Self Expression – How to Understand and Make Abstract Art

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Jackson Pollock

Abstract Art for Self Expression

Good morning! I hope you are having a great day so far? How has your week been? We have been busy with a few different things so haven’t got round to as much Art as we wanted to, but we are going to make more time and space for it for the second half of the week… 

Today we are still exploring the theme of “The Best Version of Myself”, but rather than make self portraits, we are going to discover how abstract art and process art can help us express our personalities, feelings, experiences and more… 

Grown ups – if you want to know more about abstract art, in order to help your kids with it, please give this a read. It is a fairly comprehensive understanding of all aspects of abstract art. 

Ellsworth Kelly - Colours for a Large Wall
Ellsworth Kelly

Abstract Art is not Hard

Just like drawing, I hear from students a lot – especially grown ups – that abstract art is hard and they can’t do it! Just like drawing, it does not have to be hard, and ANYONE can do it! 

You need an open mind, for sure, and a willingness to experiment, and acceptance that things might not go to plan, and a great attitude that makes you want to keep trying and exploring! 

When making abstract art (and any art really), it is often the process of the making that is much more important for the artist, than the final product! This is especially true for children and those developing their artistic practice. You will develop more creative skills, visual appreciation, and artistic techniques by enjoying the different processes involved in making abstract art! So, on that note, lets get going!  


Alma Thomas
Alma Thomas - Click the image for more info

Have a Go!

Abstract Art has so many – maybe even endless – possibilities! It is actually very difficult for me to tell you what to do here, as the whole idea is to find a way of making art that works for you! I want you to experiment with different styles, ideas and techniques in your sketchbook or journal (or on any surface!)

I am going to leave a couple of ideas here’s for you, PLUS check out my post on Process Art Activities for some really fun stuff to try out! 


A NOTE: For everyone, but older children and adults especially – when you are making your pages, think about what you want to express – is it a happy painting? are you making a picture about a really fun memory? Perhaps you are expressing something scary or excited! Although your picture doesn’t need to look like anything specific, its good to start exploring how our pictures can “feel” like something! 


Here are some more really simple ideas: 

  • Draw circles on your page in different colours 
  • Scribble on your page in different coloured pens and pencils 
  • Cut random bits of paper out and stick them to your page. You could make paper springs or doors too and make abstract paper sculptures like this from New Hope Gallery
  • Look at Alma Thomas (above) and see if you can create a similar image. You can use paint strokes, bits of paper, or just pens or crayons to create your picture. 
  • Draw different shapes on your page, overlap some and add lines and dots too… (see Kandinsky below) 
  • Have a look at the other artists below and see if you can make a similar picture 

Artist Inspiration...

I have sprinkled a few artists into the post already – Jackson PollockEllsworth Kelly  and Alma Thomas .. click each name for more info and activities – And here are a few more, starting off with our old friend Romero Britto! 

Romero Britto

If you have been following art camp from the start, you will know all about Romero Britto – click here to read and learn more! 

Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky

Kandisnksy is famous for being a pioneer of abstract art. He used mixed media (lots of different surfaces and paints) to create intricate, shape based paintings, which often included circles. He believed circles were an important symbol of the mysteries of the universe! Is there a shape that symbolises something important to you?  

Alain Clément

Alain Clément is a French abstract painter whose works is based on  a lifelong exploration of colour, lines, curves, gestural strokes and space. His paint strokes are wide and bold, and brightly coloured. How could you achieve this effect? What about using strips of paper, or ribbons?

Willem de Kooning
Willem De Kooning

This is a fun post from Something Silly about De Kooning, and an activity to try to emulate his style. 


Mondrian is a famous abstract painter, known for his simple pictures of black lines and primary colours. He believed that to see everything clearly, you need to break it down to their simplest forms. 

Have a go at making a Mondrian picture by using a ruler to break your page into squares and rectangles, making the lines black with a big marker, or some tape, and then colouring in the squares in different colours. You can use any colours, see which go nicely together and don’t forget to leave some squares white. 

Mark Rothko
Mark Rothko

Rothko is famous for his paintings of bold paintiliy forms of colours. He believed that everyone could make art, and that colour, light and shape could visualise experiences and feelings that everyone could understand. He was a great art teacher of children, and admired children’s art for its freshness, authenticity and intense emotional resonance. 

Have a go at a Rothko painting – use a vertical piece of paper of board, choose colours that contrast and compliment each other, think of a story or feeling to tell, and experiment with the rectangular blocks and lines… 

Dana Gordon
Dana Gordon

Dana Gordon’s abstract pictures are a mix of geometric shapes, loose fluid forms, bold circles, wide brush strokes and paint splatters or drips…. her paintings almost seem to be a mix of Rothko, Mondrian, Britto, Kandinsky and Clément. So, if you want to try a painting like Gordon’s, go crazy and try all kinds of things!! 

Which style do you like? Is there an artist who you feel expresses your own style well? How can you make a picture like this? Try copying a picture exactly if you are struggling…  

Just like in our hand portraits and portraits with words, think about the shapes and colours that you feel represent you. 


Play around in your sketchbook, see what happens! 

You could try putting some music on, and letting that inspire the movement of your hand whilst you paint or draw… 

Lunchtime Viewing

This is a very touching short film…  what do you think to it?


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Katherine is a mixed media artist, art teacher, writer, designer, photographer – and mum of 2 – who works and lives in North Devon, nestled in the woods on a little smallholding. She has a BA in Performance Studies, an MA in Fine Art, and an MFA in photography, alongside a background in early years childhood and special education. Katherine uses her artistic talents, passion for helping people, and unique creativity to create articles, courses and classes that promote creativity, artistic skills, self expression and well-being. She believes in the power of the creative arts and how engaging with them can improve so many aspects of life.
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