Behind the Scenes


What is Abstract Painting?

So where to start, I create abstract paintings.  That sounds straight forward enough until you try to explain what they are about and how they were made.

When you paint a landscape for example, you are attempting to create a representation of what is in front of you.  The finished work gives the viewer an image of a landscape full of things they instantly recognise trees, sky and so on.  Even if the viewer does not know the particular place the painting is depicting, they still understand what it is and can decide if they think it is a good representation of a landscape or not.  There is nothing recognisable to focus on in an abstract, therefore when you view or paint an abstract painting a different approach is required.

Writing about abstracts is a bit like writing about music, it is difficult to put it precisely into words how it works and why we like it.  I think the best way to view or paint an  abstract painting, is to use the same part of our brain that we use when we listen to music.  Again this is not easy to do, but well worth the effort when you can do it.

Abstracts use the interaction between colour, line and shape to put the painting together (similar to composition in representational work).  Looking at an abstract painting is more about how it makes you feel and what attracts your attention, be it the colours, the shapes or both.  The painting has to feel balanced, all the individual parts of the painting need to gel together.  For me a good abstract painting draws you in and the more you look at it the more you see.

We are programmed to look for recognisable images in paintings even when they are not there, also no matter what we are looking at everyone sees things slightly differently.  This is very apparent when you listen to different people talk about what they see when they look at the same abstract painting.  From my own experience, I often find that when people look at my work they see things that other people do not see.

Painting an abstract is not easy, you have to undo all your ideas about how you would normally create a painting.  I begin a painting by trying not to ‘think’ to much about exactly what I am doing, allowing the painting to develop as much as possible by itself.  Even when I have a preconceived idea it rarely ends up there, each painting is an adventure into the unknown, which can be scary and exciting at the same time.  Once I have made that first mark it feeds into the next and so on, the same applies with colour.  I personally avoid straight lines (me rebelling against my engineering background!) it helps me to keep the painting feeling freer.

When I first started painting abstracts the hardest part was knowing when to stop, often adding a bit more and ruining what I already had.  It is difficult to stop especially when you are happy with one part of the painting and not so much with another part, it is easy to mess it up.

Regardless of what you are painting some paintings are more successful than others and some just do not work, painting abstracts is no different.  As with any style of painting the more you practice the better you get.   I learn something from every painting that I do even the ones that fail (more so sometimes).

Giving an abstract painting a title is another puzzle do you or don’t you?  I think it is down to the artist, I thought about this a lot when I first started painting and decided that I would give my paintings titles.  There are several reasons behind this decision.  An interesting title can add another layer to the work and  may even help to give the viewer a way into the painting.  Therefore going back to what I was saying about the link between abstract paintings and music, I decided to title my paintings using bits of song lyrics that I feel relate to each individual painting.

August 2021:

Update on my painting titles I have recently decided to stop using bits of song lyrics (I have used all the best ones) and create my own titles.

Hopefully this all makes sense…

Can I make my own frames?

This is a question that I have been asking myself for a long time. So I thought I would use the extra home time that I have had in the last year or so to see where this thought would take me.

After spending a lot of time looking into the numerous ways of making my own frames I eventually came up with a plan (that did grow and change along the way).

I have a garage, however there is no way of getting an electricity supply to it so everything would require hand tools. Like most garages it was being used for storage, so a massive sort out was required to make some space before I could start.

During my research I came across a woodworker called Mr Paul Sellers this was a turning point for me. The short story is that I bought some rusty old planes and vices etc and some recycled wood. I have never done woodwork before so learning how to setup and use a plane for example did take some time…

After I got everything cleaned, working, sharp and I learnt how to use them, I built myself a bench and work space in the garage. I have even built myself a dust collecting system using a battery powered vacuum cleaner.

Next I looked at buying mouldings but I could not find exactly what I wanted, my paintings are usually very busy with bright colours, therefore the frames need to be calm and relatively plain by comparison. So with a lot of practice and many hours watching YouTube videos I have started to make my own frame mouldings by hand from recycled wood. Once I have a good quantity of mouldings I will be making all my own frames.

When a shed becomes a studio Part 3

At last the last part of of my shed to studio conversion. As mentioned in the last post I wanted to sort out a way to have a display wall. I wanted something that I could easily move and take down if needed, it had to be able to take as many paintings as possible large and small and not be expensive. This is what I came up with.

So from the top I have a metal curtain rail with plastic hooks. Ten lengths of white PVC electrical conduit that are held together with conduit clips screwed to lengths of wood (that make five separate hangers). The conduit clips have been filed out a bit to allow adjustments up and down the conduit lengths as and when required.

Three bicycle spokes joined to a length of wood are used to hang the pair of conduits from the curtain rail.

I cut up some old picture frames to make the wooden holders for my artwork. Each wooden holder is easy to move up and down or removed completely via one bolt.

To allow easy movement at the bottom of each hanger I made wooden wheels that can run on the skirting board and that is my display wall all ready.

When a shed becomes a studio Part 2

Well it has been a while but here is the next instalment. I wanted to have a big work surface for painting (I don’t use an easel as I like to work from above when painting). I also wanted to maximise my storage space. So after looking at lots of different ideas and combinations of these ideas, this is what I came up with. I had an old welsh style dresser that we no longer used, so I took it apart and rebuilt the top section to make it level with the bottom section. Then to give myself as much storage as possible, I have left the bottom part of the dresser sections open. I fitted a broom handle on the back section so that I can hang work in this area.

Base and resized top of old dresser

I then bought a sheet of MDF cut into two halves, the first half to sit on top of the dresser sections. I cut up a broom handle and screwed glide pads (for moving fridges etc) onto both ends so that I can support the second MDF sheet above the first sheet. The white discs on the ends of each leg are to stop the legs from toppling over. Several legs were made to hold the top MDF sheet in place. I wanted the legs to be movable so that I can vary the size and position of what is stored between the two MDF sheets.

Support legs

The whole construction is solid but easily taken apart if needed. I was going to paint everything white but my wife suggested it would be a bit clinical, I thought about it and agreed with what she was saying. So after much consideration I decided to go fairly bold, with the proviso that when painting or looking at a painting I would not be able to see the red and black.

Work surface and storage

With the remaining parts of the dresser and some spare bits of wood I made a wall mounted book case and more storage.

Bookcase and storage

I bought a second hand music system (I didn’t want to worry about getting paint on a new one). However it did not come with a lid so with a bit of magic and the last bit of dresser I got myself a fully functioning bright red cover.

Music what else do I need

Well that is about it for now my next job will be figuring out how to get a wall hanging display area for my paintings… this may take a while.

When a shed becomes a studio Part 1

As mentioned in my last post, I am turning my shed (summer house) into my studio. I have insulated the walls, floor and ceiling.

All insulated

I left a gap in the ceiling so that it can breathe and drilled holes for air to pass through the roof. The holes are protected from insects etc by mesh that I cut up and tied around curtain rail loops.

Roof ventilation hole covers

Plasterboard and paint on the the walls (white of course). I spent ages deciding what to do with the floor leave it bare (cold in winter), carpet (warm in winter but wet dirt from garden) or lino (easy to clean but cold in winter). My wife suggested artificial grass and I love it, makes me smile every time I see it.

Green on the inside (artificial grass)

Part 2 coming soon…

What am I doing at the moment..

It has been a while since I have posted or painted anything. I have a shed in the garden that I am setting up to be my studio, it is 2.4m x 2.4m on the outside. The shed has been multi-tasking for the last few of years, my plan is to have a space that is permanently set up for painting only. When finished it will be a bit like Dr Who’s Tardis inside… 2 walls with windows, one wall for displaying work, a big work surface to paint on, lots of storage, and most importantly a music system and a comfy chair.

This has been an ongoing project that I have been working on (as well as all the other jobs around the house) for the last couple of years. I have lined the shed and painted the walls, now I am sorting out how the things I want inside will all fit in including me…

When it doesn’t look like a building site I will post some pictures…