This abstract painting for beginners tutorial is for those who are taking baby steps in painting like myself. I’m no pro, so this is probably the easiest step by step acrylic painting DIY tutorial out there. Enjoy!
Acrylic Abstract Painting for Beginners
At the beginning of 2019, I decided to learn one new art and craft skill each month and this month it’s ‘painting’! I wanted to share my first abstract painting, hence this post! I won’t be giving any tips or suggestions in this post, but surely in the next posts as I’ll learn and practice more. Surely, this abstract painting for beginners is pretty easy, and if you’re inspired enough, you can do it too!
Looks magical, doesn’t it! In this tutorial I’ll show you how I did (and learned) my first ever acrylic abstract painting. Follow my tutorial and try recreating one yourself and keep in touch for more fun and crafty ideas!
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for some beginner-friendly tips, make sure to check out this article on How To Get Started With Acrylic Abstract Painting by Wandering Aimfully.
How to Paint an Abstract Acrylic Painting
List of Supplies
- Acrylic paint
- Canvas (any size you want)
- Paintbrush (flat brushes)
- Art paper
- X-acto knife
- Craft glue
Step by Step Acrylic Painting instructions
Step 1: Preparing the Colors and Applying the First Layer
Grab your canvas and paintbrushes, prepare the paints on the tray, and get started. Prepare 4 or more different shades of blue acrylic paint on the tray. Each shade should be deeper than the other. Starting your paint from the top side of the canvas; use the darkest shade for the first layer.
Step 2: Continue Painting to Create Blue Ombre
Continue the painting towards the bottom side of the canvas. Once you’re done with the first dark blue layer, wash your brush by simply dipping it into the water cup and then go for the next deeper shade of blue. Overlap both coats by a cm or so.
Step 3: Complete the Base Ombre
Keep adding different deeper shades of blue while painting towards the bottom end of the canvas. If you’re a beginner (I am as well!), don’t worry if the blue ombre doesn’t turn out as good; you’ll get better eventually, this only the first time! This blue ombre is the base of our abstract painting.
Step 4: Paint Scattered Clouds
Grab the white acrylic paint (Size 3) and use a flat brush to paint a scattered cloud pattern along the top side of the blue canvas. Paint the cloud from and moving downwards diagonally.
Step 5: Add Shades to the Clouds
Prepare a really deep mint acrylic shade (mix white: blue: green – 50:30:20) and once again use the flat brush to paint a scattered cloud pattern below the white cloud pattern. Overlap with the previous cloud pattern.
Step 6: Add 3rd Shade to the Clouds
I’ve prepared a really deep peachy-pink paint to add another layer of scattered clouds. Paint these clouds randomly, overlapping with and beside the previous clouds.
Step 7: Add More Shades to the Clouds
Continue to add different deep shades of peach, pink, and mint acrylic paints to the clouds. Don’t worry about it at all and get creative!
Step 8: Add Orange-Peachy Shades to the Cloud
Now that we’re done applying all the light shades, now let’s apply a darker shade. I prepared an orange-peachy shade using (orange: pink: white – 40:30:30).
Step 9: Smudge the Overlapped Parts
Use a sponge to smudge the overlapped parts of the painting to give them a smooth look. Just tap gently on the overlapped painting and keep smudging them until you’re happy with the shades.
Step 10: Allow the Paint to Dry
Happy with the abstract painting? Allow the paint to dry completely. As we have applied quite some numbers of layers, it might take a few hours for the paint to dry completely.
Step 11: Splatter Golden Paint
Pour a small amount of golden paint on a toothbrush and then splatter the golden paint from the toothbrush on the painted canvas. Try keeping the golden splattered pattern mild, don’t add too much golden paint.
And we’re done! Allow the paint to dry completely before framing it.
If you liked our step by step abstract acrylic painting tutorial then please do share this with the people who may like it too. And as it is my first try, I would really appreciate your feedback in the comments below. Share pictures of your version of the painting with us if you do give them a try. You can share your picture with hashtag #craftaholicwitch on Instagram or Facebook or just DM your picture to us on Instagram or Facebook page.
