Express Yourself! 7 Carefree Abstract Painting Ideas

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If you've never been one to follow the rules, these abstract painting ideas are probably right up your artistic alley.

A fascinating sector of painting, abstract painting doesn't rely on particular rules of shape, form or representation, instead focusing on a more emotional interpretation of a scene or subject matter. While that can make it difficult to relegate abstract painting to one particular look, it makes it awfully fun to explore.

These abstract painting ideas for acrylic paint will show some of the many directions you can take.

1. Abstracted views

The painting above takes inspiration from photos of the Earth taken from space. With dreamy colors fading seamlessly into the next, it's not hard to imagine the beautiful, serene sight of the outer space sky. By painting an already abstract-looking scene, it's easy to get inspired to paint an abstract piece.

2. Abstracted animals 

Try starting a painting in a realistic style, then build out in an abstract method.

The focal point of this painting, rendered in acrylic and pastel, is the wise eyes of an owl. While the eyes and beak are painted realistically, the rest is artistically distorted.

The feathers are rendered with dots and dashes of rainbow-colored paints, and the backdrop is a painterly melange of color blocks that fade into one another. Pastel highlights add visual contrast and keep the eyes moving all over the painting. 

3. Fractured reality

If representational art is more up your alley, start here. From a distance, the scene clearly represents a bustling crowd on a busy city street. However, up close you can see that the figures are actually painted in an abstract style, with smears and lines of paint assembled together to create forms and shapes.

You can experiment in this style by starting with a fairly literal scene, but then experimenting with how you apply the paint on your canvas. 

4. Meditative abstract art

Make abstract art a meditation and exploration. According to the artist of the work above, a painting like this can be created using canvas, paintbrushes and "anything you want use" — that could include feathers marbles, kitchen forks, empty dish soap bottles and more.

The painting becomes more about the process of creating and following your instincts about applying color and shape than about creating a representational piece. By laying out unique materials and ways to explore applying paint to canvas, you may end up with an extra-special outcome. 

5. Experimentations with color and texture

The unique acrylic painting above shows a beautiful exploration of color, line and shape. Acrylic paint was applied in threadlike strokes to create flowing, beautiful imagery.

While not necessarily a representational piece, the finished outcome has a floral-looking pattern that fascinates the eyes with the incredible amount of movement and detail contained in the piece.

By experimenting with painting in thin lines of color that are stacked together in shapes and forms, you can create interesting and textured art.

6. Combine cubist and expressionist style

Here's an interesting way to approach creating abstract art: combine cubist and impressionist styles.

The top portion of this painting is somewhat representational, showing a mosque painted in a cubist style, with simplified shapes and defined shapes. The bottom of the painting, showing the reflection of the building in water, is even more abstract, going into an almost impressionistic style, featuring flecks of paint in colors that mirror the colors above.

The mix of hard lines and flowing strokes makes for an abstract visual treat. 

7. Paint like Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock shaped the abstract expressionist movement with his style of painting, characterized by spontaneity of creation. This unique painting features a mess of lines and spatters of paint.

The painter laid a canvas on the floor and "danced to music while painting."The creativity and buoyant energy shines through in the finished piece.

Why not try getting lost in creating a painting, and focusing on the process rather than the finished product? You might end up with a masterpiece.

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Editor's Note: This post was originally published in December 2015 and was updated in January 2018.
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Express Yourself! 7 Carefree Abstract Painting Ideas