“The word ‘abstract’ tends to alarm people, because it seems to imply that a painting will be impossible to understand.”
– Simon Jennings, (The Complete Artists’s Handbook, pg 140)
There’s a couple of reasons why I think a lot of people are averse to abstracts and it has to do with how our brains are wired. There’s a natural phenomenon that reinforces our ability to constantly be looking for faces and patterns in order to adapt to our environment. However, abstracts are very powerful when used as in artwork to express the sometimes un-expressible. Abstract artwork can also help you get to know yourself better or even manifest your inner desires.
So, the concept of ‘abstract’ is defined as denoting an idea, removed from reality or being disconnected from what’s observed. It’s intangible and doesn’t exist as any concrete object.
I think abstracts remove that level of judgement the mind has on autopilot allowing the artwork to speak differently to each viewer. However, even when we’re looking at an abstract piece of art our mind still attempts to find objects in the chaos.
Pareidolia – it’s basically seeing things that aren’t there. It’s a natural psychological phenomenon that happens in the primitive part of the brain that has to do with survival. We learn to recognize patterns with our senses in patternless information. This is true for visual or auditory.
Example: a picture of a crater on the moon may look like a face, but maybe it’s just a shadow. Or listening to that Beetle’s song backwards you might hear ‘John is dead (that is auditory pareidolia).’
These patterns our brains find connect to feelings, then to emotions, then to memories. This is why I think a lot of people have a hard time connecting with abstract artwork. I’ll ask someone for feedback on one of my artworks and they might tell me what shapes or figures they see and what that reminds them of.
Like, “This reminds me of the beach and the white blobs look like clouds over the beach like you’re looking down from high in the sky.” [see abstract on the right]
Now, I’m not saying this is a matter of good or bad, but knowing more about it could help you understand how it can help you in your life journey.
How to use abstract artwork to your advantage:
1. Get to know yourself better (express the un-expressible)
I’m very visual and I’d rather draw or paint what I want to say. Art is it’s own language, but it’s not as widely understood as a verbal language, like say, English is. Creating abstract artwork in conjunction with a meditation practice is similar to writing in a journal. You’re externalizing certain feelings and energies and using it for self reflection or to share for others’ benefit.
2. Manifest your inner desires
So, there’s this book called The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. One concept Danielle teaches is to create your Core Desired Feelings – You base your life decisions on how you want to feel. But, one thing I had trouble with was making my core desired feelings have a big enough meaning to me to change my life direction. I needed something visual. Vision boards weren’t enough for me.
That’s why I created my Affirmation Portrait system. It was a way for me to visualize my desires through art principles that I could more concretely relate to. It my desires more three-dimensional so that my subconscious mind could better understand how I wanted to improve my life. And since each one is created while I’m in a ‘desire mindset’ they really became visual incarnations of those core desired feeling words.
Let me know in the comments, what’s your view on abstract artwork? Do you love them? Hate them?
- “Pareidolia: Why we see faces in hills, the Moon and toasties” (BBC):http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22686500
- facial pareidolia: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3280816/What-photos-s-faces-suffer-facial-pareidolia.html
- auditory pareidolia: http://nautil.us/blog/why-we-hear-voices-in-random-noise
- I have no shame for Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia#References
Jennings, S. (2014). The complete artist’s manual: the definitive guide to painting and drawing. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.
Vliet, R. V., & Vliet, R. V. (2013). Abstracts: techniques and textures. Tunbridge Wells: Search Press.
Voss, J. L., Federmeier, K. D., & Paller, K. A. (2012). The Potato Chip Really Does Look Like Elvis! Neural Hallmarks of Conceptual Processing Associated with Finding Novel Shapes Subjectively Meaningful. Cerebral Cortex (New York, NY), 22(10), 2354–2364. http://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhr315