of Your Previous Painting
You painted something yesterday and it doesn’t feel like you want to keep that. There is no better background than that. Painting a layer on top of another layer leaving a part of the bottom layer visible will give amazing depth to your painting.
Use Different Painting Tools
Don’t stick to the paintbrush. Experiment with different tools. Anything can be a tool. Use an old fork, comb, toothbrush, and play until you feel like a child again.
Abstract Painting Techniques For the Beginners
Building Abstract Layers
Creating multiple layers in abstract paintings adds complexity and depth to your artwork. It will make your art more interesting and pull the viewer to gaze at your paintings. You can build your layers on the spot or wait for your painting to dry if you don’t want paint colors to mix. Simply, if you don’t like how the parts of your painting look, just paint on top of them.
Paint Pouring Abstract Art
Fluid abstract art created with pouring paints is getting more and more popular. It is also called liquid art, or acrylic paint pouring. For this technique, you will need fluid acrylic paint or you can use heavy body paint thinned out with water. If you are after that interesting circular cells effect a good pouring medium is also something that you want to add to your paint mix. Many artists also use a few drops of silicone or oils to add that extra touch to their cells.
Using some sort of stamps is a great way to create interesting layers of texture when painting abstracts as a beginner. You can use professional artist stamps or you can improvise with what you have around you. Various leaves, ice-cream sticks, cut-out paper shapes, bottle taps are all great tools for this technique. If you are not sitting in an empty room, and if you just look around you I’m sure you can find a few tools to improvise with which I forgot to mention.
Dripping Art Style
Very easy acrylic painting technique for beginners. It usually includes pouring or dripping paint on the canvas directly from a paint bottle, can, or letting it slide along a stick or a paintbrush. Janet Sobel and Jackson Pollock are well-known abstract artists that used this technique in their work. When thinking about how to paint abstract art, there are a few techniques that come as simple as this one.
In this technique, an artist usually places drips of paint on the surface (usually a canvas) and uses a squeegee to move the paint around. You can also apply the paint on the squeegee itself and transfer it to the canvas surface. Gerard Richter is probably the most relevant abstract artist for this style. In his work, he used a large wooden plank which serves as a giant squeegee to move the paint around the canvas. If you are a beginner and you are still wondering how to paint abstract art, starting with a squeegee is a good way to go.
In this technique, you can use cutout color paper shapes, silhouettes, or painted lines and glue them on a surface. Old magazines with color pages, newspapers, or your previous paintings can become extremely useful art resources for this style. Combine those pieces with painting previously mentioned elements of abstract art and you will ad an extra dimension to your abstract artwork.
Now that we covered the basics on how to paint abstract art, listed the tools, mediums, and surfaces you will need in your art process I hope you will find them useful in starting your adventure. Abstract art is probably one of the most suitable styles for a beginner painter, and certainly, a style that can offer so much fun in the learning process and beyond.
Remember, there are no mistakes here, no need for stress or overthinking. Be intuitive, and don’t forget that your goal is to reflect your own personality into your art without trying to completely copy someone else while getting inspired.