How to capture a likeness, but a little bit differently

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Artistic license is a wonderful thing. Want to color outside of the lines? Not a problem. Decide the sky looks better green than blue? You go for it. This type of art that works outside of visual references is what we often call abstract art. 

So, let’s get technical about it. ‘Abstract’ is defined as relating to or involving general ideas or qualities rather than specific people, objects, or actions. Instead, colors, forms, lines, curves, mixed media, textures, and the imagination of the artist are the focus. Rather than replicating the exact likeness, you can create your unique artist impression of how you see the subject. The power is in your hands.

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But where did it all start? The art movement entitled ‘Impressionism’ was born as a reaction against the rigid rules of academic painting in 19th-century France. At first, the idea to present an impression of a subject rather than an exact replica was laughed at and swiftly rejected. Then came along the likes of Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley. Recognize any of these names?

Abstract impressionism then came along in New York in the 1940s. Artists used the Impressionist style with real-life scenes, objects, or people, but with an emphasis on varying measures of abstraction. 

Thanks to these greats of the past, the artistic rulebook has been thrown out and we are now free to create without anyone being able to say what is right or wrong. 

Feel like giving it a go? Here are some tips to help you on your way.

Loosen your brushstrokes

It’s all in the brushstrokes. Typically, abstract painters use rapid, loose, large, and visible brushstrokes which marks them apart from traditional painters. 

By adopting visible brushstrokes you can give texture to a painting that creates an impression of the subject rather than an exact image. 

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Blur those lines

Blurred lines help move your work away from a realistic depiction into an abstract piece. By blurring the lines one object is not clearly defined from another creating a hazy, dreamlike effect that opens you up to endless possibilities. 

Focus on the lighting

Take a leaf out of Monet’s book and have a play around with light. This takes the focus away from the subject and lends more to the impression you give of them. 

Color is key

Don’t be afraid to keep your colors separate. Abstract art often embraces vibrant colors due to the use of different painting techniques as opposed to carefully blended color. This allows the hues in the painting to reflect the different tones found in the subject. 

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mage credit: Ricardo Herrera

Don’t be afraid to break the norms

The first abstract painters broke the norms of traditional painting by introducing everyday subjects rather than sticking to historical, religious, and classical themes. Instead, they saw the beauty in everyday people going about their everyday lives. 

So what can you learn from them? Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone, go out and try new things and look for inspiration in unexpected places. 

Ready to create an amazing artistic impression? Submit artwork that expresses how you see Aurora for our latest Universal Music creative mission and you would win a meet and greet with her and £150 of art supplies!


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