Art: In the Valley of Coping - Abstract art as therapy
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    In the Valley of Coping - Abstract art as therapy

    EDIT (May 2009): Have decided to give any viewer of this thread the whole picture. Here is how it is: My wife has a brain tumor. All these abstract images are first and foremost illustrations of my attempts to cope with this fact.

    The first one, "Shipwrecked" was painted a month after they discovered her cancer.

    This is art as therapy.

    ===================

    Here I'll be posting some abstract pieces of mine. Starting with some older stuff made in good old "Paint" and moving on through different software towards this very moment...

    Would be interesting to hear which emotions these images bring (if any) and how you "interpret" them.

    I think of painting abstract art as constructing mirrors in which every viewer will look at him-/herself from a slightly different perspective. The purpose is self-exploration of the moment, not only for me, but for the viewer as well...

    1. SHIPWRECKED
    2. I 4 I
    3-7. TB1-5

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    Last edited by Mindbendermind; May 15th, 2009 at 06:06 AM.
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    you talk a great game. try to follow through with skill. these are more of a mess rather than abstract explorations. i think this is a label you assigned to them to try and justify there existence. Abstract work is fine but anything you do must be done whole heartedly or there is no point in doing it. can you honestly say this is the best you can do?

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    Well, that's a good question, Stephen, and to be honest I really hesitated before putting them here. Thanks a lot for your comment.

    All of these were painted as expressions of a midlife crisis (I'm 30+), that struck me hard due to some really serious family issues. As such they are sincere expressions of an inner turmoil and struggle on an existential level. Actually I'm still in that crisis so bear with me if some of this sounds a little "out there". ;-)

    To me abstract art compared to classical painting is like jazz compared to a strict classical composition.

    Each and every one of these were painted in "the zone", guided by intuition and inner emotions rather than logical thought. Since I'm actually an art beginner despite my age (which you will see if you follow any of the other links in my sig, leading to my traditional work) - yes, these are actually the improvisations that "needed" to appear at the moment. This was the best jazz I could play. This was my way of asking questions, asking "What's the meaning?" (I'll actually change the title of the thread to include the musical connection...)

    Before you dismiss these, couldn't you attempt to tell me how you interpret one of them? Take TB3 for instance. Look at it for a while (I actually think each of these should be watched separately, preferably in a room where there are no distracting sounds, just you and the image). What do you see? Have you taken the time to REALLY look at it? Given it at least a couple of minutes? To start with - the title, TB, what does that stand for? In YOUR eyes, not mine (that talk about "mirror" in the beginning)

    I'm aware that these are the most controversial images I've made so far. The most "insane, pretentious but lousy artist" kind of works. But it is also quite possible that they are the most sincere, most honest. Maybe you must have passed your 30:s (I see that you are rather young, Stephen) have experienced the miracle of seeing your child being born, the pain of losing a loved one far to quickly in cancer and having your wife being threatened by a terminal illness to get anything out of these. Maybe you have to be in the middle of an existential crisis to be able to relate to them.

    Maybe you have to be an appreciator of jazz, even the jazz that's most "out there", free jazz. Have you listened to Coltrane's "A love supreme" or Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew"? These images can be seen as my attempts at jazz or even free jazz. The best I could improvise at the time. The purpose with these are not practicing lineart, showing off my skill. These are a reflection of me - and, if you take the time to really look, hopefully of you too.

    These are - to me - the visual equivalent of asking the question: "What's the meaning of life when everything will eventually die?"

    Maybe it's just crap? Then again, who has the right to put a label on something? Why do we people even need labels? Those kind of questions is what it's all about.

    Just some thoughts that your reply stirred up and that I had to get off my chest. Since these images are about honesty and truth to me.

    Would be interesting to hear what you - and/or "john_d" have to say about all this (and hear if you're into jazz ;-)).

