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Abstract Thinking

Abstract thinking
For three days in May, MSA Studio 458 was filled with energy, focus, color and risk-taking. Six MSA members joined another 12 artists and all were fully engaged in learning how to create abstract art as guided by Debora Stewart during this workshop sponsored by the Pastel Society of Western New York.
Debora Stewart is a signature member of the Pastel Society of America, a member of the Master's Circle of the International Association of Pastel Societies and the author of a Northlight book titled Abstract Art Painting: Expressions in Mixed Media. She teaches workshops in abstraction throughout the U.S. and her work is available through galleries in Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois.
The artists at the workshop were friendly, interesting and ready to learn. And, it was especially nice to be with my MSA colleagues Gabby Lodder, Diane Bellenger, Linda Cala, Jackie Lippa and Margot Fass –  they were all fun and supportive.
Materials and approaches that Debora introduced us to opened up many new possibilities for our creation of abstract art. I particularly loved the freedom I experienced on Day 1. To begin, Deborah guided us in a warm-up activity. We needed a piece of compressed charcoal and large newsprint. She stated a word and we made lines and marks on our paper.
I worked over the whole page and very much enjoyed the large movements I made with my arm to create  the various marks. I surprised myself with my strong response to "anger." I really felt the anger that had been sitting inside of me because of injury and weakness of a dear elderly friend because I think questionable medical practices contributed to her condition.
After releasing these feelings on the paper I was free to take delight in a much lighter word that woke up memories of a recent beautiful RPO concert. This activity truly was a warm-up and an opening up to the activities that were to follow. I have since made a "bag of words" for myself to use as a warm-up often when I work.
Another process I really liked was to use a viewfinder to locate abstract images in a black and white picture. I borrowed one of Debora’s that was from a photo of a cliff in Maine. What a delightful challenge to hunt for the lines, shapes, textures and directions that make up an abstract image! I made at least five or six small images and then a larger one that I think is quite strong. Then Debora modeled choosing a range of values from a pair of complementary colors to use in an image. I made a small, colorful abstract and then one that is 8-by-8 inches. There was a lot to explore with orange and blue and different shades and values from these families.

I want to continue exploring an abstract approach to art using the processes and materials Debora introduced. I think within the next year that the walls of MSA and the PSWNY art shows will have some vibrant and colorful abstract art work on display. It was a very successful workshop!

-- Sue Henry

Deborah Stewart doing a portrait demo

MSA members and workshop participants, Diane Bellenger and Gabriele Lodder

Abstract by Sue Henry

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