A Crazy Craft Addict! Love swirls, colors, shapes and of course to learn and share craft ideas
Making Sense of These Types of Paintings
People often misunderstand abstract art because they are looking for something real and concrete with which they can identify. It is natural to try to name and make sense of what we experience and perceive in the world, so pure abstract art, with its unrecognizable subject matter and unpredictable shapes, colors, and lines can prove challenging. Many people see no difference between the art of a professional abstract painter and the art of a toddler, making it that much harder to find meaning in it.
Recognizing the Difference Between Children’s Art and Abstract Art
While there may be some similarities between the marks made by children and those made by professional abstract artists, the similarities are superficial. There are several reasons why children paint (and some of those same reasons no doubt continue into adulthood for those people who become professional artists), but by that time there is more thought, planning, and understanding of the visual elements and principles of art. This understanding gives the professional work greater complexity and a visible structure that is often perceivable by even the non-artist.
Since abstract art is primarily about the formal elements of design, rather than necessarily based on recognizable images, it is very significant how the artist has used the elements of art to convey particular principles of art, for this is what gives the painting its meaning and feeling.
Being Familiar With Past Work, Culture, and Time Period
Professional abstract art is often about much more than what you see on the surface of the canvas. It may be about the process itself, the artist may be using symbolism, or the artist may have reduced something visible to its abstract essence. Therefore, it helps greatly to be familiar with the whole body of the artist’s work — his or her oeuvre. That way you know what paintings have preceded the one you are seeing, which will help greatly in making sense of it.
Every artist is also a product of his or her culture, place, and time period. If you know the history relevant to the artist you will also be able to better understand his or her painting.
For example, Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) was a Dutch artist most well-known for his minimal geometric abstract paintings in primary colors. Seeing these paintings, one might wonder what is so special about them. But when you realize that “he radically simplified the elements of his paintings to reflect what he saw as the spiritual order underlying the visible world, creating a clear, universal aesthetic language within his canvases,” you are inclined to appreciate more the apparent simplicity of his paintings.
He started out painting traditional representational landscapes but then worked in series, in which each subsequent painting became more abstract and reduced to lines and planes until reaching the point where his paintings became the abstractions that are most familiar to the public. The Grey Tree (1912) pictured above, is one such painting of a series.
As Mondrian himself said: “The emotion of beauty is always obscured by the appearance of the object. Therefore the object must be eliminated from the picture.”
See the article Piet Mondrian: The Evolution of Pure Abstract Paintings to see examples of Mondrian’s progression from representation to abstraction.
Abstract Art Takes Time to Absorb
Part of our problem in appreciating abstract art is that we expect to “get it” immediately, and don’t give ourselves time to sit with it and absorb it. It takes the time to absorb the meaning and emotion behind a work of abstract art. The Slow Art movement that is popular worldwide has brought attention to the fact that museum-goers often move through museums very quickly, spending less than twenty seconds on an individual artwork, and thereby missing much of what the artwork has to offer.
How to Analyze Abstract Art
There are three basic steps when analyzing any work of art:
- Description: What do you see? State the obvious and then dig deeper. Identify the elements and principles of design that you see. What are the colors? Are they warm or cool? Are they saturated or unsaturated? What kinds of lines are used? What shapes? Is it visually balanced? Does it have symmetrical or asymmetrical balance? Is there a repetition of certain elements?
- Interpretation: What is the artwork trying to say? How do the things you see and describe contribute to its message? How does it make you feel? Is there rhythm or movement? Does it make you feel happy, or sad? Does it convey energy, or does it convey a sense of stillness and peace? Read the title of the painting. It can give you some insight into its meaning or intent.
- Evaluation: Does it work? Are you moved by it in any way? Do you understand the artist’s intent? Does it speak to you? Not every painting is going to speak to every person.
As Pablo Picasso said, “There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward, you can remove all traces of reality.”
Most abstract art starts with a common human experience. You might just have to spend some time with a painting to uncover what that is and what it means to you. A painting represents a unique conversation between the artist and a particular viewer. Although you don’t have to know anything about the artist in order to be moved by a painting, it is likely that the viewer with the greatest knowledge of the abstract artist and his or her background will most appreciate and understand the artwork.
Get away from realism and explore!
What is Abstract Art?
