• Matheus Freitas

Talking a bit about Abstract Art

I think the worst moment of an art student is when it reaches that level of skill and perception that is not high enough for them to realize they actually do not know much, but they feel like they know everything.

It's that moment of arrogance, where they start to understand something about art and start picking "mistakes" and basically distribute their feedback to random artists they find on the internet.

Now, of course, feedback is good, especially in production (where you will face them you like it or not). The thing is that, as many of you might know, not all feedback is good feedback. I myself feel like I give poor feedback sometimes. Recently I played the alpha of "Back 4 Blood", which is a spiritual sequel of a video game franchise I really like called "Left 4 Dead". You see, I really like video games and sometimes I work on my own prototypes for fun. I have a little knowledge of game design, but I am not by any means an expert. Being aware of that, I was very thoughtful of the feedback I provided to the developers after I was done with the game and I believe some of them were not that good. Some of the things I criticized maybe were actually just part of the experience that I did not quite understand the moment I was playing.

Abstract art is often criticized in ways I believe is not fair. Of course, different people like different things, and many don't like abstract art. May it be because they don't understand it, or because they simply love something more concrete. Nothing wrong with that. It's just that I see often times it is involved in the discussion on what is good art and what is bad art, even though these are extremely subjective concepts.

Those who have less contact with art will say that good art is all the Renaissance stuff and that more modern things like Picasso are bad art. In fact, I'd say many experienced artists would go ahead and say the same thing. It is common to see more appreciation for the highly rendered illustrations that are almost photorealistic rather than the more abstract stuff.

In this post, I just wanted to have an open conversation about abstract art and how I perceive them.

Now, there are levels of abstraction. In a way, we can consider cartoons abstract art as for creating these cartoony worlds and characters, it is required a level of abstraction of perspective, materials and anatomy.

Heck, Gerald McBoing-Boing is a great example of abstraction in cartoons. It reduces the environments to a few props, which sometimes are just line drawings in a flat-colour background. It works so well!

Abstraction levels can go from slightly stylized character illustration all the way to blobs of colour on a canvas. Every person will react to all these levels in a different way.

I, personally, really like stylized characters and worlds from cartoons and video games. But I have this urge of hanging something like this on my wall.

Of course, if I had a wall big enough for it. It fits well in my personal taste, and I think that's a big thing about abstract art.

You see, as the abstraction level grows higher, the more things we can get off from it. We start interpreting things in different, unique ways. It's like we become an active participant of the image rather than just a mere observer that has no part to take.

It's similar to books. The most important part of the thrill of reading a book is imagining the world and the characters based on the descriptions you are given. Sometimes, the more vague descriptions are more interesting because it gives you a lot more freedom to imagine it in your own unique way. On the other hand, reading something that Tolkien wrote might be less interesting as it describes everything with so much detail that you do not have much room to make your imagination fly and interpret that in your own way (also, it's a lot more to read about much less content).

Now, I did hear people defending Tolkien's way of writing because they liked the fact they know almost exactly what a rock would look like, let's say. Some people do prefer that.

However, there is magic to abstract art. It can be whatever you want it to be, and it evokes different feelings and emotions in you that can make your imagination go wild.

Here is another one that I liked:

I like how the colours work together here and how the composition is pretty much based on vertical lines. It gives a relaxing mood, and it resembles for me some sort of port city where the buildings are reflecting on the water. I see it as a cloudy day, but not that dark, heavy cloudy day, but the one where it's covered with bright white clouds due to the diffusion of the sunlight.

Notice that I don't get much into the technical aspect of it as it doesn't really matter that much. I believe that the rules of the art fundamentals are not really rules but mostly guidelines that the artist can choose to follow since they are proven to work or go against and make something look beautiful.

This one for me looks like a cave on the water. It is another piece that I find relaxing, especially because of the combination of blues and greens, which is one of my favourite colour palettes. Then we have the orange there to break the coldness of the image and it looks almost like very vibrant vegetation. It makes me feel at peace.

One thing I think is important in abstract art is brushwork. In this last piece, I like the lines that are made when the ink drips, the same way I like the energy of the vertical brushstrokes of the one above. It creates a sort of edge control that is one of the only things I care about in this type of art.

Now, just for a change of pace, here is what I don't like in abstract art:

This is one of Jackson Pollock's artworks. He is perhaps one of the most famous abstract artists out there, with some of his paintings worth millions. I don't like it.

I think one's taste for abstract art also says a lot about that person. I like harmony, relaxing and colourful things. I like some good edge control and contrast, with some smooth transitions and a few sharp and firm edges here and there. This one does not fit in any of what I like.

Too much white that hurts my eyes, full of sharp edges everywhere and it is just chaotic. Nothing flows, everything goes everywhere and it kinda stresses me out.

Now, an art expert might be reading this and disagreeing with everything I wrote, saying "but this is due to this, this and that reason" and all I can say is "I don't care". It doesn't please my eyes as it might please someone else's, and I care even less if it was made by Jackson Pollock or not. Heck, I think I prefer iPhone's default lock screen background over this one.

At the same time, I believe it is a successful painting. It evokes a feeling in me, even if it's not a positive one. Even though I don't like it, the painting does what an abstract painting does: make you feel something.

These are mostly highly abstracted images, though. I wanna go to paintings that have more concrete things although it is still abstract. Like this one:

It's clearly a city, but the brushwork, the shapes and the colours used here are beautiful for me. It feels like it's lit by a golden sunset, a very beautiful day in a seemingly very chill place. Also, it has what I think is good edge control. Some of them are sharp, others are soft, some of them get lost. I love how the buildings lose their details on the reflection and become simple shapes. The texture feels great too, I love this one (would totally hang on my wall).

I mostly follow illustrators and concept artists in my social media accounts, but I do come across a few artists that do a phenomenal job in abstraction and I would like to share a couple here. This first one I found on DeviantArt and I just love his colours. His name is Leonid Afremov, and he, unfortunately, passed away in 2019. The subject of his paintings is usually clear and rather concrete, but the colours and the brushwork basically change the whole mood. It makes it so beautiful and alive that I don't think I can describe how I feel with words.

Good brushwork, having short, inclined strokes that make this image more dynamic. I also love how the building just dissolves into brushstrokes as it gets further away, being dominated by the light generated by the light posts. Stunning colours!

The human-made structures in this image are more concrete, but the abstraction is all on the leaves of the trees and the sky, which end up blending together in a beautiful mix of colours. It's also the area where the brushstrokes go wilder.

Here the brushstrokes are mostly horizontal, and they seem to flow from left to right. The sky is something I see being overlooked in some art, but it just makes the whole image beautiful when the attention is given.

Another one that has more of a digital look and not much brushwork is Trent Kuhn. Instead, I think he thrives in shapes, forms and colours.

That is a wrap, folks! Just wanted to write a bit about this topic and share these artists that I think are great and very inspiring.

Abstract art can be very inspiring and I even think that having some of them in the environment we live in can affect our mood and can be used to our advantage.

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Welcome to my new Blog!

Creating a blog is something that I wanted to do for a long time, yet it still took me a school assignment to actually go ahead and do it. For the ones who don't know me yet, my name is Matheus Freita