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My brave new abstract world

My last (and first) blog talked about two important events that have happened to me in the last 7 months:  getting cancer and taking an abstract watercolor course.  Although a very different kind of event from cancer, my abstract watercolor course with Frank O’Cain at the Art Students League is shaping up to be equally momentous.

Up to now I’ve been a very practical, realistic artist painting watercolor landscapes.  If you were with me looking at the sea grapes in Florida or Cerro Dragon in Ecuador, you would recognize what is in my painting.  And the classes I’ve taken have largely been focused on technique, how to get the effect I want.   I have no Fine Arts degree and  very little knowledge about art history, art trends, etc.  Have you ever noticed that in a room full of people talking about a  painting, you can tell the people who have Fine Arts degrees?  They have a different vocabulary (which I don’t have).

Having been told by several people that Frank O’Cain is an excellent teacher and that they learned a lot from him, I decided to enroll in his summer Watercolor Techniques class.  Although his own paintings are abstract, I figured I could give it a try and get him to critique my landscapes if all else failed.

Well, much to my surprise I’m loving creating abstract watercolors.  Having admitted up front to not knowing anything about how to create an abstract painting, how to evaluate an abstract painting, or even how to talk about abstract painting, there was certainly no pressure to perform.  No place to go but up.  And I did start at the bottom.

But Frank is unfailingly kind and encouraging.  He does answer questions like “What can I do to make it better?”  And his demo a week ago when he painted two completely different abstract paintings from a single still life set up really helped to illustrate  the suggestions he’d given me the previous week.

So I’m getting better and better, but still not giving up my day job (painting realistic watercolor landscapes).  If my previous experience of learning something new is any predictor, I may soon look back at my current work and wince, but right now I’m loving it.

So here are two very different abstract paintings I created last week.  Tell me what you think.





Categories: General
Posted by ruthhurd on June 23, 2010
2 Comments Post a comment
  1. 06/24/2010


    Congratulations on embarking on this journey into the abstract! By the way, the novel you reference is one of my favorites. I admire your realistic watercolors, and think that you are an extremely talented painter. The technical proficiency is astounding, and it will be interesting to see how that incorporates itself into your abstract style as it develops.

    I love abstract painting, and while it is interesting to view the completed work and have others view it, the real art is in the creating. So you are off to an excellent start. One of the things that I like to do is ‘abstract the abstractions’, if you will. What I mean is, to use your original abstracts, and create other paintings, each progressively abstracted from the previous one. It’s just an idea. I do it a lot with my drawings, and some of my paintings. Most important is to have fun. Remember, there are no mistakes, and there aren’t any rules.

    Enjoy your new exploration!


    • 06/25/2010

      One –

      Thanks so much for your comments. Your suggestion about “abstracting the abstractions” mirrors something Frank O’Cain said about doing some initial pencil sketches, selecting the things from the still life and then just painting from the sketches without referring to the actual still life setup. I’m hoping I’ll slowly get the hang of it.



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