8 Steps to Create an Abstract Painting?

I have been painting abstract for many years now. It is the style of painting that makes me feel free. I love all those happy accidents and beautiful little surprises that pop up!  With abstract art, anything goes. The medium is about play, experimentation, and primal expression. To fully come into your style as an abstract painter, one must let go of the fear of messing up. When this happens you find your flow. Surprisingly, your best work will come from destruction…this will be characterized by pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and sometimes absolute annihilation of something you consider good. Great abstract art will arise when you completely let go of all expectations and fear of messing a painting up. You will find that your best work comes out of “mistakes” or what I refer to as sweet little mishaps. Below are some steps of my methods of starting an abstract painting.

1. Take some time to create sacred space in your art studio.

I always start off a painting session by lighting an incense, saging my space to let go of stagnant energy and bring in new. While it burns  I    drink a cup of green tea, look out my art studio windows at the wide open spaces of nature,  and tune into my breath. This step gets  me to the relaxed flow state needed to paint a fabulous abstract painting.  When our breath is short and constricted our art will mirror this.  Breath is key to bring you into a state of flow. I also like to turn on music to get me into my painting rhythm.

2. Pick out your paint and materials for your painting

Select any materials you can think of to make an interesting mark and immerse you into the creating mode. My favorites tools are charcoal, string, various waterproof pens, stamps,stencils, sand paper, textured papers, prints and paint.  My preferred paint is acrylic. Acrylic is non-toxic. The reasons acrylic is my medium of choice is you can create beautiful glazes to unify your paintings, it drys quick, it can be removed if you don’t like a color. It is an all around easy paint medium. These materials will be used to add texture, depth, and interest to your paintings.

3. Prep your board.

I always paint on wood board or canvas (I love working on panels, because I can scrape into it, be rough, and create some great texture) with a thick layer of paint or canvas with a layer of gesso. This seals the board and preps it for the paint.  This layer of paint or layer of gesso is your base and I always smooth it out so that I can make marks with the tools listed in step 2.

4. Start with marks for first layer

Start marking up your board with any of your materials you have laid out. When you come across something you like then do it again. If you do something to your painting you don’t like then cover it up with a layer of paint.  The beauty is anything can be fixed in a painting with a coat of paint. Executing a painting without messing up is impossible so embracing the change of direction in a painting is key.  You never know where that change will lead you. That is the fun part of art! When you put something on a board you like, particularly paint, make sure to let it dry before adding another layer. I always coat it with a layer of gel medium to seal the layers.  This brings out the colors and contrast, and seals your collage materials if you’ve added them.  What you’re shooting for in an abstract painting is a strong design of values (darks and lights) and design …track where your eye goes.  Does your painting have a variety of shapes, lines, are there interesting things to look at.  This is the most important part of a painting!

5. Adding Transparent paint and Opaque shapes.

Your paint bottle will be labeled as opaque if it is an opaque paint, or transparent if it is transparent. Transparency creates depth in your painting. A transparent glaze will recede, and opaque colors will come forward. This creates a sophistication in your art, it creates interest.

6. Turn the painting to all different sides.

While you paint turn the painting 90 degrees, it help you see things that you wouldn’t otherwise.  It also keeps your painting session fresh.  If your stuck, rotating it upside down, etc. helps get you moving again. Always ask yourself this simple question “where is my eye drawn to and why?” This question will bring you to any parts of the painting that you want to make changes.  It helps you break out of the trap of not making anything too precious in your painting, changes are good!  It also gives you a different perspective.

7. Layer, layer, layer!

My paintings usually have 6-10 layers. Sometimes they sit for a month until I  figure out my next move.  A painting will speak to you when it’s done and a deep feeling will sink in that there is nothing else that can be added to make it better.

8. Put on a layer of gloss medium to seal the painting, and a layer of cold wax to give it that matt finish I love.  

My favorite brand of gloss medium is by Golden. I go through tons of this stuff so a big bottle of it is necessary. These two layers give your painting that finish it needs to keep colors vibrant, papers intact, and able to last forever.


My favorite Resources:

Golden Products for mediums, High flow paints, acrylics: https://www.goldenpaints.com/

Art2Life Store for paints, tools: https://www.art2life.com/shop/

Dover books for collage papers: http://store.doverpublications.com/

Stencils: https://www.stencilgirlproducts.com/

Art supplies: https://www.joggles.com/paint-dye-and-ink



Enjoyed the Article?

Dont miss out! Be the first to hear about new courses, paintings and articles.

Share this story:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *