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Is Abstract Art Easy?

Is Abstract Art Easy?

For most, yes.

Compared to most other forms of art…

It’s easier to pick up and do, especially if you have no previous training (this is why kids can become famous for doing it)…

It’s easier to make in the aspect of time consumption…

I can make a large abstract painting in a few hours, whereas another person might spend days or even weeks on that same size creating a realistic portrait or landscape.

(Now Bob Ross hated abstract, but even he could churn out a whole painted scene in under a half hour – just saying… you could be quick at anything)

It’s easier to market due to its broad definition…

So many things are considered “abstract” that it’s easy to slap some coats of paint on a canvas and send it to market. Same day.

So is it easy?

Unfortunately so.

Any time something is easy – there will be an overabundance of people doing it with the vain hope of succeeding due to their “talent.”

I talk about this with low barrier to entry in this blog post, and how the easier something is, the more crap that comes out it.

Since there are a lot of people doing it, there’s a lot of indiscernible junk out there.

That’s just the way it is.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

There ARE decent abstract artists out there who genuinely care about the craft. They care about the time and quality of the pieces they create. I frequently use Ed (Swarez) as an example. He uses quality materials, plans out his pieces, and provides amazing, personable service. (He’s my unofficial mentor.)

I too hope to be an example of that someday.

So is abstract art easy?

Is Abstract Art Easy?
Is Abstract Art Easy?

If you’re just starting out, and want to make something to say you made it. Yes.

If you don’t honestly care about the quality of the materials or end product. Yes.

If you like putting paint on a canvas and don’t really know or care how it will turn out. Yes.

But if you care about the end product…

…and it tears at your soul to put out something you – as the creator – feel is garbage – even just a little bit…

…and it keeps you up at night thinking about how you will accomplish something new, something greater than what you have done up until this point, or dwelling on how to correct your latest mistake that took a decent painting in the wrong direction…

… And you hate settling for what everyone else is doing…

Then no, my friend.

Abstract Art is NOT easy. At all.

Coty

Art

Is Abstract an Excuse to Make bad Art?

First off, the easy answer. No. The more complicated answer: no.

But instead of giving you the cliché answers of “well abstract is more about the way you FEEL,” or “it’s different for everyone – your interpretation will be different than everyone else’s,” I’d rather talk of the medium itself.

Let’s get one thing straight: abstract – whether you like it or not – IS an accepted form of art. And no – not because it’s easy or a way for “pseudo-artists” to pass off half-finished paintings as “art.”

Abstract was started with the intention of testing limits, trying new mediums, and breaking conventions, which, the forefathers are recognized for. They accomplished their goal.

But as time went on, the work became less linear, less defined, and less unique. The mediums overlapped, the methods grew lazy, and with minimal strokes of the brush, these pieces became the new standard of art.

Maybe you’ve seen Robert Rauschenberg’s “White Painting”, which consists of (at least) three large white canvases that sold for millions? Or Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square – which is exactly what it sounds like…

A painted black square.

When looking at pieces like these, it’s easy to see why people can get frustrated with the idea of abstract.

Thinking its pretentious or lazy or even garbage.

But how about going the other way?

What if you see a piece that overwhelms the eye; one that is seemingly a bunch of colors thrown on a canvas with no forethought, or a heavy sense of carelessness?

Surely all those artists didn’t INTEND for it to look the way it does, did they?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Lines March On - Is this an Excuse for Bad Abstract Art?
Is Abstract an Excuse for Bad Art?

Either way, I’d agree, to an extent.

If you read or watch Jackson Pollock’s story, he actually discovered the drip method on accident when paint from his brush dripped onto a piece he had already been working on. He added more and more, finding a fresh excitement in it, and it took off.

The rest is history.

Now, I’m newer to abstract art, so I don’t really know too many other artists’ story, but I’d surmise that they probably stumbled onto the methods that they’re famous for through trial and error, until it just sort of… clicked.