    Last edited by Mindbendermind; April 12th, 2009 at 03:22 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mindbendermind View Post

    To me abstract art compared to classical painting is like jazz compared to a strict classical composition..
    as a formally trained jazz saxophone player i can say with all certainty that anything off of John Coltrane's 'A Love Supreme' is just as challenging to play as any classical composition, maybe more

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    Quote Originally Posted by dirtydiesel View Post
    as a formally trained jazz saxophone player i can say with all certainty that anything off of John Coltrane's 'A Love Supreme' is just as challenging to play as any classical composition, maybe more
    Yes, I'm sure it is. Coltrane was a musical genius. Difference is that what he plays is improvised and not composed in the same sense (well, maybe "A love supreme" was a bad example, since it's a rather structured album, following the mood of the poem, should have said "Sun ship" or another one of his free jazz albums) - I was not talking about the complexity or difficulty of the music, I was talking about the intention and the artistic urge behind the music.

    Maybe I should have said Keith Jarrett instead. Each and every piece of these are a minature - and amateur - "Köln concert" of mine, played with colours instead of notes. Obviously if someone who's not good at playing piano would sit down and improvise it wouldn't be music that many would feel like listening to. Still it would perhaps be a just as sincere improvisation, exploration for the one playing.

    I'm no painter, I don't pretend to be one. I did, however, have an artistic and emotional urge to paint these images. To me they are a study of the self, a struggle to discover, an exploration of art, of colors and their relations. Of painting as "a way to describe that which cannot be described". An improvisation as a way to describe the predetermined. A paradox. Just as life.

    To me it's not about complexity, about technique. It's about sincerity. Necessity.

    Put a painting by Botticelli next to a painting by Rothko. Which is more beautiful, more justified - and why?

    Last edited by Mindbendermind; April 12th, 2009 at 10:08 AM.
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    As a viewer, it is hard to get past certain aspects of these(they look really shoddy). In order for someone to "interpret" them, there has to appear to be some belief that there is some 'readable' message in them. To me it looks like you are more interested in the explanation of your works than in the works themselves, perhaps rather than thinking of ways to describe your thoughts in words, think of ways to portray your ideas/emotions in the images you present. Or maybe you should pursue creative writing.

    If you are honestly interested in making artworks to express your emotions then I would suggest you try out traditional media. Paint dripped on paper looks a hell of a lot more interesting than click-drag with the brush tool.
    There is a reason that 2d graphics packages attempt to emulate real tools, brushes, airbrushes, textures etc. One way to convey sincerity in art is to spend a lot of time working on something.


    Good luck.

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    Thanks a lot Santon, I agree with most of the things you say. Reason for me not to use traditional media is partly since it's much less "messy" to use oil-paint software than the real thing. Another is the practical, having small children running around the house.

    Guess all my focus on the "sincerity" in these works was partly as a reply to the first comment. You're right again, writing IS along with music the art form I have spent most time practicing.

    Maybe one day I will paint these kind of pictures using traditional media. Until then I'll keep studying - and playing - abstract improvisations at my own beginner level. (These are posted in the "studies" section, not in the "portfolio" or the "finished work" ones).

    It is true that I am also interested in what these images have to say - and tell - at a psychological level as well. A rorschach test have some things to say about the one looking at them in spite of being "shoddy" and lacking any intentional "meaning" behind it, doesn't it? Maybe that's what this is, rorschach tests in color. I don't know. They had to come out and out they came and here they are. Guess these kind of discussions always boils down to the eternal philosophical questions like "What is art?". "What is beauty?"

    Actually the main reason I decided to post this kind of images here as well (had almost forgotten that) is that I read the following definition of what art is by Harold Speed in "Pracice and science of drawing". His definition is simply that art is

    the Rhythmic expression of Feeling

    and has nothing whatsoever to do with how long time someone has spent on the piece. Everything is about the intention behind it. Maybe he's right, maybe not. That's what makes it a philosophical question.

