Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Abstraction: Not for Me?

I'm feeling like such a failure today. I have had several weeks to work on an abstract painting for my watermedia class, and I have ultimately come up with nothing. Well, I have something, but it looks like something a small child sat down and completed in about five minutes. Despite the fact that I spent several hours working on it, and attempting to come up with something that made sense, at least compositionally, I just want to hang my head in shame, go in a corner and rock, and never touch a paint brush again. I don't know why abstraction is so difficult for me. It goes beyond difficult into a point where I just swirl into an extremely downward spiral, and have no desire to do anything anymore, even the projects that I was enjoying.
Jackson Pollock abstraction
*Photo from
When I think back over the course of my nearly two and half years at this college, every abstract assignment has produced the same exact emotion. In the early days of drawing and painting, I was so concerned that I wouldn't be able to make something look even semi-realistic, that I never even stopped to think that I couldn't do abstract. I always assumed it would be something natural to me; an innate gift, if you will. After all, I always thought, 'how hard can abstraction be?' Instead, I get so angry with myself for being unable to paint/draw anything that is even remotely acceptable, and I find myself just wanting to drop out of the class and not deal with the failure (I won't drop the class, but I start having these thoughts). I don't understand why I can appreciate it, see others' work and admire it, study it endlessly, and still be unable to put out anything that looks like I spent time on it.
Hans Burkhardt: Burial of Gorky
*Photo from
I've been told that some artist's go through shifts in their lives, and that they may do abstraction for long stretches and then suddenly turn to realism for a spell, and then trying something else entirely. Maybe this is just not the time in my life for abstraction. It's unfortunate, as it seems there is at least one (if not more) in each class to contend with, and I wish I could at least make peace with the genre, so that it wouldn't be such a struggle to get through these assignments. Unfortunately for me, I'm dealing with two abstract projects at the moment, and I'm hoping I am able to keep all of my hair through this process.

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