I recently stumbled upon a series of photos that I had taken a couple of years ago that captured the progress of the artwork pictured above. I had so completely forgotten about them that it took me a moment to figure out what in the world I was looking at! A lot of blotches of colour and several pics later, I realized just what they were. I am so glad I kept them! The process of creating a piece of art is difficult to explain in words – it must be shown. And so today, I wanted to share with you how I created this whitewash abstract art, and how you can too.
Actually, if any word can describe the process at all, it would have to be layering. I don’t know if this is the technical word for it, but layering captures quite well how to create a piece like this one. It is probably my favourite technique, in part, because of the depth that it creates and, in part, because I love the texture and movement that layering evokes.
If you love to paint, you’ll have fun with this one. But if you’ve never attempted abstract art before, this will be a great piece to start with. Not only is it easy to apply layers of paint to canvas, it is difficult to make any mistakes. You can simply paint over any layers you don’t like! Now that’s pure joy!
For this piece, you will need the following materials:
- 3-5 acrylic paint colours (acrylic is a fast-drying medium which is great for abstract art)
- Paint brush(es) (Choose wide bristle brushes)
- Small foam paint roller (optional)
- Paint palette (I use something called ‘Sta-Wet’ by Masterson available at Michaels and Amazon)
- Jar (fill this with water to wash colour off your brushes)
- Rag (to wipe excess colour left on your brushes OR to wipe wet paint off canvas, when needed)
- Canvas of choice
Step 1: Prepare Background (Optional)
This step is completely optional. I learned this in a community art class and have stuck to it for any piece I’ve done. Artists typically tone their canvas with a colour, such as ‘Raw Sienna’ in order to give their canvas a warm and neutral background to start. This is especially lovely when doing portraits and landscapes, I find. Starting with a neutral (rather than a stark white) background is a great way to build whatever colour tones you want without having to fight against a bright white canvas.
You can decide if you want to start with this step or simply skip to step 2. (Be sure to let the background dry before moving onto the next step).
Step 2: First Layer – Colour Blocks
This is the fun part! Starting with your first colour, load your brush and begin painting loose blocks of colour all over the canvas. Just go crazy and apply your colour wherever you want. Choose a second colour and repeat. And do the same for as many colours as you wish to use. (Note: Because you will be painting white over these colours, you will have the option of completely covering any blocks you no longer like, which is what I ended up doing later in the process).
Let this first layer dry before moving onto the next step. I would recommend at least 30 minutes, but it will all depend on how thick the application of colours are on the canvas.
Step 3: Second Layer – Overlapping Blocks
Once your canvas has dried, begin adding more colour blocks, but this time overlap slightly over some of the other colours. This will add some depth and interest. For this step, I created fewer blocks of colour than the first layer. I wanted to ensure there were still spaces of un-coloured canvas to play with.
You may find that you need to load your brush quite a bit in order to overlap without the colour underneath showing through. Let dry.
Step 4: Fill Blank Spaces with White Paint
Once dry, begin adding white paint between the colour blocks.
As someone who loves to see texture in abstracts, I loaded my brush with a lot of white and simply allowed the excess to show on the canvas.
I also chose to overlap my white over some of the colours so that it blended into the piece.
Step 5: Apply Whitewash
While I love bright, vibrant colours, for this piece I chose to create a whitewash effect. Creating a whitewash look is very simple to do. Load your brush – though not as much as you would have done for step 4 – and dip it into the jar filled with water.
Wipe the excess off the sides of the jar or onto your rag. Apply whitewash directly over the entire canvas.
The opacity of the paint on your brush all depends on your personal preferences. If you only want a subtle wash over the colours, make sure that there is less white residue on the brush after dipping into your water.
If you are unsure about how much of the colours you want showing through, then start by adding your whitewash to a smaller area and take a step back. If you’ve made a mistake and applied more ‘white’ than ‘wash’ (or vice versa) all you need to do is take your rag and wipe the paint off and start again.
At this stage, you can continue tinkering for as long as you like.
Here is my painting very early on in the application of both the white paint and the whitewash. Not much to look at at this point.
I continued in this way for quite a while, painting and repainting, white-washing and (re) white-washing until I was satisfied with the overall effect.
Here are some images up close.
Now simply display and enjoy your new piece of art.
Painting, especially abstract painting, is such a relaxing way to release some tension after a long day at work! I highly recommend it. When you are feeling the stress – or just want to have some fun – I hope you give this one a try 🙂
Happy painting 🙂
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