When you first begin down your path towards learning to abstract paint it can be tough to figure out how to get ideas of what to paint.
To get ideas you should constantly be pushing the boundaries of your skills. You must constantly be seeking new things to try and master. Use new materials, new tools, new color palettes, and always be looking for new challenges to try.
Taking this approach will leave you with a never ending to do list of projects you want to try. The next time you find yourself wanting to paint but aren’t too sure where to start, try one of these methods.
Keep reading for more details and some bonus tips too! I threw together a list of 20 random ideas you can try if you’re still stumped at a blank canvas after exploring each section below.
Explore Your Materials and Find New Materials To Try
If you’re having any trouble coming up with abstract painting ideas try thinking of new ways to explore how to use the materials you currently have.
Try laying the paint on thicker than you normally do. Use the thickness of the paint to create textures. Leave bigger brushstrokes or smaller brushstrokes in your paint. Alternatively, if you normally work by using thick layers of paint try doing the opposite.
Try thinning out your paint, using thinner more transparent layers. Go for a more water colored sort of a look.
Once you’ve explored and figured out various ways to manipulate your paints you can explore your paints even further with the use of gels, textures pastes, and various different mediums.
If you mix your paint with a high gloss gel you can make it even thicker and give it extra properties to make it pop. Plus it even adds things to the paint that protect it like a finishing coat would.
There are a variety of different gels to choose from like matte, gloss, high gloss, and satin. All of the normal sort of gloss finishes.
Plus they come in a variety of thicknesses too like soft, heavy, and extra heavy.
Beyond gels there are a lot of different types of texture pastes to choose from too. Things like ceramic stucco, black lava, blended fiber, glass beads, natural sand, and different brands of crackle pastes.
When it comes to adding texture into your abstract works the possibilities are really limited by your imagination. I’ve also picked up spackle and cement from home depot to use in my works.
If you adopt a mindset of learning and exploration you will never run out of new materials to try. With so many different mediums, textures, and ways to use our materials there should always be some idea to explore that will lead to a painting!
Collect, Use, and Know Your Tools
As an abstract artist, you may find yourself quickly accumulating a collection of all sorts of tools to use in your paintings. Make sure you actually use them! Don’t just collect them so that they can collect dust!
We all go through bursts where we buy new paints, brushes, tools, and other materials to use in our works only to set them in the studio and not touch them for a while. If ever!
Make sure that you systematically work through all your colors, your pastes, your mediums, your brushes, your palette knives, your bubble wrap, your tape, everything!!!
If you haven’t used it yet, make your next painting about using that particular thing you haven’t used yet! Remember that bottle cap you saved and put in your art supplies but still haven’t used yet? Go pull that out right now and use it in your next work in some way!
There are so many different ways to apply paint for us to explore we must try them all!
So if you’re stumped on what to paint next, go through your supplies right now and make a list of items you have that you have always wanted to use in the making of a painting. Then take them out and lay them out somewhere visible and easily accessible.
Next time you want to paint something, pick one item or tool up and dive right in! Don’t think about it and just do it! Scratch that itch and in the process you will broaden your knowledge base. You will learn something new about how paint applies with this thing or to that thing.
When you finally work your way through all that bubble wrap, those squirt bottles you held on to, the stencils you bought but haven’t used yet, then you can reward yourself by finding new tools to buy and add to your collection!
This is one way never to run out of ideas too! If you’re constantly on the hunt for new materials and tools to use you’ll always know what your next painting will be focused on.
Try New Color Palettes Outside of Your Comfort Zone
As an abstract painter it can be easy to gravitate to the same colors over and over again. It’s also really important to explore the color wheel, learn different color harmonies, and try to gain deeper understandings of color.
If you find yourself using similar color schemes challenge yourself to use a set of colors you wouldn’t normally use.
Familiarize yourself with all of the different color harmonies and then systematically exercise your use of each one. Do an abstract painting where you only use a single split complimentary color harmony.
Then do an abstract painting where you use a tetradic color harmony. Then rotate around the color wheel and use a different tetradic combination for you next painting.
If you get board with this approach towards exploring colors there are random generators you can use too.
My personal favorite is Coolors.co. It will randomly generate a color palette for you at the press of your spacebar or tap on the screen.
You can lock in a particular color you want and let it continue generating the rest of the palette until you lock in a palette you like but still pushes you to try something new.
Remember that the key here is to generate painting ideas so that way you always have something to paint. As you explore more color combinations you’ll iron into your brain information about color combinations what work too.
Abstract Art Challenges to Try
If you’re still having any trouble coming up with ideas to get the creative juices flowing then try some of these abstract art challenges! Over the years I have noticed there are a lot of different types of art challenges out there but not too many abstract art challenges.
Here’s a brief list of ideas for you to try if you’re still staring at a blank canvas and want some abstract art challenges to try!
- make a painting using cement
- make a monochromatic painting using only one color and it’s various hues, values, and saturations
- make a geometric abstract painting using only *squares, rectangles, triangles, circles, straight lines, perspective…etc.
- make an abstract painting using only a palette knife
- make an abstract painting using just black and white
- make an abstract painting with gold, copper, or silver leaf
- make an abstract painting using tape
- make an abstract painting using a catalyst wedge
- make an abstract painting that channels an emotion
- take a picture of a local landscape and make an abstract painting of it
- take a picture of a famous local landmark and make an abstract painting of it
- do an acrylic pour
- try using alcohol and inks
- try a multi media painting using acrylic paint, texture pastes, and paint markers
- take a picture of something really close up like rusty metal to get a cool abstract picture to paint
- study great abstract artists of the past and taste test their styles
- do a geometric style painting but focus on single point perspective
- do another abstract painting practicing double point perspective
- Use cylinders, cubes and pyramids for a painting
- Practice figure studying and make abstract figures in motion
I could just keep going but I think maybe you’re starting to get the ideas at this point! When you commit to constantly exploring your own boundaries the list of challenges you generate will be personal to you and where you are at in your journey.
You will develop an ability to self direct your artistic skills through constantly being aware of when you encounter an area you need to work on. Every time you are working if you remain aware of the things you are trying that you are having difficulty with you can then create a whole project centered around overcoming that issue.
This is why this mindset is so important and will lead you to an endless spring of ideas to guide you down your artistic path!