Abstract & Realistic Painting Techniques
There is no one way to distinctly define what is an abstract or realistic painting style, since the various
attempts to define each technique tends to differ from each other.
In a very general way, a realistic painting style can be identified more clearly when the subject of the
painting have a very lifelike appearance, while an abstract
painting technique usually does not look like anything that exist in the real world.
Abstract is an art style that deliberately represents nothing concrete; it is a mash up of ideas that focus more
on colors, texture and materials, instead of concentrating on the subject as realism painting does.
The 2 techniques do not have to be exclusively independent of each other. These days, many realism artists find
ways to include a sense of abstraction into their work, and vice versa.
If you are often paint from real life and would like to add a new angle to your painting, you can try to include
the abstract principles of amplifying the value contrasts in the picture. Instead of painting everything too
closely to the real life representatives, add varying degrees of colors and shapes to introduce an impact of
tension into the painting.
Put an extra touch of darkness by mixing blue or purple into the shadows; mix your color palette with white and yellow paints to emphasize sunshine
or the light source of your painting. In general, you need to manipulate your colors to include strong dark and
bright colors together, regardless of the palette of your choice.
Another technique to combine abstract and realistic painting techniques together is by playing up
with other contradicting qualities of the picture. For example, manipulate the size of the subject and the
background to include both big and small objects together.
You can also paint your main subject with hard edges while softer the contours of the background or supporting
details. Practice a lot with various combinations of opposing elements; sadness and happiness, simple and
complicated, so on and so forth, until you are comfortable with the final painting.
You can also change the colors of the subject to make it stand out positively from the background. For starter,
you might want to keep you color palette simple and limit it to only 3 or 4 colors.
Experiment with various color combination, make little swatches of combinations that looks good together,
explore the full potential of each color paint, and add extra colors sparingly only when absolutely necessary. This
approach can be as subtle or as obvious as you wanted it to be, as long as the realism element of the painting is
not heavily distorted by the abstraction.
Some people might hesitate to try adding abstract elements in their works because they are afraid that will
hamper their progress, especially beginners and even more experienced artists who are already comfortable with the
total realism painting style.
In fact, limiting yourself with certain self-made rules will actually encourage you to be more creative and
bolder in your approach to painting your subject. If you are in need of ideas or references, look up to the various
“isms” in the art world: photorealism, impressionism, cubism, sand such.
Who knows, maybe you will be the next artist to start another “isms” movement with your unique abstract yet
realistic painting technique?