In my last post about abstract art, I expressed a worry that the world around me would cease to be available to be used as inspiration and reference. Since then, I’ve perused through some other abstract artists’ blogs and social media, and learned that it’s possible – or even a new level to achieve of artistry – to use something as reference, but not have it look exactly how it is in reality.
When I read Van Gogh’s letters earlier this year, there were two things that stuck with me: First, when he was at a lesson and the teacher scolded him for not using enough contour and he goes ‘fuck your contour’ (which made me chuckle, yes…). The other was something along the line of ‘Do not be a slave to the reference.’ For me, this was eye opening.
For a long time, I would chide myself when I drew something and it wasn’t photorealistic and 100% accurate. Recently I started to understand that maybe things don’t need to be exacting to the reference to be good art. And then reading Van Gogh’s line really freed me from that idea. If I want it to be photorealistic, I could take a photo of it. One of the purposes of art is to go beyond that and to express the world – how it’s perceived, emotionally, visually – from a certain human perspective. Draw the gesture. Paint the colors. What part of this can I use?
I am also taking a different perspective of looking at others’ art. I recently saw a pastel piece of flowers. The artist – whoever they were, the originating site I saw was in Russian so I can’t be sure – utilized soft, cloudy, blurry pieces effectively, and contrasted them where necessary with sharp, clear, concise edges to bring the main focus on where it needed to be. I started to think, how can I express that abstractly? I don’t need it to look like a certain thing, but the contrasting sharp and soft edges can be harnessed to bring a viewer’s eye to a certain area of the painting. That’s just the start – I have a long way to go. But I feel freed from the pressure of creating photorealistic work, which is a real epiphany for me.