    Still waiting for the first one to actually tell me what they see in one of the images - in spite of their simplistic look - simply out of curiosity

    Interesting discussions. Still would be fun to hear someone neverminding the artistic level and instead attempt an "interpretation" though...

    Best of luck to you to Santon. Thanks for dropping by

    Last edited by Mindbendermind; April 12th, 2009 at 12:25 PM.
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    Today I had the urge to do another one of these improvisations.

    Here is what it ended up like - TB6:

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    Your comparison with Jazz is flawed. All good abstract art is carefully composed imo. Yours is not.
    Don't justify with your emotion. Everyone has emotions.. simply expressing them doesn't make your creations beautiful or interesting or 'art' for that matter.
    When there is no form, no recognizing shapes.. all you are left with is color and composition! That's it.

    Painting is first and foremost a visual thing. Think about how to best describe a certain emotion, how to translate to a viewer in the best way what you want to convey. This is never an easy task, it's a very challenging and difficult one. All great paintings have that in common... it's the difference in intent that separates them.
    Speed's quote is right on the money there but you seem to neglect the crucial word 'rhythmic' in his sentence.

    Last edited by Art_Addict; April 20th, 2009 at 05:47 AM.
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    Thanks alot for your comment - this thread is of course meant to be my "practice place" for abstract painting so all feedback is invaluable and it is quite possible that my view of what abstract art is and should be will change as my drawing/painting skill improves.

    At the moment I tend to disagree with you about what makes good abstract art however. My view is more along the lines of what Andrew Jones writes in another IFX workshop entitled "The Zen of abstract art" (IFX #42):

    "... Remember to let yourself be surprised with the outcome. Few successful abstract paintings were ever calculated from start to finish. The reckless human passion is often what draws my eye to many abstract paintings, so place your energy and emphasis on the processes and not the final product ..."

    To me abstract art is Zen. To me Jazz - or any music played in "The zone", free from attachment - is Zen. Therefore, to me, abstract art is like jazz. About trying to let go and investigate, discover and explore with a "beginner mind", free from attachment to any artistic "rules" whatsoever. Following the rhythms dictated by the colors themselves. :-)

    Last edited by Mindbendermind; April 20th, 2009 at 07:55 AM.
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    That's all nice and dandy with the whole zen process thing but the fact is none of this is going to be successful as A) a piece of art or B) expressing your emotions if you don't adhere to some of the fundamentals of art. Composition is arguably THE most important part of a piece striving to create pleasing compositions is not even a " rule" but a necessity. I believe you should really attempt the basics, draw some boring old actually there and real and not crazy trippy colored still lives. Draw some really boring people, we know its hard because the human body is not fascinating in any sense but once you can get just a little grasp on that stuff, then lets see you come back to you abstractions.
    I apologize that I came off rude, but this type of free expression work gives off a bad image to artists that really work and study foundations.

    "A drawing is not necessarily academic because it is thorough, but only because it is dead. Neither is a drawing necessarily academic because it is done in what is called a conventional style, any more than it is good because it is done in an unconventional style. The test is whether it has life and conveys genuine feeling."- Harold Speed
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    It sure seems to be controversial being a beginner doing abstracts. If you take a look at the 2nd and 4th links in my sig though, you will find that I DO study foundations as well. My main focus is on figure drawing and drawing basics.

    Of course the composition is important - but I do believe that it can take place at a subconscious level as well as an intellectual one (the way I usually go about planning in detail an artwork, trying out different thumbnails, considering compositional rules etc.).

    Don't agree with you that the human body is not fascinating though - I actually find it endlessly fascinating...

    Thanks for your comment :-)

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    Studying is not enough, a very firm grasp on it is preferrable imo. The comment about the human body was sarcastic- it seems some artists dismiss it.
    And for the record your 2nd and 4th pieces are most successful in my opinion.
    Keep up your master and life studies- they will get you far.

