Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Abstract watercolor Workshop Notes

Now that I’ve begun actively showing my abstract paintings, I get the feeling everyone has been just waiting for an opportunity to find out what the deal is with that non-objective stuff. People keep asking me how I make my decisions when there is no content to guide me. They wonder where the ideas come from, considering it all seems so arbitrary. I've been asked several times how I know whether what I'm doing is any good. This is just the sort of thing most artists prefer to keep to themselves, but, having been a teacher for almost as long as I’ve been painting, I actually enjoy trying to answer these questions . I am no longer worried about over-analyzing the process, having seen that there is more benefit than loss in understanding more clearly what motivates me.
In that spirit, then, let’s take a look at a few abstract paintings with an emphasis on how the artists chose to compose the page. Most, but not all of these are watercolors. If there’s no name under a picture the artist is unknown to me. Finding good abstract watercolor painters is not easy. If you have any tips, please respond to this posting.

Paul Klee                                                                     Serge Poliakoff

Let's begin by looking at how these two paintings are similar. What do you notice?

Edges? Hard. Overlap? Some, but still flat. Symmetrical? Not quite, but both are dependent on a central vertical axis. Distribution of shapes? Crowded into the middle. Only background shapes touch the frame. Color? Limited palette, lots of neutral. Value? Distinct light, middle and dark. Overall feeling? Both are pretty tidy paintings, even a bit uptight. Both have the feeling of having been drawn first, then colored in.

Now, how are the two different?

Shapes? Colors? Movement?

Here are a couple more to compare:


Gerhard Richter

This computer program has defeated me! I had big
plans, but I'll settle now for simply stacking a bunch of
interesting images.

Cathy Morton Stanion

                               Sam Francis

                                  Dodi Fredericks

Paul Jenkins

                                     Emil Nolde

                                  Georgia O'Keefe

                                            Gerhard  Richter

Richard Diebenkorn


  1. Lately,I like Stan Kurth (some pure abstract) and Randall David Tipton (abstract landscapes)--and you (flattery!), but seriously, when looking for abstract watercolor artists that's how i ended up following your blog feed.

  2. Randall David Tipton