And even the intentional pieces – like a Rothko or a Reinhardt, which is mostly composed of a single color or a very limited color pallet (and moreover confined to painted squares predominantly) – was probably not what they had first envisioned at the onset.

I’d wager that those signature styles came after making dozens (if not hundreds) of previous paintings and one day, they had an idea to make a piece in that style. And it stuck.

So, let’s come back to the question at hand – is abstract art an excuse for bad art?

Obviously, I already answered this, but let explain why.

Abstract art is just like any other genre of a creative medium – it can be judged.

From sci-fi movies to fantasy novels to rap music, these are all genres and even abstract art can be judged for its quality.

But how do you judge something that seemingly has no defined standard of measure?

I won’t lie – it’s a bit challenging – but I will say it’s possible.

Here a few questions you can ask yourself:

Does the composition make sense? Even if the piece doesn’t have some sort of “secret meaning” or “hidden interpretation” you can easily judge a piece by its compositional quality. Do the colors represent something? Do they make sense? Or does the piece seem to “flow?”

Was the finished piece intentional? You ever looked at a piece and wondered if it was finished? Or if it was an accident? Look, sometimes accidental pieces are great pieces, but there’s a difference in something that was meant – even left if there was mistake that was made that made the piece inherently better – than a work that was just whipped up for show.

Does this piece stand on its own? If you look at that piece, does it seem whole? Could you look at that one piece and not see any more works from that artist, and it would signify them in some way? Or does it look every other piece in the museum/gallery or on the internet? Does it stand out for some reason?

It this piece alone? Inversely from above, which pits the work against similar works of other artists, does the piece signify the artist by the way it represents the artist? Can you look at this piece, then another by that same artist and see some sort of similarity? Would you be able to look at another piece from that same artist – not knowing beforehand that it was by that same person – and guess that it was by some common theme or element?

Let’s be real – everyone’s opinion will vary and it would be foolish for me to try and argue my points to someone in order to persuade them.

If you don’t like abstract and think it’s a waste STILL, then I won’t waste any more words on the subject.

It’s okay – I didn’t use to like abstract before a year ago. One day I just became interested in it, and I started doing it and now it’s ingrained. Probably sounds melodramatic but it’s the truth.

Even so – I still judge it based on what I know.

Because truthfully – not all abstract IS good. There are a TON of artists out there that put out some pretty bad works and call it “art.”

But this is not confined to abstract – you see this is in everything from realist paintings to sculptures.

Just because the art is abstract does NOT give the artist an excuse to make bad/lazy/unfinished work.

Coty

Art

My Biggest Problem with Abstract Art

My biggest problem with abstract art is actually not confined TO abstract art or art in general. In fact, it affects many other creative mediums including videography, writing, and audio.

And this issue has only gotten worse over time. And will probably worsen.

So what is it?

It’s a low barrier to entry. More namely, a lack of effort.

Allow me to explain.

First off, a simple definition:

Barriers to entry is the economic term describing the existence of high startup costs or other obstacles that prevent new competitors from easily entering an industry or area of business. (source: Investopedia.com)

I first noticed this problem a few years ago when I was writing.

When Amazon started allowing self-published books, there was this sort “revolution” in people’s minds toward publishing.

People were cheering and there was this idea of “yeah, gonna start posting all of my ideas and bypassing traditional methods of finding an agent and publisher and I’m gonna make tons of money and finally become a famous writer.”

It sounded great. In theory.

As many things do.

And some of these self-pub writers WERE good. Their work was read worthy.

But the cream of the crop always rises.

Many, many others started pumping out books left and right and you could see that much of their work of considerably low quality…

Massive amounts of typos. Terrible formatting. No sense of overall direction in the book.

Maybe you’ve witnessed this yourself. (Maybe I’m the only one.)

I’m not saying these writers were BAD PEOPLE; simply that they were rushing things and taking shortcuts simply because the barrier to entry had been lowered.

