The beginner's guide to abstract art

Abstract art is interesting to view at an art gallery or to adorn your walls with at home. It might be that you’ve seen the odd painting encapsulating this style, but don’t entirely understand what it entails and the history behind this expressive art form.

We uncover everything you need to know in this article, including the questions you want answers to, such as “What is abstract art?” while providing examples of famous abstract artists and the different styles you can expect to discover. You’ll soon be an expert and be able to appreciate the true beauty of abstract art designs.

Abstract art is beautifully unconventional and far from depicting what the artist sees; it’s actually the opposite. The purpose of this art is to steer away from drawing or painting real representations of things.

It often portrays patterns, shapes, and intermittent forms rather than distinctive designs of objects, people, animals or other things. Abstract art doesn’t have to have a particular meaning, explanation, or story behind it - sometimes it does, but it’s not essential.

What’s important about understanding abstract art is that the artist doesn’t necessarily want you to question what’s behind their illustration artwork, they just want you to admire it for what it is, just as you see it in front of you.

Back to basics: What does abstract mean?

In short, it’s a way of thinking that is more conceptual than concrete; there’s no need to search for facts or reality when something is abstract. It’s metaphysical rather than actual, which is why abstract art is so celebrated by the famous abstract artists we know and love.

The many styles of abstract art

It’s worth noting that there are many different styles of abstract art. Artists utilise these styles to produce fine pieces that you can just admire or integrate into your décor to liven up your bedroom or living room space. With so many to list, we’ve chosen three of the most favourable types of abstract art for you to uncover.

1. Abstract expressionism

When an artist manipulates a more traditional art style for dramatic effect, this is known as abstract expressionism. Abstract expressionism originated in New York, back in the 1940s and ‘50s. It’s a modern advancement of abstract art, which focuses on individual emotional expression, using the likes of action painting to create marvellous masterpieces.

As its name denotes, artists painting these pieces do so in an expressive manner, to show how they truly feel, either at that given moment or as they reimagine a flash of emotion. Sporadic paint splatters, dripping paints on the canvas and using less traditional materials, such as house painting brushes and commercial paints, are some of the many ways artists create these impressive pieces.

Popular abstract expressionism artists 

There are many famous abstract artists that represent this iconic style in its truest form. The most notable American abstract expressionist painters have to be Mark Rothko, Alma Thomas, Joan Mitchell, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Elaine de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. Each one paved the way for this emerging art trend, which is still hugely admired today.

2. Monochrome

An ever-popular style of abstract art is monochrome, which only features shades of black and white, with white usually being the canvas colour and black being the paint. Monochrome painting has played a large part in the abstract art world for decades because the artist can simplify their emotional input into a more basic form.

As monochrome artwork developed, abstract artists started noticing the correlation between human emotion and colour. They subverted the norm by eradicating colour, after noticing that the lack of bright hues helped depict a person’s inner self, personal thoughts and experiences. Using just black to create monochromatic designs, therefore, represents universal raw emotion, which makes for stunning masterpieces.

3. Minimalism

In 1960s America, the now famous minimalism style was created. This is known as a powerful type of abstract art, which is usually portrayed through an artist’s use of basic shapes, alternative materials and sharp edges.

It was essentially the successor of the earlier Abstract Expressionism movement, which aimed, and still aims, to conceptualise subjects in their truest form. Although when it comes to minimalistic art, artists would and still do reject Abstract Expressionism. This is because minimalist artists want to entirely remove themselves from the art they are creating, whereas Abstract Expressionists wish(ed) to portray their own personal emotion through their work.

4. Collage

You’ve likely seen collage prints before, without even realising they fall under the category of abstract art. This style refers to an assortment of photographs on one canvas, which are intentionally layered on top of each other at different heights and angles to create an almost 3D effect.

Many believe collage was invented by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, who were Cubist painters. This kind of abstract art is designed to highlight the artist’s greatest interests through layering pictures they use as their muse.

Add abstract art to your home

Now you’re aware of what abstract art is, and what to expect from it, we urge you to take a look at some online abstract art examples. Alternatively, head to a local gallery to appreciate a host of different artists’ designs.

Read through our other helpful blog posts, too, to learn more about various types of art, including our beginner’s guides on contemporary artwork and minimalist design. Ensure you peruse our amazing range of prints, to view the many styles we have to offer that you can introduce to your home.