The Art of Abstraction

When looking at any artwork, most people’s first thought or question may be, “What is this about?” That’s a good place to start, but it won’t take us very far when looking at an abstract work—unless we are willing to think more creatively. With abstract painting, sculpture, and photography the piece can be about the using particular materials, mood, emotion, color, shape, to name only a few examples.

annhartmarquis-Hatitian,Sacha Thebaud,1941

Haitian, Sacha Thebaud, 1941.


Dream of Home, oil on canvas, 36″x36″, ©2011, Gail Suttelle

In abstract art, the artist frequently uses a visual language of shapes, forms, lines and colors to interpret a subject, without necessarily providing the viewer with an unidentifiable visual image.

This is very different than traditional forms of art which set out to present a literal and more representational view of a subject and which relates to reality in some way.


Albuquerque Railyards #9842, ©2011, Tim Anderson photographer

Some say that abstract art engages and challenges the mind but it can also engage and challenge the emotions. To fully appreciate it, most of the time the viewer has to let go of a need to understand what the artist is trying to say and instead tune into their own feeling response to the piece.

The beginning of abstract art is usually assigned to the Russian artist, Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944).


Conversation IV, Wassily Kandinsky, 1911.


Kandinsky believed that colors provoke emotions. Red was lively and confident; Green was peaceful with inner strength; Blue was deep and supernatural; Yellow could be warm, exciting, disturbing.

If you have not spent time with the art of abstraction, investigate a little a see what you think. I have not spent a lot of time with abstract art. I have done a few pieces and found the process to be very interesting and somewhat intriguing.


Daydreaming, oil on canvas, 8×10, ©2009, Ann Hart Marquis

How about you?

6 thoughts on “The Art of Abstraction

  1. Suzanne Snadecki

    Beautiful examples Of abstract art. For me it is the most difficult, it means the artist must draw from a very deep emotional place. Do you think most artists must work for many years on representational works before arriving at abstract?

    1. Ann Hart Marquis Post author

      That is a great question Suzanne. I know that doing an abstract painting is challenging for me. I think it has something to do with giving up the need to create forms that relate to something familiar. I am working on some now, but it has been a challenge.

  2. Gary Cherniak

    How interesting, esp Suzanne’s comment just because my experience has been so different. Four years of getting a fine arts degree in Michigan and most of that time large abstract expressionism , then moved to NM (over thirty years ago ) and only wanted to draw and paint landscapes and people since .

    1. Ann Hart Marquis Post author

      Hey Gary, thanks for commenting. I didn’t even know that you had a fine arts degree. That’s great! I would like to see the abstract work that you have done. I agree with you that I like to paint the landscape more than doing abstracts, but I do find them interesting. I am going to try to do a series.


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