2 Ways to Generate Abstract Painting Ideas

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Getting ideas for abstract paintings is challenging for a lot of people because they don't know where to start and they can get really anxious about doing it.

Here are two exercises that are designed to help make getting ideas for painting fun and playful.

The Strokes Painting Exercise.

In this exercise, you will create three different paintings using any kind of medium.

You can paint on any type of surface and use crayons, pencils, or paints.

If you’re painting with oil or regular pastels, you can use any type of brush you feel comfortable using.

Each painting you create, you make only 20 strokes.

Count out 20 of whatever movement you make on the first piece.

Then put that painting aside and do another one with 20 different strokes.

Then do it a third time. But this time try to get something really interesting from what you've noticed from the other two that you just did.

Create something that you like during this third create, but do it with just 10 strokes.

So this is kind of a challenge, but it's a really fun challenge that will help you gather ideas.

Put on Music Exercise.

For this exercise, you need:

  • Canvas or paper.

  • Paints and brushes of your choice.

  • Music and a Timing Device.

You’re going to work quickly creating multiples of things, so you don’t want your papers or canvases too large.

Play whatever you type of music you like — slow or lively sounds that are pleasing to you.

Set a timer for whatever amount of time you can dedicate to this exercise. (I think it's always good to set a timer because it forces you just to accomplish things without thinking.)

Use this time to collect your thoughts, gather ideas, and tap into your inner creativity.

Begin painting to the sound of the music; however, your brain interprets it on the canvas.

As you work, pause to change the music from something you love to something that makes you sad. Perhaps you select sounds that are a different tempo - going from fast to slow.

Try different types of music, and see what happens on your paper or canvas.

During this exercise, bypass any judgment, and just create multiples of everything.

Do this exercise three to five times and then put it aside.

Repeat this process over and over again.

I’ve found that it is entertaining to do the same music sometimes four or five times.

Even though you're listening to the same music while you’re painting, you’ll respond to it with different paintings.

Each one of the paintings you create in this music and timer exercise is a little different.

The end result is either you'll get an idea from the entire piece or a section of the piece that you love.

When that happens, cut it out or take a photo of it so you can use it as an inspiration for a painting later.

Exploring for Ideas

The more you do these exercises, the more you’ll discover that abstract painting ideas will come to you through exploration.

So what are you waiting for? Start exploring today!