Tuesday, August 30, 2016



This project’s purpose is two-fold: 1) to introduce us to abstract painting by examining its connection to observational painting and 2) to get the semester ball rolling with a quick, small project that will get us back in the studio and working.

Abstraction, put simply, means removing something from its original source. If you think about, talk about, take a photo of or make a drawing of an object, those ideas, words, photographs or drawings are not the object itself; they are all, on some level, an abstraction of that original object. However when we think about “abstraction” in terms of painting, we tend to think of something else. Paint splatters, huge swaths of color, energetic gestures or geometric patterns come to mind. Therefore, to really begin investigating abstraction, we need to first examine what abstraction really means and how in fact it can mean many things at once. This project is designed to get us thinking about these issues through a simple exercise.

First, we are each going to make a simple “abstract object” sculpture. Choose a basic, easily workable material (cardboard, wood, construction paper, etc). Use your chosen material to make a small (between 8”-18” or so) three-dimensional geometric form. This form should not represent a recognizable object, it should simply be a shape that is three dimensional and geometric. It can be as basic as a cube or a pyramid, or it can be something slightly more complex. Once you have completed the form, you are going to paint it (I recommend acrylic, or you can gesso it and paint it with oil). Paint each side of the object differently. One may be a plain white, one may have stripes, one may be a bright green with dots, etc. Never repeat the same side twice. Try to make the colors work together. Make something that is aesthetically appealing.

Second, we are going to bring our new abstract object to class and make an observational still-life painting of it. You will set your painting up on a surface, light it, choose a background, and then paint it as faithfully as you can using your observational painting skills. We may choose to cluster several of the objects together. Your painting should be somewhere between 16 x 20” and 18 x 24”. You can work indirectly with an underpainting, or go straight into working with color. We will spend this time trying to make the most accurate painting we can and shaking some of the rust off for those of us who haven’t painted in a while.

The final result will be a representational painting of an abstract object. Does that make it an abstract painting as well? Maybe the line between the two is less clear than one might think. This project will hopefully get us thinking about these questions and allow us to move towards abstraction, but in a way that is connected to how we’ve worked in the past.

Project Schedule

Thursday, August 25: Introduction to Project
Homework: Make your “abstract object” sculpture over the weekend. It should be completely finished and ready to be the subject of our painting by Tuesday.

Tuesday, August 30: We will set up our abstract objects and begin our paintings of them.

Thursday, Sept. 1: We will continue work on them.
Homework: Finish your abstract object painting.

Tuesday, Sept. 6: We will critique the paintings and I will introduce Project 2.

Images Below: Victor Pesce (studio), Victor Pesce, Jessica Stockholder, Andrew Holmquist, Richard Tuttle