Since our course focuses mainly on the principles underlying all good paintings, it works very well for abstract artists. Personally I like to make all of my paintings work in an abstract sense, even though they are representational as well. This makes them much more powerful, since they are working on two levels: the real and the abstract. When I have looked at good abstract work I have noticed that although the shapes are not necessarily recognizable, that the color relationships between the patches of color are in fact based on those relationships that occur in nature, the patches are just in a different place from nature. The same applies to the values used. Many interesting abstract landscape work uses correct values, but with arbitrary color. The principles of design and composition are of course the same. As for shapes, when you make them abstract, then you can increase the power of the painting by keeping the "itness" or essential characteristics of the subject being abstracted. For a good example of this you can see the work of the Group of Seven (a group of Canadian painters in the early part of the 20th century), or the Society of Six (the abstract landscape painters who worked in the San Francisco Bay Area), or Derain, to see how they applied this concept to their abstract landscape work.

We have a specific set of lessons that we recommend for abstract painters, based on our skill Building Blocks(tm).

  • Notan - All notan lessons are essential for abstract work of all kinds.
  • Composition - All composition lessons are essential to abstract work of all kinds.
  • Observation - It is essential for giving atmosphere and mood to abstract landscapes. Our observation lessons are designed to help you develop observational skills, particularly skills in reading values correctly. With these skills you can use the relationships that occur in nature to design imaginary landscapes in the studio. Then you can redesign them in an abstract sense, using real values and arbitrary color, or use real colors but just put them in different places from what you see in your photographs. These lessons also apply to abstract work to help you understand what to look for in the landscape when you are applying concepts, and if you want to incorporate the quality of "itness" in your work, which can be very powerful, (as shown by the work of the Group of Seven and Society of Six).
  • Color - All color lessons apply to abstract work.
  • Drawing - Perspective lessons are essential to creating three dimensional abstract shapes in perspective. Other drawing lessons only apply if you want to learn how to copy some real shapes to put them in your abstract design.
  • Form - All these lessons are important if you want to design abstract three-dimensional forms and incorporate them into your work.
  • Brushwork - all lessons apply to abstract work, with the possible exception of some of the lessons on descriptive brushwork, although here too, if you are looking for "itness", this unit will apply.
  • Visual Music & Poetry - important overview information for anyone working somewhere in the space between abstraction and reality.