This idea you could write a book and put it online in a matter of hours meant (to them) you no longer needed an agent or a publisher or an editor.

And the results of not having any of these things clearly shows in much of their work.

And you know what? I did it too.

And my work was sub-par.

It didn’t sell. It was boring. And it needed a lot more work that I wasn’t willing to put in.

So I pulled those books so that other wouldn’t have to suffer reading my sloppy manuscripts.

And It’s not Amazon’s fault, either. I think eventually it would have happened anyway.

But again, this is one example.

Over the past decade, with shifts in social media and the internet and technology in general, this has surfaced in just about every medium.

Nowadays, anyone with a cell phone or webcam can upload videos to YouTube and start a channel. Or start recording podcasts and uploading to Itunes. Or their own music to SoundCloud.

It’s not a bad thing that so many people have access to these amazing tools…

… It’s a matter of their effort. Or lack thereof.

For every decent Youtuber or Self Published Writer or SoundCloud artist, there’s bound to be 9 others that aren’t that great. (If we’re following Sturgeon’s Revelation, which summarily says that 90% of anything available is crap.)

Since such power is wielded by so many, you have to think – not all of those people are good. They simply can’t be, or they’d all be success stories.

Just look at American Idol. Out of hundreds, only a few dozen even make it past round one.

But I think that the ones with what I call the “Shortcut Mentality,” are the same ones who couldn’t make it with the traditional methods.

Maybe they gave up easily. Or their heart wasn’t really in it for the long run. Or they were chasing fame or fortune or vanity as opposed to master the craft.

Maybe they simply weren’t as great as they thought they were.

Which leads me back to my original problem with abstract art:

Due to its very nature, almost anything can be claimed as “abstract art,” and frankly –

It’s disgusting.

Even as an abstract artist myself – I think there’s a lot of garbage out there. Including some of my own works.

As such, since abstract art is so broad and encompassing, it means that by its very nature, it has a very low barrier to entry to create a piece that is “abstract.”

Honestly, this frustrates the Hell of out me.

And I can see why people hate abstract art because of it.

When I look at Pinterest (yes I use it… for color inspiration) or Instagram or even YouTube tutorials, I find myself frowning at much of the work I see.

A lot of it looks like it was made in seconds, with zero to absolute bare minimum effort.

No color composition. No physical work involved. No clear direction or method intended.

This is why I actually stopped creating poured paintings…

After I had made a few pieces, there was no real way to tell apart what I made, versus like the thousand pouring artists on YouTube.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not dissing “pouring artists” or “fluid artists” as whole – I have seen some really talented ones.

But the ones that I admire actually pay attention to the things I mentioned above:

They have a sense of color coordination. Their composition is somewhat planned. They know the materials inside and out. There’s a sense of signature style that you can recognize from piece to piece.

Overall, I suppose it’s not necessarily the barrier to entry itself, but moreso the lack of effort on the part of people looking to make abstract art simply for a quick buck or recognition as an artist, as opposed to doing it because they feel like they have to in order to get rid of that idea that plagues them into madness. Or because they admire the challenge of tackling a tough piece.

I won’t stand up here on my soapbox any longer at this point. I have made some simpler pieces and even done poured ones myself that I hated afterward.

But simple is not the same as lazy. You could use one or two colors to make a statement and million with no direction in mind.

But now I’d really like to know:

What’s your biggest problem with abstract art?

Coty

Art

Should you Buy Original Abstract Art Paintings For Sale…

If an artist sells original abstract paintings but also sells prints, is it better to buy an original or a print? While this ultimately comes down to your personal preference, there are two major factors to consider when making this decision: price and motivation.

To me, it seems that most artists these days tend to weigh in favor of making prints of their original works (not just paintings, but drawings and digital art as well) so that they can sell more items and make more profit, while not having to continuously crank out new pieces.

While I understand this model of business, I’m at the opposite spectrum; I believe in only selling originals, and I will be touching on this in a video soon.

