One of the joys of teaching art (though I don't always think of it as joyful at the time it occurs) is that I sometimes have to make up a lesson on the spot or with very little time to prepare. Sometimes it works well in the classroom and sometimes it doesn't (kind of like art). So when one of my high school teachers wanted me to come up with a lesson that utilized his canvas paper and extra acrylic paint, I decided to see what the students might do with a nonobjective abstract design. I was pleasantly surprised by the response. Most students, once they placed the basic layout on their canvas, were able to create work that made a strong visual personal statement, which I don't find really happens a lot with the classes that I teach.
Here is the basic outline of the lesson, which was done with acrylic paint on canvas, but could be done with pretty much any 2-dimensional media:
First, make an "X" from corner to corner on the canvas using any preferred color of paint.
Second, paint an outline of a square, a circle, and a triangle on the canvas using the same color as the "X". The placement and size of the shapes is the choice of the artist. For example they can overlap or not; they may be relatively the same size or vary in size, etc.
Finally, if there is overlapping shapes, smaller secondary shapes will be created. Paint in the shapes with any desired color (chances are there will be at least some overlapping, but even if there isn't, paint in the shapes). Also feel free to experiment with textures and patterns. During my classes I paint my own picture to demonstrate some possibilities that students can take, but they usually are pretty quick to get the gist and take off on their own well enough.
During my classes I was so happy with the results that I thought it would be interesting for me to try the design out for my personal work and make it a series of paintings. For the series, which is still ongoing, I want to see how many directions I can take until I run out of ideas. I think there is a certain amount of discipline that is developed from visiting an idea over and over again and experimenting with a variety of visual directions. Though I am not sure how many paintings I will paint with this series, looking at what I have done so far, I can see there are still many ways that I can take these design elements.
One of the things that I like about nonobjective abstract art is that it doesn't allow representation evoke any assumptions or pretenses about a visual expression. It is what it is, and it is what the artist has created in his own personal way. Jackson Pollock said it best, "Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is." I am not sure how good I am at this, but it is my hope to have my art represent who I am in a way that goes beyond words and literal representation.
After this series is completed, I am thinking about having an art exhibition with these pieces. But that would be some time from now, so until then, I will continue on ...