Abstraction through Nature

Original Posted 12/13/2008

I have been reading the book "Abstraction in Art & Nature" by Nathan Cabot Hale. This has to be the best book I've read that explains the meaning and evolution of abstraction. He approaches abstraction through identifying the most fundamental and simplification of nature. I have a curiosity and great interest in this type of approach. There is only a sliver of abstract art that appeals to me and most of it derives from nature studies. I have a belief that a landscape in it's purest abstraction needs only one line drawn to express itself.

It's interesting that the elements of drawing does not differ whether you are drawing realistic scenes or pure abstract. All of the elements apply. He identifies 7 elements:
1. Line
2. Form, Shape; Mass
3. Pattern
4. Space, Propostion, Scale and Perspective
5. Analysis - Dissection
6. Light and Darkness, Black; White
7. Color

I haven't much on my drawing board at the moment, so I have been experimenting with a bit of abstraction. I think this is an excellent exercise to strenghten any composition. By reducing the scene to it's elementary shapes and forms, the artist can strengthen their overall understanding of their subject matter. Here is a three step exercise I did of a very complex waterfall landscape. I didn't want to get lost in all the minute textures of the rocks, so I started with identifying the basic shapes (Interesting enough, I created an abstract piece that could be explored further.) The second one, I am trying to get a feel for the flow of the lines. The final one is a final sketch of the waterfall and rocks.

I recently purchased a Cachet by Daler Rowney sketchbook that has recycled brown paper. It's interesting to use this paper as it forces me to concentrate on shapes and values and prevents me from getting into much detail. I use a white pencil to identify the highlights. I'm not sure how much I will use this paper but here are a number of sketches I have done over the last few days.

I have trouble with rocks. I can't seem to get the flow and volume of them. They vary in textures, size, shape, volume....in fact, no two rocks are the same, rocks vary from region to region, state to state and I'm sure country by country. There is sandy, soft, shale, limestone, granite, volcanic...well you get the picture.

This one is a good start of an abstract approach. Concentrating on the weight of the lines and edges to create an interesting composition. These are found in the Valley of Fire just NE of Las Vegas.
Big boulders in the midst of a heavy wooded forest. We have a few of these in Iowa. Backbone State park is the home to a few of these. Iowa has more limestone. While surfing the web, I've discovered that many areas in the New England area (New York, New Hampshire and Massachusetts) are home to these big boulders in heavily wooded ares. These rocks are more angular and really show volume their more dramatic shadows.



Exposed tree roots dipping their fingers in streams. These are part of every Iowa small creek. This one I am more interested in playing with the composition. I've also realized I need to study and practice the texture of dirt under the roots. Also more study is needed in understanding where the ground meets the water and how to handle that convergence.


More roots with a few rocks....and grass draping over eroded areas of the creek bed.


We don't have any oceans or large waves in Iowa. This was a study for the light house drawing I did working with a big splash amongst the rocks.


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