Last week I took a 3-day workshop on abstracting figures. I’ve been wanting to really loosen up in my work and have this idea of just slapping on paint, stepping back, and voila, I’ve created a masterpiece! While I know that’s a pipedream, I’d like to work towards it anyway. So, this workshop was exactly what I needed to push me in the right direction.

Contoured Line Drawings

Our instructor, Leslie Masters, is a wonderful older lady whose been around forever and styles herself in the most quirky bright-colored clothing; all shades of pinks and oranges! She tough but sweet at the same time and you can tell she really knows her stuff!

The first day we talked about Picasso and Matisse and started with contoured line drawings of faces from magazines. I chose a beautiful Asian model and copied her face onto tracing paper starting with simple line, more detailed line, straight lines, and curved lines.

From there, we chose one to paint, using bold blocky strokes focusing on the value and shapes.

Below are my classmates works from the first day:

(Side note: most everyone in my class worked in acrylic or watercolor. Acrylic lends itself to these exercises very well – working in oil was much more difficult.)

The following day we began with looking at Pop Art especially Peter Max. I was not familiar with his work and didn’t really care for his style; flat, colorful with black outlines – very cartoony, 70’s psychedelic; think Beatles Yellow Submarine.

Our task for the morning was to work with a partner and transfer an outline of our profile onto a canvas, then create a bubbly landscape in the background that followed the curvy lines from our portrait. I must have missed the memo, because I used straight lines to create my background. I didn’t get too far with the painting and I’ll probably gesso over this one and use the canvas for something else. However, I loved the way some of my classmates turned out. Here is my partially finished design/painting.

In the afternoon we created figure collages based on images from magazines focusing on the large shapes. Next, we painted the figures in an environment – channeling the abstract artist Richard Diebenkorn.

The third and final day was really fun!! We were channeling de Kooning and our task was to create a large, loose, messy, abstract figure painting using house paints and large brushes. I chose to paint from a favorite picture of my young son when he was about 4 years old. Below is the original picture and my abstract interpretation: my pièce de résistance!

In the afternoon, we each took turns showcasing our works from the three days and gave a brief synopsis of what we learned, what we liked / didn’t. It was a great foray into abstraction; I learned several ways to approach the subject without feeling overwhelmed, great techniques to get started, and about several abstract artists. Now, I can take what I learned and hopefully approach my paintings a bit looser. We’ll see, stay tuned!