Sunday, March 2, 2014

Painting a Sensation

This week in my weekly painting workshop in Lowell we set ourselves the task of painting the sensation of flowers - we were to paint not the flowers themselves but the feeling of looking at them. I did a quick demo to show some strategies for painting abstractly.

My abstract floral demo

It didn't come out nearly as "flowery" as I intended, partly because I didn't mix all of my colors as judiciously as I should have. Nonetheless, the point was made. 

Next I asked everyone to take a minute to search their memories for a time when they were moved by looking at flowers - a garden with some special significance, perhaps, or that moment when you lean in to a flower to smell its fragrance and can almost feel the colors washing over your face. 

Then they mixed colors corresponding with that sensation and began placing them on the canvas according to a few stated formal principles of composition, principally "variety within unity."

They were all game for the experiment, brave souls! And much fine work was completed and many lessons learned. Every painting was, of course, different because each was so unique to the artist. 

Abstract floral by Cynthia DeSando

Garden, by Bill Reedy

After we tried flipping it, Bill thought this resembled clematis or another vine flower. I like it in both its vertical and horizontal orienations.

Abstract floral by JoLynne Murphy
Abstract Impressionist Flowers by Suzanne Hodge

The exercise also allowed everyone to concentrate on principles of design and pictorial organization (both intuitive and otherwise). It also offered a chance to explore the emotive properties of color and the "plastic" qualities of the paint itself- different ways to apply it using various brushes and other tools.Altogether it was great exercise. They all succeeded in using paint to tap into lived experience and personal sensations (rather than sitting down in front of something and trying to represent it relatively objectively). 

It's a great feeling to essentially make something out of nothing - to compose from personal experience is surely one of the essential aspects of the creation of meaningful art.


  1. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing these.

  2. That's wicked cool! I want to try this!

    1. You should definitely try it. Send the result if you like it and I'll share it to the post!

  3. Oooh, I so wish I'd been there. I would have loved this. Thanks for the inspiration--I will certainly try it in my studio.

    1. Dawn- send the results of your experiment if you wish and I'll post them with the others :)

  4. The feeling that the Abstract floral by JoLynne Murphy provokes with me is a Strelitzia reginae.
    If it is, JoLynne has communicated her feelings to me. If it isn't, then she has gone beyond recognition, which is interesting too.