April 15, 2010

Treading new territories

I have never attempted anything even remotely abstract before. I have always thought that I have a long way to go before I can do something with no reference whatsoever. It was only with the palette knife pieces that I could feel a departure from detailed realism for the first time, and that too was nowhere near non-representational. I do not know if all abstract artists actually start with an idea/concept and try to get it on canvas. I have also seen a lot of paintings that are just a play of colors with no real idea behind. With an abstract, it is anyway open to interpretation and everyone has a different way of looking at it. So I believe it doesn't really matter if the artist started with an idea or not. Well, I started with something vague.

I was getting too worked up with something (unrelated to Art), and I had to take it out somewhere. Around the same time, Spring was playing hide and seek here, with every two days of glorious weather, we had a week of chilling temperatures and so on. My frustration with a lot of things was the initial seed of thought. I wanted to bring in an image of a barren winter, dried branches and grey surroundings that finally lead to a sight of spring. The idea was to show a lot of branches, some of them as obstacles on the path, and some daffodils in the distance to depict spring. So I started doing some branches with structure paste, to give it some texture and then tried to build in some depth to the image. As I started putting in color though, I felt it was too bland. Of course, that's how the winter palette is meant to be, but it did not appeal to me much. And then I started making the branches a bit darker with more burnt sienna and burnt umber, and I liked the darker image a lot more. It no more looked like the muted palette of winter, but I liked it nevertheless. I ditched the idea that it had to "convey" something and was generally having fun. And then I started bringing in a lot of textured lines all over the place, not just lying on the ground.

Treasure hunt
Treasure Hunt
Acrylics on Canvas, 16 x 20 inches
© Nithya Swaminathan

Continuing after a break, I looked at it with a fresh perspective. This painting, in it's current state, is a reflection of an artist's mind, perhaps my own mind. The winding strokes all around shows the clutter that surrounds me. The little stones are minor hassles in life. In my case,  this even includes household chores, that always come up out of the blue, when all you want is to sit and paint. The blues are what make this painting interesting to me, I'd like to hear if they work well for you too. The blues here depict the bigger obstacles, the ones of the mind. The biggest obstacle to an artist, which holds good 100% in my case, is the  ubiquitous "Am I good enough?" question.  Self doubt blues that come up just like that. And then finally the focal point of the image, or the light at the end of the tunnel. The light could be as simple as the creative spark, an idea for the next painting, that strikes you when you least expect it. I deliberately kept the light a little off center, as I felt it was getting too symmetric. To accentuate the textures a bit, I added some gold paint here and there. And totally loved doing the blues, and just pitched in with some purple too in between. The background too contains a lot of layers of color. Right now, I am titling this "Treasure Hunt", the treasure being the elusive masterpiece that every artists aspires for every time he/she picks up a new canvas.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself with this one, though I cannot say if I'll be doing more. If yet another itch comes up, perhaps. There is this element of suspense with an abstract. What I had in mind was totally different than what it actually turned out to be. And you never know precisely how the painting would turn out, till you have actually completed it. I love that. I also love how different people look at it differently and give a whole new perspective to the painting. My husband thought I was doing some waterfalls. In the very beginning, my little one said it looked like snow, and I was thrilled with that.:) She read my mind probably! :)

I'd love to hear from you, what do you think of this one? Does it work for you? Does it engage you enough creating interest? I am all ears for any feedback and comments. This one is entirely new territory and I am looking forward to more! :)


  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nithya Swaminathan. Nithya Swaminathan said: An abstract painting for the first time http://bit.ly/9DQB76. Would love to hear comments and feedback! :) [...]

  2. Nice work Nithya.

    I get the impression that you were on some kind of voyage with this one. That's the great thing about abstract, you are allowed to take off without a map.

    If you get a chance sometime, pop over and check out my video called "Abstract art explained… Kinda"


    The video is down the bottom of the page.

    You (or may not) appreciate the message, and may be have a laugh too.

    Great work. I hope you keep at it.

    Strenght and honour


  3. Thanks for stopping by Carl. I absolutely agree with you, abstract is a meandering journey that's definitely more fascinating than going with a specific destination in mind. What I started off initially with and what it turned out are vastly different. Thank you for the link, will take a look.


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