• Carolyn Land

From Realism to Abstraction

My work is purely autobiographical.  It’s about myself and my surroundings.  It is an attempt at a record.”             Lucian Freud 

“Happy New Year”, Readers!  It is exciting to be starting a New Year with you, and continuing our conversation about the “Creative Spirit”. I wish each of you a New Year, filled with: love, joy, peace, and creativity.

I have written frequently in the past about the unique qualities in each of us as individuals.  What works for one, does not always work for another.  This is true of style, technique, and choice of subject matter. It is also true of our viewers.  Each viewer is going to see our work a little differently.  People do have preferences!

I am routinely  asked why I do both realism and abstraction; which one I like better, and why I don’t choose to do one over the other.   No, it is not to appeal to a larger audience. It is just that for me, one inspires the other.

After my last blog, a reader asked if I could write more about abstract art and how I get there, from my realistic landscape painting.   I will be doing a, “Talk Art”, on that very subject on Saturday January 13th, at 1:00 pm, at the HUB on Canal Street, in New Smyrna Beach.  If you are interested, please join us there.

Mixed Media collage by FL artist Carolyn Land

Ice Flow                       Mixed Media


Pastel Painting by FL artist Carolyn land

Ice Field Parkway                      Pastel


First: I feel that everyone should know something about drawing.  I think realism is an important skill, and if you can bring a little something more to the scene than you can see in a photograph, you are achieving something important. Our goal as realistic artists should be to capture the essence of a subject, and show the viewer why it is important to us.  Our reference is our road map to a specific place. I like to draw! I also find peace in the landscape and nature. So, when I see something that moves me, I like to record it realistically and hope I capture the feeling I had when I was there.

“The thing is to describe the object we have gotten to know, with depth of penetration achieved through feeling.”     Andrew Wyeth

Second: Abstract art is exciting!  You do not really know where you will wind up. You play with shapes, lines, colors, and textures, in order to evoke a feeling or relate a message; and there are so many ways to get there. As an abstract or nonobjective artist, we have left our road map behind, and are taking a lot of back roads. We are looking at the world in a new and different way.  It is an adventure!

“I borrow some subject or other from life or from nature, and using it as a pretext, I arrange lines and colors so as to obtain symphonies, harmonies that do not represent a thing that is real”                                 Paul Gauguin

When we paint realistically we edit the reference to make a strong composition.  When we paint abstractly or non-objectively, we are dealing more with the “gut” feeling of a subject, whether it is a thing or a concept. The subject is not always recognizable, so the composition becomes a puzzle to solve. We must keep moving the pieces,  changing the color and lines, or maybe add texture, to make a strong composition.

Nature and man’s interaction with it, is what motivates all my art. So, for me I can easily jump from one to the other.  My love of drawing and trying to bring something unique to it to the story I tell about nature, helps me look more closely at what is there.  In the line, shapes, textures, and colors, in those objects in nature, I see designs which I want to tell a more detailed story about. There is a circle of life that lies deep beneath the surface of the beautiful landscape, and that is what I want to capture when I work abstractly.

For me there is an emotional connection between my realism and  my abstract work.  And…as Maggie Price, a contemporary realistic pastel artist an author, used to say; “under every realistic painting, there should be a good abstract painting.”  That would be your large and small underlying shapes.

Next week I will discuss ways in which you can start an abstract, if you are interested in taking some back roads.                                                                                                             C A Land

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