Yes, You Can Understand Abstract Art.

Did you know that abstract art is one of the top three art themes sold today? Yep. No matter — you may be thinking, “That’s fine but I still don’t understand it.” Fair enough. So let me give you three definitions (with pictures!), then four ideas that may help you appreciate this art style a little more.

The definitions.

  • Representational art is designed to represent real life and includes landscapes, still lifes, portraits and other recognizable things. This style runs the gamut from hyper-realistic paintings to a softer, romantic style.

  • Abstract art is the opposite, but it exists on a continuum — from very stylized (or partially recognizable) real-life objects, figures or landscapes to completely non-representational art that doesn’t portray any real-world thing. The paintings below (all of Half Dome rock, Yosemite) are a good example of various abstract stylizations — expressive, minimalist, and color field-ish.

  • Non-representational abstract art uses the visual language of color, shape, line and light (to name a few art elements) to express ideas, feelings and emotions. Here are examples of my art which is predominantly non-representational:

Even if its non-representational, abstract art is about something. While it may simply be an exploration of contrasting color or shapes, abstract art employs the same principles of composition and elements of art that representational art does.

How to understand abstract art a little better.

  1. Have an open mind and willing curiosity. When viewing abstract art, expect to see something different from what you already know. While every abstract piece won’t “wow” you, try to avoid comparisons to representational art or a preschooler's capabilities. As you explore this genre, look at it all curiously and learn more — especially about what you like.
  2. Look at it for what it is. While the artist may explain what the art is about in the description card, often she doesn’t. A hint of meaning may be found in the title (if there is one). Just know that there is no magic code to crack or problem to solve. It may just be a great exploration of color and shape.
  3. Let it inspire your imagination and curiosity. "What do I like about it? What is it saying to me? Does it make me feel ____? I like the way it _____." There’s no right or wrong answer — abstract art is open to interpretation. That’s why it’s so engaging: Each viewer can connect with it personally and discover what it means to them.
  4. If the artist is there, ask questions. If you’re at a gallery opening or exhibition, find the artist and talk with him or her. Nothing can help you connect with the art better than talking with its creator. I love questions from people browsing — thanks for asking!

In the end, what attracts us to a specific painting is often personal — it could be that it triggers feelings, memories or emotions, it creates or links us to a pleasurable experience, or even that it fits a visual requirement (to complement an environment).

I hope this helps you build a connection with abstract art — #FindArt2Love!