Abstracted From Nature: An Acrylic Painting Demonstration

Abstracted From Nature: An Acrylic Painting Demonstration

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So much of the time reality is overrated, especially in art. You want to take what you see and balance it with what you feel. Your art isn’t in the depiction of objects but in the new language you are creating with color, gesture and form. Creating art abstracted from nature is all about starting with something “real” and then pulling it and stretching it into something new. Artist Tesia Blackburn demos and explains how to play with abstraction to convey your message.

Enjoy Tesia’s five-step demo and then be sure to consider adding Acrylic Painting Workshop: Colorful Backgrounds DVD to your shopping cart as this fun instruction video gives you the perfect opportunity to explore all that Tesia is showing you here. Enjoy!

Abstracted From Nature

Reality is interpreted by the artist and sometimes copied so closely that it resembles a photograph as in photorealist painting. Oftentimes artists don’t attempt to paint reality because they’re afraid of failing. After all, it takes a fairly high level of skill to draw or paint a beautiful still life or portrait. But what if you want to express your feelings or interpretation of a beautiful still life or flower arrangement? Do you have to wait until you have all the necessary skills to re-create it exactly? I don’t think so. I’d like to offer you the option of using abstraction as a way to express what you see around you.

You may have profound feelings about your rose garden or your child’s baby shoes. How can you express that without painting an exact re-creation? You can abstract from them to create a painting that expresses how you feel about the roses or any other subject.

What You Need

Setup time: 10 minutes Painting time: 20–60 minutes • pencil (to create viewfinder) • ruler (to create viewfinder) • canvas, bristol board or heavyweight watercolor paper • assorted brushes, including one round brush • palette • acrylic paints, your choice • paper towels • craft knife

The end result of this exploration is an abstracted version of a succulent from my garden, and it captures the bright sunny afternoons I spend in the garden at my studio.


This is a photograph I took in the garden at my studio. I love the succulents we have in the garden. Nature offers us patterns and shapes that make great abstracts. First we have to simplify the photograph so we don’t get caught up in too much detail.


Here I’ve cropped in on the photograph using a viewfinder to maximize the shapes and patterns, deleting much of the complexity. I’m keen on using rhythm and repetition as my main design principles here.

The Rule of Thirds

Many books have been written on the rules of composition, but the main rule used here to crop in on this photograph is the Rule of Thirds. Simply put, you divide your canvas into three equal parts–both vertically and horizontally. The spots where those lines intersect are called the “sweet spots.” Putting the main focus on one of those spots and adding secondary points of interest on other sweet spots will give your painting a sense of balance and harmony.

Patterns, Shapes and Contrast

Roughly block in the biggest shapes in the photograph, leaving out almost all the detail. Remember we’re going for an abstracted version of the photograph, not a rendering of fine detail.

Look for repeated shapes and patterns and hone in on those.

You’ll also need a little contrast.

I used the rounded shapes of the succulent and repeated that with some variation. Then bring in some contrast to all of the initial shapes. I used the green square vase for a contrast with the round shapes. Using just two colors (I used quinacridone magenta and green gold), scrub thin fluid paint into the canvas, letting plenty of white canvas show through.

Thin Layers

Lay down a couple more layers of very thin paint, letting the underpainting show through and deleting unnecessary details. Here I added a tiny bit of titan buff to create muted tints that help to vary the value of the leaves.

Scrub In

Continue to build up thin layers of paint, scrubbing the paint into the canvas.

Finally, the square green vase was brought back but in line only, and I added a black line for contrast in the leaves. You’ll notice that the edge of the vase lands squarely on one of the sweet spots horizontally and that the top of the lower left-hand leaf rests right on the horizontal line of the bottom one-third.

Article written with contributions from Tesia Blackburn, author of Acrylic Painting With Passion.

Watch the video: Acrylic Painting - Abstract Art Painting Demonstration. In Præsentis (August 2022).