Abstract Realism. What?


John Con­sta­ble | The Hay Wain | 1821  The paint­ing as a whole when viewed, looks tightly ren­dered – very real­is­tic, yet inti­mate and move­ment with a vast sense of space.

WHENSTARTED IN COLLEGE AS A “SERIOUSSTUDENT OF ART, draw­ing, paint­ing and sculpt­ing paint­ing were my focus. Indeed, I took life draw­ing 3 hours daily for four years; thus learn­ing to draw from life. I wanted so badly to draw in a rep­re­sen­ta­tional way. How­ever, frus­tra­tion set in as instruc­tors pushed non-objective (abstract) con­cepts and tech­niques. I tried my best to get into con­cep­tual art as well as the ethe­real in design ori­ented abstract assignments.

Post col­lege, I was left with ill feel­ings of empti­ness and sense of unful­fill­ment. I still wanted to paint and draw things as they were, or my inter­pre­ta­tion of them. But with­out the clas­si­cal skills of paint­ing under my belt I could not reach my objec­tives. Sub­se­quently, I learned the principles/techniques nec­es­sary by study­ing with mas­ters in the the field, and became a rep­re­sen­ta­tional artist. What was it that really solid­i­fied my accep­tance and appre­ci­a­tion for, and abil­ity to uti­lize my for­mer abstract training?


The Hay Wain, Detail Detail reveals stroke work by artist in the right color, value, tem­per­a­ture; in the right place eco­nom­i­cally, with its own abstract visual quality.

A wise old mas­ter artist once told me,

All paint­ing is abstract, even when attempt­ing to ren­der things exactly as they are. By virtue of the fact that you are plac­ing 3D imagery on a 2D sur­face is a dis­tor­tion of reality.

This state­ment hit me right between the eyes. In effect, we are all “abstract” painters. He was right! Even if I had con­tin­ued as a clas­si­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tional artist or become a pho­to­re­al­ist, all are abstracted from real­ity. This took a great deal of pres­sure off, giv­ing me the lib­erty to inter­pret and paint as I wanted to — tight, loose fan­ci­ful, painterly, etc.

Another bonus — my appre­ci­a­tion of non-objective art has height­ened as well.

What has been your experience?

  2 comments for “Abstract Realism. What?

  1. avatar
    April 9, 2015 at 7:32 PM

    Hi Cyn­thia,
    Thank you so much for your response to the arti­cle, and am glad that you can relate to it. Sounds like our expe­ri­ences are sim­i­lar. I have a feel­ing lots of our col­leagues have sto­ries too :) Some­times it’s just good to pon­der things that we are so close-up to us painters. Now it’s back to paintin’ :) All the Best, Diane

  2. avatar
    April 9, 2015 at 5:47 PM

    I loved read­ing this. I did go the way of abstrac­tion though love see­ing fine rep­re­sen­ta­tional work. Back to paint­ing now after a life­time away from mak­ing art, I find my per­sonal heart is in some quasi-impressionism/abstraction. I just love the abstract play of col­ors. I totally agree with your instruc­tor, no mat­ter what we paint, it is all an illu­sion any­way, We are abstract­ing even if we paint rep­re­sen­ta­tional images. I really enjoy your work and thank you for end­ing your blog post with a note of appre­ci­a­tion for alter­na­tive imagery.

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