    "A drawing is not necessarily academic because it is thorough, but only because it is dead. Neither is a drawing necessarily academic because it is done in what is called a conventional style, any more than it is good because it is done in an unconventional style. The test is whether it has life and conveys genuine feeling."- Harold Speed
    [[Sketchbook]]
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    Well, I thought it was a bit strange that thing you said about the human body. :-D

    Yes, I sure will keep doing those. Thanks for taking time to following the links and commenting again. :-)

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    In the valley of coping (first image in this thread painted with a tablet - the previous ones were painted using touchpad)

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    Last edited by Mindbendermind; May 15th, 2009 at 06:16 AM.
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    You don't use traditional media because they're messy? Your primary concern for a long time should be studying form using the natural world. Study its construction and also study its appearance due to light and shapes of light.

    Every medium has its nuances and you should endeavor to control and learn from as many as you can.

    This whole thing is fishy. Don't feed the trolls.

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  22. #17
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    Thanks for your comment and advices. The main focus of my daily studies is actually breaking things down into the four basic shapes and learning how to convey the forms of these (as De Reyna suggests). This thread is a collection of my abstract "art as therapy" pieces, trying to cope with my wife's cancer.

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    A bit a of thread resurrection here, but I'm late to the game.

    Let me begin by saying that I feel for you, Mindbender, and sincerely hope that your wife's condition improves. In hindsight, exposing yourself and your work to the kind of harsh, sophomoric criticisms that go with the online territory might not seem like a great idea. But try to use all of it as inspiration to improve.

    As for my personal take:

    Abstract art, in my experience, is often subject to more scrutiny than any other variety of expression (which seems a little ironic). This is likely due to the number of people who have tried to pass their sloppy brush strokes off as a "modern art." In my eyes, this has led to a presupposition of insincerity. Anything perceived to be a talentless mix of random strokes and colors is quickly dismissed. Many people want to see a clear expression of talent before they give anyone credit for their artistic vision.

    This should come as no surprise. Consider the Jazz analogy, but this time lets correct it so that it fits the current circumstances.

    Keith Jarrett is a musician. He is a talented musician. He has a firm, complete grasp of the foundations of music, and this comes across in his work. If I asked him to play Beethoven, he could oblige with concert quality. He has devoted a substantial portion of his life to learning and mastering his art.

    You, admittedly, are new to painting. You cannot be compared to Keith Jarrett and his free form Jazz. Imagine a guy who has only been playing piano long enough to pound out "Chopsticks" and the first few notes of "Fur Elise." Then, imagine this guy downloading a MIDI keyboard program for his computer, stringing together a few disorganized notes, and trying to pass it off as free form jazz. How seriously would you take him, especially compared to guys like Jarrett? A lot of serious jazz fans would accuse him of cheapening the genre.

    That, to me, is a much more appropriate analogy. You aren't well-versed in painting to begin with, you opt to use a computer program because the real thing is "too messy," and yet you hope to inspire some kind of existentialist roundtable discussion with your work. I'm left thinking, "if this guy is going to cut corners, why should I (or anyone) take him seriously?" It's hard to imagine that you're very involved with these pieces of art when it looks like SHIPWRECKED (for example) was slapped together in MSPaint.

    I appreciate your sentiment, and wish you the best, but you've truly got to invest more time and effort in your work if you want to inspire anyone to think critically about your paintings.

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    Thanks a lot for that post and support.
    I agree - Keith Jarrett is a master, and I meant more that these were painted in the same zen-like "state of mind" that he has when improvising.

    However, I'm a rookie and I don't claim to be anything other than that. Not quite sure why I keep posting these works here. Guess I wish to "share" some of the pain, some of the struggle we're going through. Maybe I'm just being masochistic.

    We just received some bad news about the tumor, so another abstract is under construction. We'll see if it ends up here...

    I agree with everything you wrote and - I admit it - "Shipwrecked" WAS made in MS Paint :-D

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