Abstraction is all about making art that deviates from real life. It’s the idea that we observe something from life, or think about objects we know and recognize, but then choose to distort them in some way.
Coloring books are a simple and easy example of abstraction. They often include images of people and animals, but they don’t look realistic, they are instead made of simplified shapes.
The most extreme form of abstraction is a kind of art called non-objective. This work has no visible connections to anything tangibly observable in our lives. Artists commonly recognized for this kind of work include Jackson Pollack and Piet Mondrian.
Hi, my name is Carrie and here on Artist Strong I help artists build their skill and develop their unique voice. Today we are talking about why abstract artists should care about drawing fundamentals when their work doesn’t ever intend to look realistic.
Improves Your Mindset
My first and most important reason I encourage artists of all genres to build their foundational drawing skills comes down to mindset. I want you to be fully confident in your abilities as an artist.
In some conversations with different creatives, I’ve had some abstract artists admit to me they work in abstraction because they don’t know if they are any good at realism and they are scared to try it.
How different would your confidence be if you KNEW you could draw realistically, but instead chose to focus on your genre of abstraction?
Pablo Picasso is a great example of this. He could draw beautifully and practiced doing it as a young child, but as he evolved and his art evolved, his work became increasingly abstract. We know he did this out of choice because we can see early work that demonstrates his skill. It creates an entirely different conversation around meaning and intent in his work.
Create more Confident Compositions
Drawing foundations includes studies and research on composition. If you are going to draw from observation, you need to be able to ensure the model you are drawing not only fits on your sketchbook page, but fills the space in a pleasing way.
Constant observational work and activities like urban sketching, which is a contemporary version of en plein air art, force you to look at how you arrange space using the elements of art.
In abstract work, you use the same 7 elements of art that realists use, but some develop greater focus or priority. For example, maybe Shape, Texture, or Color… how do you use these elements to inform the composition of your artwork? Practicing composition work with drawing, or even doing thumbnail drawings that are value studies of your abstract paintings can provide a lot of insight into creating a successful final artwork.
Drawing Foundations Improve All Skill
When exploring different media as well as different techniques, all of these practices inform the actual artwork you create.
For example, I spent half a year focused entirely on mandala work. I made drawings, a coloring book, and began embroidering them. That led me to think about the use of pattern, gold leaf, and embroidery that are now in my portraits.
It’s important and helpful to learn all the time, everything and anything we can. Our life experiences and all of the learning from different art trainings, books, tutorials, and lessons inform our current artist practice.
So many artists I speak with yearn to develop a unique artist voice. Well there is no secret formula for this. It’s about doing that exploration, learning everything you can, including foundational drawing, and then creating your own mishmash of techniques, materials and ideas to make work that is uniquely yours.
This post from Artist Strong is brought to you by The Artist Strong Studio, our community of patrons who believe and wish to support this community. You can become part of the Artist Strong Studio for a small monthly commitment as low as 1 dollar a month. To learn more visit https://www.patreon.com/ArtistStrong.
special thank you to current patrons, I couldn’t do this work without your support.
Now it’s your turn: are you an abstract artist who resonates with this message? Do you have foundational drawing skills that have informed your current work? Or maybe you feel a lot of resistance to this, why shouldn’t someone practice drawing foundatinos? Let’s keep this conversation going in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you!
Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next time on Artist Strong.
Fundamental drawing skills are always in style. I wanted to be a realistic painter first, and spent many years creating realistic works. It is a skill I have learned to apply to various other areas as well. I find people can get trapped in their work, or get bored or limited. Closets filled with unfinished pieces because they don’t know what else to do with them. I’ve helped people out with their unfinished pieces many times by having them learn the fundamentals of realistic drawing. Rarely have they not been satisfied with their completed works.
Thanks for sharing Christine. I wonder how many unfinished works are due to lack of desired skillsets.
This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, actually. It’s incredibly important to learn the rules of how to draw things, how they’re structured. And once you learn them, you can more easily manipulate or break them. Even if your knowledge is very basic, like knowing the rough proportional ratio for a human and their body parts, it can still help a lot with making your art look good!
This doesn’t necessarily mean learning realism, either. I think that’s important to note. But it does mean looking at real things and sometimes figuring out how to interpret them into your style. I’ve definitely had times where I looked at other styles, and at photographs, and sometimes even loosely traced them to better understand how they’re put together, and then used that newfound knowledge to make my art better. It’s something I recommend to everyone, to try to understand the base structure of making a person or whatever they’re attempting to draw.
🙂 thanks for being here and sharing.