Abstract painting - The joy of listening to Miles Davis
Abstract painting - The joy of listening to Miles Davis
Materials: Acrylic on MDF board
Dimensions: 62 x 91 cm
Painted: 2001

This was the first totally abstract painting Bert did. Bert Ernie loves listening to many different forms of music, from death metal to jazz. Bert loves it all. At the beginning of his painting career he often wondered how a painter would go about painting an emotion like the joy of listening to music.

As an accomplished photorealist painter he could certainly paint a photograph of musicians performing in a smoky nightclub with an enraptured audience. But that doesn’t even come close to portraying an emotion. So with some left over paint Bert Began to experiment. He realised that with the form of total abstraction he was very free, just like the sort of music Miles would play.

A very muted green background was laid in. After it had dried Bert then began to utilise numerous methods to create the most important elements. Primarily paint was dripped onto the surface, in small and large amounts. Paint was also splattered, dragged and flicked. The board was tilted to allow puddles of paint to flow, mix and create linear elements. Fingers and brushes were used. Bert has never changed his technique since this first painting. He has just got better at it.

Why

My reasons for painting in a totally abstract style initially were due to having a need to do two things. The first reason was to use up excess paint from my photorealist paintings by applying it to the reverse side of the painting to pull the MDF board flat. The second reason was to express ideas, images and feelings that simply couldn’t be done in a realistic manner. As I completed each new abstract painting I developed more skill as an abstract painter, (especially in terms of composition) and began to really enjoy the process of painting as well. After a few paintings I exclusively painted in my new found style on their very own MDF board so that just left the one reason for most of my abstract work. As I evolved with each painting I moved more towards only painting an image as a starting point.

In 2017 my reasons for painting in an abstract style changed. I wanted to continue in the direction I had been but to add another overriding dimension to my work. I wanted to create beautiful art. I wanted people to see the actual painted surface as being incredibly beautiful. It is actually the most important element – the sheer physical beauty of the incredibly dense array of colourful splotches, flicks, dabs and runs that makes for one of my artworks. Secondary to that is the often crazy story or image behind the work.

How

My technique has evolved – only in the sense that is I have got better at it. There have been some additions to my arsenal of techniques to applying paint but mostly it has been a grab bag of just about anything I can use that I would use in a photorealist work of art. It’s just that some of the techniques for abstract painting are a lot more appropriate.

  • Using a paintbrush to paint a stroke, dot or line
  • Flicking paint from a loaded brush
  • Using a finger to manipulate paint already on the surface
  • Dropping a droplet of paint from a brush
  • Pouring an amount of paint into a puddle
  • Tilting the board to make wet paint run across the board
  • Adding oil based paint to acrylic paint
  • Using a syringe to squirt paint in a direction
  • Using a syringe to drop a droplet of paint
  • Using a large brush to apply paint to a large area
  • Removing half dry paint off by washing painting off with a hose
  • Removing and smudging paint with a rag
  • Using a can of spray paint

For many people my abstract paintings look like there is no skill involved. Nothing could be further from the truth. The skills that I use in my abstract paintings are mostly compositional. That is I have to decide what technique and colour I need to use to get that totally abstract and random look for that small (or large) area of the surface I am painting on.

The fact that I don’t have to finesse a particular and highly accurate shape into existence like I would with a photorealistic painting is one of the few differences between my two painting styles. In painting my photorealist work I am absolutely constrained to copying those abstract elements in order to convey the image. What a lot of people don’t realise is that in order to truly make a photorealist painting look truly convincing the artist must paint the totally abstract elements that make up a photographic image absolutely faithfully. In learning that simple idea – photorealism is extremely ordered abstraction – I was able to truly master the art of photorealist abstraction.

Once I understood that idea I was able to take my abstract painting seriously. What I realised early on was my approach was very much like taking a photographic image in my mind, tearing it up into small strips, shapes, confetti like circular pieces and throwing them up into the air. Only to have them fall in a completely random manner on the board. Each piece of the torn photo occupying it’s own space, and all the pieces landing in the original image space. My abstract painting is just a torn imaginary photograph.

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