I'm drawn to abstract and modern art. For me, when I discovered these art forms, a little bell went off inside my head. Immediately I knew. Like most people when they see a Dubuffet or a Basquiat, I said, "Hey, I can do that!" And it's true, most people could, it they tried. Of course, there's a mystery to abstract expressionism. What makes one work a masterpiece and another crap? However, in an art form that defies everything, how can you know that your art is achieving its' goals?

Sure there are some questions, that as an artist, can help guide you, such as:
  • Do I simply want my abstract painting to be beautiful?
  • Do I intend this abstract painting to convey something specific to the viewer?
  • Do I want people to extract their own meaning from it?
  • What in the abstract painting is going to do this?
  • How do the elements interact?
  • Do I want to guide the viewer's interpretation with my choice of title?
  • Do I want to write a statement to accompany the painting explaining how I created it, what my thoughts were while I made it, or what I see it conveying?
  • Does it matter to me if they don't "get it?"
I guees it might come down to, how much really goes into creating an abstract paiting? Do I set out with a clear image of what I want to create, or do I stumble along and finally steer myself into a dead-end, and claim the piece complete. 

For me, when I start a new work, I might have a concept, like hey I want to draw a humanlike dude. It might even be a self portrait. First I stare at a blank sheet, and then wait for inspiration. Later as the image develops, I'll react to the image and then select colors and forms to add.

Then, the crucial point arrives, how do I know that I've finished? Let's look at an example and then you'll see what I mean. Here we have an amibigous self portrait, is is done?

To start off, I have to ask myself, "Do I like it?" To that I'd have to say, "Yes. I do." It has good energy, and I like how some of the color combinations and how the colors collide. I can't change the general compisition, so there's not much flexibility available, that is, unless I go ape-shit and paint over sections, which would significantly change the design.

So I like what it looks like so far, however, is it missing anything? When I finished painting, I had the feeling that it needed more energy. Seeing it closer, I'd say it seems pretty high energy already. I guess what I had in mind was a little more chaos. It looks too plain. While I'm tempted to try and add more detail, how will that affect the energy? Or do I add intricate detail completely unrelated to the original image. 

Then it begins. I see infinite possibillties. Now what? Should I change it or leave it be now? I can certainly see now having a print master would allow me to individually explore different themes, all using the same basic image. I guess I could also do that with the computer too, but with my current level of skills, computer based imagery seems too sterile.

The future

Perhaps, what I'm sensing is what Pollack did when he could sense that something was missing. He was looking for a new style. A style completely his own. Maybe that's what I'm missing. If could develop a unique style, then I'd know when something was complete. It's difficult to say, what is missing, but it's probably even more difficult to develop a unique style. It is possible, of that I'm sure. Even after 50 some years of Rock and Roll, artists are still producing fresh and original music. It's what you get with inifinite possibilities, no limits.

Both of these pieces were painted with my kids using Tempura and some heavy paper stock. The first was deliberate, while the painting that follows was done with what was left over. I like to create paintings with the colors left over after the kids are done painting. This piece was done with even more forethought into creating a self portrait.