Original Abstract Art Paintings For Sale
“The Fallen” by Coty Schwabe

Regardless, when someone is looking to buy a piece of artwork from an artist, there are some things to consider.

The first is the price. This seems pretty obvious, and generally, the more rare the item, the more its worth. This is the case with coins, cards, cars, etc. and artwork.

Before the past couple of decades, prints weren’t really an option, so creating new works was the only choice many artists had. But now that we live in an age of uploading pictures of past works to a website and having canvas (or paper) prints shipped out in a matter of days, its easy to see why many artists do this.

As for the price, think about it this way: the original SHOULD be more expensive than the prints regardless of how many prints there are of the item. Going down from there, limited prints would be the next expensive item, then unlimited prints, successively.

Of course, each artist prices their items individually, but an unnumbered, unlimited print should not be NEAR the price of the original, although I have seen some expensive prints. (Another reason I don’t believe in using them.)

For the price, it really comes down to what you’re willing to pay: premium price for the original so that only you own it, or a lesser price to simply own SOMETHING from that artist.

The other major factor as to whether you should buy an original painting for sale, or the print variant, comes down to your motivation for buying it.

Are you trying to own a piece by the artist that may increase in value some day? Or are you simply buying the piece because of the way it looks, and your end goal is not for a possible increase in value?

While the value of prints theoretically WOULD GO UP if the artist became famous or died, it won’t be worth a whole lot if it isn’t limited edition, or the original abstract piece.

Do you want something that no one else has? Do you suspect the artist’s value will go up over time? Then fork over the cash for an orginal.

Are you simply looking to fill an empty wall but could care less about the artist? Or do you simply want to “say” you own something by that artist but don’t care about future value? Or are you on a budget and couldn’t afford an original anyway? Then get a print.

Whatever the case, you can be the only judge of what’s best for you and your situation.

Coty

(Ps. If you’re looking for original abstract paintings, click here to see mine. 🙂 )

Interviews

Artist Interview: Carolyn O’Neill

Artist Carolyn O'Neill
Artist Carolyn O’Neill

Today’s interview is with Carolyn O’Neill, a painter and mixed media artist currently living in Whyalla, South Australia.  Her main medium is oil on canvas on which she creates paintings that inspire rest, contemplation and  interpretation. 

With each work Carolyn paints, she forms a link between how  each object connects to another. The timeless designs of the mid century modernist aesthetic subconsciously guide her work; not the latest trends.

What type of work do you normally do?

I paint in oils on canvas in an abstract expressionist style and also work in mixed media on paper and sometimes collage.

How do you work? The process, the tools, the ideas, etc.

My process is intuitive, it evolves layer by layer, mark by mark, drip by drip and the color palette is mixed on the go. I use oil paint mixed with either fat or lean medium with large hardware pain brushes. The ideas are subconscious and somehow find their way into my work. It is kind of like post analysis.

What got you into do this?

It was after seeing a mural at my son’s kindergarten that was painted by some of the parents that inspired me to enquire about local art classes and I have been painting ever since.

When did you start making your art?

In 2003 after seeing the mural.

Why do you make what you do?

Because I feel driven to create. It is like a fire in my belly; a yearning for self expression and freedom.

Do you care to tell me about your most recent project, or what you’re currently working on?

I am preparing to exhibit at The Other Art Fair Melbourne in August and have also beed entering art prizes. Lately due to space restrictions in my current studio/garage space I have been reworking unsold paintings which are a bit to bright and bold for my liking. It has been like a metamorphisis where I feel a strong urge to tone the down and provide only snippets of colour. They feel more mature with a focus on tonality rather than a reliance on strong colours.

Carolyn O'Neill's "Bridging the Gap"
Carolyn O’Neill’s “Bridging the Gap”

What is your proudest accomplishment or most signature piece?

My proudest accomplishment was being selected to exhibit in The South West Survey at Bunbury Regional Gallery in 2010 whist studying visual art.

Who are your biggest influences?

