In a previous post - Moving from the real to the abstract I discussed using photographic reference as a basis for abstraction. In this case, I started by playing with shapes and colours, without using any reference material. I used watercolours and worked in a sketchbook.
This was not successful as the paper buckled and the watercolours were too pale for what I wanted to achieve. I enjoy the spontaneity and translucent qualities of watercolour, and the depth of colour to be obtained by glazing one layer over another. To do this successfully the paper has to have a good weight.
Then I looked at photographs of some of my landscape paintings and cropped small sections that were completely abstract. It’s interesting to discover many paintings within a painting.
After photographing the sketches, I played around with the contrast and colour saturation with a simple photo programme to get the bright hues needed. This is fun because it changes the mood of the sketch completely and is effortless.
Then I moved on to using some acrylic paint. Acrylics have never had much appeal for me. I don't enjoy the texture of the paint and I find they dry too quickly (and I haven’t invested in the proper retarding agents that are available) and I really didn’t have a wide enough colour range. However, the acrylic sketches were more successful as I could mimic the type of paint application I would use in the final painting. I was able to do a number of rough colour sketches to get a feel for the composition and colours.
During this process I paint intuitively – adding colours, shapes, lines and textures without much critical appraisal – I just allow the sketches to grow organically. Once I have a few sketches, I put them aside. Later I went back and reviewed the sketches critically in terms of the formal elements of balance and composition.