I don’t know about normal people, but I experience a lot of inspiration during that magical world between awake and asleep. Whether waking up or falling asleep, I often see vivid images behind my eyelids, usually taking shape from whatever I’d been thinking about that day. Sometimes the images are purely random, though, and from one of those incidents came inspiration to paint an abstract.

I’d never been one to do abstracts. I found them interesting to look at, but not necessarily challenging to paint. After all, it doesn’t actually have to look like anything. That’s true, but after having painted two of them, and after studying some of Casey Klahn‘s work and his posts on colorist theory, I may have changed my mind. Casey does very interesting work in pastels using pure color, and he has some recent posts about Jackson Pollock, an artist whose work I’ve always liked.

Abstract work removes the challenges of representation, leaving only color, value, and composition. I think that makes it “purer,” in terms of art. Not better or worse, just less cluttered. It frees the artist to explore those artistic concepts, hopefully teaching them valuable lessons along the way. I’ve never felt more stereotypically artsy than I did when I was slathering paint around creating these two paintings:

Population I by Meg Lyman

6×6″ oil on canvas – $100


Population II by Meg Lyman

6×6″ oil on canvas – $85


The first one was random, starting with my half-asleep brain and going from there, just doing what felt right with the brush. When I was done, I noticed that it reminded me a bit of a population graph. I named it accordingly, and set off to do another that looked more like a graph. That’s it. I enjoyed using color straight from the tube and letting my intuition play with the compositions.

The best part about this experiment, and the reason I’ll do more of these, is the response from viewers. No two people see the same thing when they look at these paintings. Usually people look at my work and say, “nice octopus.” This time, I got impressions ranging from “pretty close” to “I would never have thought of that.” People say these remind them of a beach, warring factions, flags, elections, political parties, and tectonic plates. How cool is that? I am fascinated by the things people see in these paintings, and it really makes me want to do more.

What do you see?

7 thoughts on “Abstracts”

  1. I’m not sure why, but the abstract with white really appeals to me. I see the blue and red trying to reach out to each other, but the white between will never allow it. It’s kind of like a colour representation of ying and yang. The abstract with yellow makes me uncomfortable…which maybe is a good thing.

  2. Christy,

    Thanks for commenting! I love your yin/yang interpretation. The white one is really more compositionally balanced than the yellow, which might be part of the “uncomfortableness.” I get that from it too, although I’d been assuming it was the yellow color itself. Once it was finished, I went out and bought a tube of cool yellow. But now that you’ve mentioned it, I’m thinking my unease comes from the composition.

    Man, this stuff is fascinating!

  3. Hey, Meg. Thanks for the copious linkage. I’m happy to be a small influence. Maybe I can use your new energy in abstraction to get me off of my posterior and out into that studio!
    I plan at least one new abstract for this month’s blogging.
    For some reason I have an urge to go out and buy a Negra Modelo…can’t figure out why.

  4. Lisa, I got a few people thinking along those linms, both in the USA and in France (with their flag colors and their recent election). Do you suppose people apply whatever’s freshest in their mind, whether it’s current events or personal, into their interpretation of an abstract?

    Casey, no problem. Your art is great and your words inspiring. Go and create more for us to enjoy! And grab yourself a beer from the fridge on the way.

  5. Interesting question- I think if I’d been on a plane recently, I might have thought
    1. Turbulence
    2. Bad Trip

    A rock concert might have given me visions of
    1. Electric Gee-tar
    2. Oops, Wrong Note

    I think people often try to make sense of things they don’t understand by attaching some sort of familiar symbolism with it.

    I usually try to enjoy a pleasing pattern or color scheme for what it is, and not try to impose my own interpretations on it. But, you asked…

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