Inspiration for Abstract Artwork

Abstract Trees by collage artist Megan Coyle
Megan Coyle. Abstract Trees.

How do you find inspiration for abstract artwork? Although it may seem difficult to figure out how to get started with a nonobjective work of art, you can turn to representational compositions for inspiration. By studying subjects from life or reference photographs, you can gather ideas from the shapes and colors that exist in the world around us.

For instance, let’s say you decided to make a collage based on a picture of a park. Focus in on one of the trees in the park. Then zoom in on a patch of bark on that tree. Draw a rectangle around the patch of bark as a reminder to only focus on what is inside that box. This is what you’d use as a guide to make your abstract collage. Notice the texture and colors that are present. By zooming in on a specific area of texture, it makes it easier to create an abstract composition while looking at a figurative photograph.

Next, work on a collage where you try to exaggerate or simplify the highlights, shadows, colors, as well as basic shapes that make up that image of bark. Remember you shouldn’t try to create a realistic or representational image – you should only focus on colors and shapes. You should boil the image down to its basic elements. Take a look at Coyle’s abstract rendering of bark.

As mentioned above, you can use reference photographs to hone in on specific areas to inspire abstract compositions. Or you can study the work of other artists. By seeing the similarities and differences that exist in other abstract artwork, you can get ideas about what to do/not to do with your own art. Keep in mind that you don’t want to copy what other artists are doing – just use their work to give yourself more of a context of what’s being done with nonobjective artwork.

Studying the shapes and colors that make up different scenes or environments can help you create simplified versions of what you see in real life. For example, notice how Coyle simplified a few landscapes by breaking down the scenes into simple shapes:

Coyle was able to draw inspiration from life to create her layered landscapes. She paid close attention to the colors in different settings and slightly exaggerated these details in her work.

Now that you have a few ideas of where to find inspiration, you can get started on your own abstract collage series.

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