I have sold my abstract work around the country and recently sold my entire body of abstract art on canvas to the local hospital for its new cancer center…(best reason ever to have no work available for shows). Still, during open studio tours and shows it is shocking how many times I have heard that… “my 5 year old can paint that”. Uh… NO.
Your five-year-old cannot paint that.
Yes, it is a rude thing to say. No, there is no artist anywhere who appreciates their hard work being bashed like that and a five-year-old most certainly can’t paint it. If he/she can….. then you better start marketing. If an abstract is well painted, (and not everyone knows how to do that by the way) it can’t be done by your child. Well done abstract paintings on canvas take skill, more than most think. My kids are good at art and have grown up in my studio and they can’t paint a “skilled” abstract painting. To create abstract takes a different skill than painting representational work. Not that painting representational is easy, it is not – I do representational work as well, but from doing both I can say with 100% confidence that it is very different. Remember that when you are talking to an artist. If you do not like their paintings, be it watercolor paintings, abstract paintings, representational, abstract, oil, mixed media painting…. whatever it is, remember the artist has feelings and does not appreciate their work being talked down or verbally shredded with comments like their toddler can paint that well. That is an insult, no matter how talented the child may be… I do mean that in the nicest way possible.
So what is the difference anyway?
Besides the obvious, abstract work and representational work is very different. To paint a bear or a horse you know where the fur is, where eyes are etc and if it is way off the artist knows it and most likely can correct it. To paint a bird or flower or portrait, the same. We know what skin looks like, flower petals or feathers – it takes skill to paint for sure, especially to execute a painting that is well done. Abstract is different. To do abstract well I believe a person must know how to paint representational well first. The artist has to have a good sense of composition, value, line, focal point etc… they have to know the elements of a good painting in order to create a work that is essentially “nothing” and make it balanced, pleasing to the eye as if it is something. That is the difference. Abstract is more challenging for that reason… As an artist it is frustrating to hear others say they paint abstract when they have never done any other type of work – (many just because they think it is easy). I have seen some of that work and rarely is it good. There are exceptions, but as a rule it is not. I can look at my own work and know which pieces work and which do not. I have painted over many pieces when the feeling is off…. Despite what many think, abstract is not easy.
So how do I know if it is really a good painting?
One way to tell is to turn the painting. If it works in all directions – if it feels balanced and pleasant to look at no matter which way it is turned then it is a good abstract. Often, when I am creating a mixed media abstract painting I will turn the canvas and paint it in all directions to help that effect….so that no matter which direction my client likes the painting, it will work… Everyone has their own likes and dislikes, so the real way to know if it is a good painting is to take time to look at the painting very well to know if you would want to look at that piece for a very long time… There are people like me, and some who know much more, who can look at a painting and know immediately if it is “good” or not – but in the end the only thing that matters is that the buyer loves the piece. Making my client happy is as important to me as creating a “technically” well done painting.
If you love abstract, that is what I do! I love painting abstract – I love to do commissions and have done many! I am working on a new series of abstract based on microscopic images as well as the abstract series seen throughout this article. I am continuing to paint my original abstract series, continually adding new elements to make them even better, but feel free to comment or email ww@wearebypinkthistle for any commission inquiries.