The early abstract expressionist painters such as De Kooning, Motherwell, Frankenthaller and Kline (to name a few) that paved the way in non representational art. Also modernism and the mid century modernist aesthetic. My home is filled with midcentury modern homewares.

Do you have a favorite artwork?

No, I can’t say I do. They all seem to be favourites once they are finally completed.

What art do you most identify with?

Abstract expressionism for it’s emotional impact and my respect for the pioneers of this genre.

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?

Lean medium for dripping.

Carolyn O'Neill's "Resonate"
Carolyn O’Neill’s “Resonate”

Why art?

We are created to create. Art is everywhere, especially in nature.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Don’t be precious and witholding with your work because it will become contrived and lack authenticity. Allow the mistakes, they are part of the process.

Finally, what’s an important lesson you have learned while making your art that you’d like to pass along to others?

Focus on developing your own unique style and build on that. Develop a consistent body of work. Try other mediums. Don’t be tempted to copy other artist’s work or compare your self with others. Believe in yourself and try not to take criticism to heart.

To learn more about Carolyn, or see more of her work, you can visit her site by going to http://www.carolynoneill.com.au.

If you like this article, considered leaving a comment or sharing it on your favorite social media platforms.

Interviews

Open Call for Artist Interviews

To my artist friends who sell their artwork:

Got a second?

Hey everyone, Coty here.

I’ve been thinking for a while that I’ve wanted to reach out to other artists, to maybe help them promote themselves, and here’s why:

Recently I’ve been feeling like I’m stuck on an artistic island…

Marooned. Abandoned. Helpless.

(Like Tom Hanks in Castaway…) WILSONNNN!

Here’s what I mean:

I make all this art – and people say its great – but VERY FEW actually buy it.

I mean – I’m making it – and I think it’s good – and I’m trying my damnest (pardon my French) to sell it…

But it just stacks up in my house. And in my garage. And kids’ rooms.

Months go by and I make nominal sales at best.

Some months none at all.

And it seems like there’s an infinite ways to promote with ads and video and social media and stuff…

…But nothing really helps.

Kinda depressing. Makes me wonder if I should stop altogether…

But I refuse to back down. To admit defeat.

Anyway. I digress.

I was thinking the other day that I’m probably not alone in this feeling…

That there are probably others that could use a hand promoting their art too.

Like, what if – picture this – I could lend you a hand…

…FOR FREE…

And maybe – JUST MAYBE – it would benefit us both?

Wouldn’t that be swell?

It’d be the bees knees, I reckon. The cat’s meow.

So what’s the plan, man?

Welp, I’ve decided to start doing some artist interviews on my blog at https://cotyschwabe.com/

And if you’d like some free traffic (hopefully – I mean my site isn’t exactly Amazon over here with visitors)…

…Then I’d love to invite you to answer a few questions for me, and I’ll post your interview to my blog.

You get free exposure, with pictures and a link back to your site.

Cool beans? Cool beans.

It’s that easy.

Capiche?

Cool.

If you’re interested, message me, or comment “I’m in” in the comments below, and I’ll send you the questions to answer with instuctions (that don’t self-destruct).

And again – nothing to buy or anything. Just good karma.

I know this might seem like a sales pitch but that’s only ’cause I’m a trained copywriter, lol.

old habits die hard. With a vengenace…

So whattya say, chum?

You in?

I look forward to hearing from you, friendo.

All the best,
Coty Schwabe

Ps. I did mention this is free, right? So what do I get out of it?

It’s simple really:

More traffic to my site and more google love. I’m trying to build this website out as much as possible. More pages, more possible Google listings and visitors.

I mean – I built my site as a platform to sell my paintings, but I could get a lot more mileage out of it by adding content, so why not help my fellow artists out?

If you’d like to apply to be interviewed for free, simply leave a comment below or email me at coty@cotyschwabe.com with the subject “Interview Application” with your name and a link to your site, and I will let you know if accepted. It is not guaranteed that I will accept all who apply.