Abstract Art Ideas

Here you'll find some cool abstract art ideas to help you unlock your creativity and discover the magic in the mundane.

Making abstract art is liberating and there are so many ways to go about it. Whichever approach you like to take, we hope these abstract art ideas and links to articles on how to paint abstract art will help. Some of these are also good art ideas for children or can be enjoyed with adults and children working together.

Automatic Drawing

This is an approach used by the surrealist artists  and abstract expressionists Jackson Pollock and Arshile Gorky also used it to develop their painting styles.

Begin by assembling your materials – use inexpensive paper and select your charcoal, pencils, pastels, pen and ink or paints and brushes.  When you’ve positioned your paper and your drawing materials, take a moment to quiet your mind before you begin.

Make a mark on the paper and see where it takes you.  Go with the flow.  You will find that one shape or mark leads into another and then another and gradually the picture begins to build up. 

Automatic Drawing

This process should be spontaneous and intuitive.  Begin with short exercises, limiting the time you spend on each drawing to five or ten minutes.  Don’t get caught up in a drawing, move on to a new one if it’s not feeling ‘automatic’.  The more quickly you work at the beginning, the better.  Don’t worry about the end result.  Bind and gag your inner critic and just have some fun. Relax, enjoy your creativity and abstract art ideas will flow.

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Straw Painting.

abstract straw blow picutre

Try using a glass dropper to put some blobs of different coloured paints (use poster paint or acrylic paint diluted in water) on some paper. (The dropper makes it easier to control the paint you put on the paper but if you don’t have one, just drip the paint on to the paper).  Blow through a drinking straw to disperse the paint around the page, turning the paper to change direction, changing the angle of the straw etc so that the colors mix and form different shapes and patterns. It’s a no-pressure kind of art-making which is fun for both adults and children. 
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Splatter Painting

splatter painting

You need space for this technique and you also need to ensure that the area your working in is well protected, if that’s necessary. Place your paper on the ground and load your brush with paint and then just shake it over the paper so that the paint splatters on.  Different patterns will emerge, depending on the force of your wrist movement, the amount of paint you use, the direction you work etc.  See the MoMA video (link in the right hand panel) to see how Jackson Pollock worked with this method.
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Making a collage

Making a collage is another great art party idea.  You can gather up lots of materials beforehand and kids (and adults) can have a great time letting their imagination loose on a creation inspired by the stuff they find in the pile you provide.

abstract collages

It’s a really absorbing process and children love being able to create weird and wonderful stories with the objects they find.  Collect plain and patterned paper, pictures from magazines, cardboard, fabric, wool, leaves, seeds, buttons, – almost anything you can think of provided it isn’t dangerous to small children – can be used to stimulate the imagination and create the most fantastical pictures.

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Digital Abstract Collage

The print below was developed from a collage created by using cut-outs of brightly coloured card on white paper. The collage was then scanned in to create a basic image with the colours and lines. The image was then enhanced and enlarged using software like photoshop to create the final print.

digital abstract collage

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Masking Tape

masking tape abstract

Taking inspiration from the grids and straight lines of the artists who work geometrically, this technique is very simple. Start with a blank white painted canvas, and cover with a good quality masking tape in a grid or pattern, making sure that the tape is pressed down firmly. Paint over the whole canvas with either a single colour or more as you prefer. Remove the masking tape to reveal the crisp-edged white lines beneath. Touch-up as you need
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Painting with salt

I really enjoyed doing this in an art workshop I took my daughter to.  We took some salt and put it on some tin foil (aluminium foil). We then used a colored marker to spread some color around the tin foil and mixed it into the salt so that it colored the salt. When we had lined up some salt in different colors, we used a glue stick to draw a pattern or a picture onto a piece of paper.  You can’t ‘see’ what you’re drawing, so you’re using your imagination to create your picture.  You then sprinkle the salt onto the picture and your creation emerges.

I found that it's really fun process to do and easy enough to try at home. Iif you don’t mind a little mess, it might be a fun art party idea too.
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Other Abstract Art  Ideas

Make your own version of a well-known painting.

 Chose a picture you enjoy looking at – it could be something like Kandinsky’s Farbstudie Quadrate (link to Google image search here)which is a good one to begin with and make your own vesion, changing colors, using fewer colors or changing the shapes inside the squares.  This is a nice way to take the pressure off yourself as it’s sometimes difficult to come up with new ideas that ‘work’.  This way you let Kandinsky (or the artist of your choice) inspire you and you get to create something unique to you.  

Take inspiration from a story or a poem

Recall a favourite story or choose a poem and tune into the emotions it stirs up for you.  Use it to stimulate your imagination and let your ideas flow. Keep it abstract and don’t try to tell the story.  Instead keep the focus on your own feeling response and see if you’re inspired to work in shapes, colors or textures.

Abstract Art Ideas in Music

Wassily Kandinsky used his response to music to create art.  In his world, musical notes had shapes and instruments had color.

Try it out.   Find some music you love and listen to it before you paint.  Be aware of the feelings it stirs up and the ideas that come to you.  When you’re ready, start painting with this music on in the background.

Tune into its rhythms and work with the thoughts that come into your mind.  Experiment and see what happens.  Enjoy the freedom of true self-expression and don’t worry about the finished product.  It’s about the process not the product.

Abstract Art Ideas in Nature

Nature contains an abundance of inspiration.   Robert Delaunay loved to work with the rhythms of the colors he saw in nature.  His work is a joyful celebration of the way in which color vibrates around us.

Be inspired by the abstract flower art of Georgia O’Keeffe and try it out for yourself.   When you look closely at a flower or a plant, the complexity of its structure is truly amazing and a source of great inspiration for an abstract work.
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