Abstract art is a bit like music. Just as a tune is an arrangement of sounds in time, with no meaning (not trying to ‘sound like’ water or birds or anything else) so an abstract composition is an arrangement of shapes and colors in space (in the case of painting, on a flat plane). Just as there are rules governing musical composition (scales, keys, principles of harmony) which can be followed or broken to a greater or lesser degree, so there are rules of composition in painting, which you can follow or break depending on what effect you want to achieve.
What does abstract art mean?
Abstract art has many purposes and inspirations, and covers many styles. These pieces can be formal explorations of the principles of composition, trying to get selected components to look ‘right’ just as one might when arranging a room or a spray of flowers. Abstract art can also express deep emotion. Often this is communicated by ‘mark making’ – rough or energetic strokes that reveal the physical energy used in their making, just as a singer’s voice might become hoarse with emotion. Music can sound formal and refined, or passionate and emotional, light-hearted or sad, by the use of harmony and orchestration, so abstract art communicates by the use of color, composition, shape and line. Color and value can have strong effects on the emotions, and without realist subject matter to communicate with the viewer, the artist must make good use of these qualities in abstract art.
Where do I start with Abstract Art?
This will depend on what you hope to express. If you enjoy literature, mathematics or science, and like to explore ideas, then a more formal approach may suit you. If you are passionate and expressive, then you might seek a more dramatic and emotional form of expression. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Spend some time exploring the principles of composition. Learn about important aspects, such as direction, balance, and weight.
Choose an abstract artist – look on the net, perhaps one of the Russians like Malevich – who uses simple, strong shapes – and copy a few of them. Then try to create your own design of simple shapes using those as a starting point.
Start with nature. Picasso said ‘There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward, you can remove all traces of reality’. Try looking at some realist paintings and reducing them to bare bones, simplifying the main shapes. Forget about the things being shown, just indicate the main volumes – the rough shape of a figure, the vertical shape of a tree, a horizon.
Look at scientific images. Space photos, electron microscope images, DNA sequences, microbes, diagrams, mathematical formulae – these things can have a curious beauty.
Limit your palette. Try creating a minimalist palette of adjacent, sympathetic, opposing or random colors. Try one of:
Black, brown, beige, off-white in large blocks
Cadmium red, dark green, border and bands of black
Purple, ultramarine blue, small highlights of orange.
Use chance to help create a composition. Cut out some basic shapes – squares, circles, ovals, triangles – in the colored card, and toss them onto the floor. Move a cut-out card frame (8×10) over the shapes until you see an arrangement that looks interesting.
Every piece of art has its own vocabulary, a visual vocabulary that give it structure and interest. This vocabulary is made up of six basic elements: Line, Texture, Shape, Form, Color, and Value. Whether you do abstract art, non-objective, or even realistic, you’ll find at least one, if not more, of these elements at work.
Each of these basic art elements are important to the success of your work, but we tend to take them for granted. In artist Dean Nimmer’s art instruction video on Creating Abstract Art: 6 Key Elements of Success, he shows you how when you focus on each element individually, you can learn to use them to increase success in your painting. Each element has its own characteristics and can help make your art more interesting. Explore the elements of line, texture, and form here as extracted from Dean’s video instruction.
Creating Abstract Art: 6 Key Elements of Success | The Divide, by Dean Nimmer
The character of line can be subtle, aggressive, lyrical, rhythmic. Different types of line can be included in one piece of art, and can transition from one type of line to another. Pay attention to the quality of line itself and how you are using it in your art.
In this demo from Creating Abstract Art: 6 Key Elements of Success, Dean uses line to portray movement.
In Dean’s exercise on texture, he shows you techniques for working with random texture to enjoy the process of making art without worrying about results, as well as ways to use texture in a more controlled way. When you pay attention to the element of texture you’ll find new ways to make this element work to your advantage and energize your art.
In this demo from Creating Abstract Art: 6 Key Elements of Success, Dean creates random texture from marbles dipped in paint.
There are different possibilities for shape within a composition. We tend to see shape as positive form, but Dean shows you how paying attention to negative shapes between form will stimulate your creativity. In abstract art, it’s not important what the shape is or what it looks like, but what character and qualities it has to contribute to your art.
In this demo from Creating Abstract Art: 6 Key Elements of Success, Dean uses shapes made from negative spaces as positive forms in a composition.
Preview Creating Abstract Art: 6 Key Elements of Success below, and find the entire demonstration here!