Posts Tagged: abstract

Outgrowth I

Outgrowth I • 12" x 24"

Outgrowth I • 12″ x 24″

I haven’t done many abstract works so this is a bit of an exploration for me. This is a painting I started a while ago – 2004 – and put on pause while I debated what to do with it. I got inspired to pick it up again and figure out what else it needed. It had the structure I wanted with the teal background and branching green shape. It was just a tad…sparse.

I decided it needed to propagate in two ways:

  • in a generative way, like an algorithm riffing on a repeating pattern
  • in a natural way, like the blooming of spores or moss

That guided the color and details choices I made to fill this in. I’d like to try more in this style so in the spirit of that I’ve given this a number. May it be the first in a series!

Earlier in the process: the "pause"

Earlier in the process: the “pause”

Loki I & II

Loki I & II (framed)

Loki I & II (framed)

Here’s a foray into abstraction that I made a little while ago and just recently put up for sale. Inspired by the flame effect of these frames, I created a couple of illustrations in ink and colored pencil based on a painting I did in college. The painting was about the death of Baldur, a Norse myth, and like many Norse myths Loki is in it causing some trouble. I represented Loki’s shapeshifting nature and destructive actions as a kind of cubism on fire.

It had been a while since I’d made the painting, and I found these illustrations had a notably different style even though I had the same approach in mind. I haven’t done much abstract work and I’m finding it to vary quite a bit when I do. While the painting felt rough and smokey, these feel streamlined and slightly Joan Miro-ish.

I also realized I go back and revisit the same themes periodically. These Lokis are based on an earlier painting, and the colored pencil box I have has a painting I made from the story of Ye Xian which I also painted on a scroll in the Chinese folktale series.

Loki art in progress

Loki art in progress

Loki I

Loki I

Loki II

Loki II



Electromagnetic • 15″ x 30″ • 2015

Here’s a new abstract work I created for the “Over the Top” show currently at Works/San Jose.

While considering the theme for the show, one of the first ideas that came to mind was radio waves and their dependence on a clear line of sight for transmission (I was a college DJ in San Luis Obispo, an area surrounded by hills). As I explored this further, I realized the electromagnetic spectrum itself was filled with potential imagery. While the majority of it affects us, much of it is not directly visible…and a lot is obscured by the atmosphere. I created the whole painting, layer by layer, with vivid colors and imagery before bringing in the “atmosphere” across everything outside of the visible spectrum (the rainbow). Some details are still visible while others gradually disappeared in the process.

I based it on this graphic from NASA and quite a bit of reading about each of the layers to get ideas for what to paint. Here are the layers of the spectrum you may be able to glean, laid out in logarithmic scale of their waves from the bottom to the top:

  • (noise) – little bits of color
  • Radio – AM, FM (set to 91.3fm for KCPR)
  • Microwave – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Amateur Radio
  • Infrared – fiber optics, infrared vision, solar flares
  • Visible Light – rainbow
  • Ultraviolet – how bees see flowers, barcodes & QR codes
  • X-Ray – x-rays, of course; and the TSA scanners
  • Gamma Ray – things that split the atom, like lightning and the atomic bomb

This painting changed dramatically along the way. Though it ended up the way I imagined, it was difficult to choose to continue since getting there meant fundamentally changing its look and losing interim details. In hindsighter, I wish I had created the lower layers with stronger contrast so they’d still be visible after the atmosphere was added. The final version did end up pretty close to my Photoshop mockup, though, so it got where it needed to be. The prog-rock-fueled red-and-black style will have to wait for another project.

Probably inspired by the yellow-ness of the NASA graphic

First layer: yellow ochre

I started filling in the rainbow as convenient

Layering in reds

Lots of dots for the transitions

Got impatient: this, rainbow

Decided not to paint a mushroom cloud; that thin line on the right is the representation of the atomic bomb

Gamma Rays layer

Skull, rib cage, and the TSA "stance"

X-Ray layer

Bees' views of flowers, and bar codes/QR codes

Ultraviolet layer

I originally put the amateur radio symbol too low, so this is result of re-painting it

Infrared layer

Starting to get wary about covering all this up with atmosphere

In progress

Added antennae of various kinds

Further infrared detail

Think this ended up with 8 different colors

Noise layer

AM & FM radio, set to 91.3fm

Radio layer

Wondering if I'm about to mess it up by adding the atmosphere

Just missing atmosphere

Yes, I did this in the middle of the night

With PS reference

A little more blue, but pretty close to how it ended up

The Photoshop mockup


A fresh painting in the style of an earlier one of mine, Release

(re)Release • 20″ x 20″ • 2014

This one’s a return to a style I enjoy for an auction to benefit Works/San José on December 13th. It’s based on a painting I made years ago called Release. That’s the cheery abstract painting that I’m currently using as a background on my Twitter account. I even decorated my study around it.

This version follows the same color scheme and feel as the original with a few variations. It is a wall-friendly 20″x20″ square, in contrast to the original 48″ x 24″ landscape. I also opted to add more texture to it with a toothy crosshatched base for the background. And: instead of a black border, I kept the border blue to emphasize the wrapped look. Getting the original blue was a little trickier than I anticipated. What you see here was my fourth attempt after starting too thin, then too green-ish, and then too dark.

I picked this one to return to because it is one of the ones that seems to be the most popular when I give visiting friends the “art tour”. It’s also fun to see what people interpret it to be. While painting it, I was thinking of a combination of a falling motion (flower petals, autumn leaves) and a gathering motion (the feeding frenzy of koi or goldfish). I’ve also hear that it looks like fireworks, confetti, and – my favorite for being odd – candy corn.

A particularly petal-like piece of it

Texture detail

A little happy chaos

The flurry

I experimented with different brushes and had the most success with the flat-edged ones

Color variance