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"Thinking Up" Abstract Wall Art

"You don't make art. You find it." - Pablo Picasso

"Art is love and it covers. It sheilds."- Chrisette Michele

Most of us are curious about how other people think, especially if the person does something interesting. I'm thinking that you might want to know a bit about how I make my abstract wall art, to "get to know it" . Or maybe you're making art took and looking for inspiration?

A Preamble on Creativity

A frequent question of artists of any creative medium is:

"From were do you get these ideas?"

It may seem odd (if you haven't made much art yourself), but this is a "wrong question" - a question which goes nowhere.

The most meaningful question to ask a truly creative person is, I think, the exact opposite question: "How do you eliminate all the many other ideas you have, and end up with this one?"

Creative artists usually don't lack ideas. Or methods.

The act of learning to be an artist, and producing enough work in the process, cultivates the skill of tapping into the non-conscious, non-rational, non-linear, divergent ways of thinking: the mind modes that give us daydreams and nightmares; which give you novel ideas in a brainstorming session; which feed the imagination.

(It involves consuming a lot of material - looking at other art, at possible subjects for art - and then thinking about it, feeling, analysing it to digest its nutritional components. All of this strengthens the imagination. Thinking and practice then build the skills to translate - reliably - the imagination and concepts, into actual things.)

Enough With The Preamble - How Do You Do It?

It's simple: you start with something, work on it, then at some point you stop working on it and declare it "finished".

...Okay. A bit more detail then.....

The Starting Point

For me, a piece may begin with:-

  1. Seeing a pleasing or interesting visual structure or pattern in the world (such as architecture; or natural patterns; or landscapes)

  2. Liking someone else's abstract art and wondering how it intrigues me

  3. Imagining a process of repeated steps, and wanting to think (hoping?) that it will produce fascinating results when carried out.

#3: Process

A geometrical abstract art image produced by a "mathematical" process, on the web
From "Dwelling" on

Is what led me into the slow "video painting" or "moving art" pieces that I publish, and the videos captured from them.

I began the "Klee Writing" pieces (which are a long and growing

sequence) deliberately with a process in mind. (Actually, a couple of related processes, to do with numbers. I fancied I might turn out something a bit like a Paul Klee painting). I began with a blank paper,

and once I saw something interesting emerging, I took that and refined it. So it was a kind of discovery (see: Picasso, above). Processes can be applied to anything. I applied more processes to the first "Klee Writing" piece, and produced several more.

Anything repetitive tends to involve numbers, and I have a bit of a mathematical mind (which is why I worked in IT for so long!).

Numbers may seem a bit sterile, but they can be unexpected, unpredictable, and made to be quite beautiful (see: Aqeel Anwar's visualistions of Pi, for example).

#2: Imitation Might seem a bit like "cheating". It might be, if the result looked just like the first art piece - but that is never my goal (in fact it's very hard to do! In art school, we were encouraged to try imitating famous works, which was a good way to understand them and appreciate them).

In this situation, the other art work is simply another "interesting or pleasing visual structure or pattern in the world"; that is, an example of ....

#1: Seeing and Admiring

Here's an example of happening upon something, and liking it.

I was about to toss the torn packaging here into recycling, when I decided I liked it. So I put it down and rearranged it in a pleasing way.

Photo of torn packaging, arranged
Just packaging?

What I liked was the torn texture, and I may use that in a collage (to simulate torn paper). But wait, there's more!

I quite like the play of the shapes, and the texture of the printing. So from here I might:-

  • Use the shapes as outlines for a painting or drawing

  • Use the photo in a digital collage (in different arrangements)

  • Enlarge and enhance the dot pattern, and make that the focus of the art

  • Try to paint the photo, and see what that looks like (and what it suggests to me)

Here's another "work in progress":

I was enjoying the distortions made by tin foil. So I set out to organize this somewhat (to reduce the randomness and put my mark on it, perhaps). I crinkled a piece of foil in specific ways, then arranged some little coloured LEDs around it. After a bit of trial-and-error, I got the result above, which intrigues me (but I don't know what I'll do with it, just yet!).

Some of the earliest works on were inspired by Brian Eno's "77 Million Paintings" . Eno's work was mostly based on photographed, tiny paintings on slides. I could see how overlaying interesting textures and colours could produce secondary and tertiary works - so I decided to imitate it and make my own "dynamic" art from layering images.

Most of the images came from closeups of objects: bitumen, bathroom tiles; stained glass; ink-stained paper, etc. The images below are some of the thousands of screenshots I've taken of that (effectively) endless process.

Montage of drawings
Montage of drawings

Montage of drawings
Montage of photos of bitumen

Montage of digital drawings
Montage of digital drawings from

Montage of photos (from
Montage of photos (from

Montage of photos (from
Montage of photos (from

Montage of photos (from
Montage of photos (from

But How Do You Draw or Paint?

So far, I've only talked about the starting points, and shown you some of the processes and the results.

But what about the How? What's the drawing or painting process consist of?

That's for another time!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on "how we make art". Please comment!

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