10 February 2015


by Andy Weddington
Tuesday, 10 February 2015

"There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality." Pablo Picasso 

Picasso is correct. And he is not alone in that belief. Alice Neel (1900-1984), a master of line and color especially in her expressive portraits, thought likewise. And the list of visual artists who believe all creativity first begins with seeing (or hearing, smelling, tasting, touching) something is long. It only makes sense. 

For a long while, exploring ideas of simplification - in everything from national security to foreign policy to warfighting to painting - has made for a restless mind and busy hands; with keyboard and brushes. 

Out of the blue, warfighting and painting not-so-accidently collided a few days ago while at the easel; hands full of loaded brushes while the keyboard idled. Funny how things happen when you simply go to work. As Chuck Close, a famous painter of big portraits, said, "Inspiration is for amateurs, professionals go to work." 

Anyway, to explain...

A reader of this forum, an elected judge (whom I've not met but resides in a state we once lived) who happens to be married to a Marine (Vietnam veteran), has an interest in painting. Not quite a week ago we exchanged a few rounds of notes about a landscape abstract (new territory in the pursuit of simplifying) I painted recently while on holiday escape to a remote cay. 

Next under is that still to be titled painting. 

20 x 20 in. acrylic on canvas

I'll not bore you with analysis of the obviously simple yet deceptively complex painting nor the particulars of our discourse. In the last note received there was comment as to how interesting it'd be to paint an abstract in neutrals. Happily, that is something I've been working on for a while so I sent along the next under image of a painting for contemplation.

The "model" for the above painting was not landscape but objects familiar to me. And the original painting was not done in neutrals (black and white) but color. The color was changed to neutrals through the wonders of (computer not paint) technology. 

Not recognizable, necessarily. It's abstract - that started with something. 

In much of what we see nothing more than shape is needed to make identification. Color plays a secondary role, typically. 

But not in this case (at least to moving what is abstract to not necessarily abstract).

So to keep the painting a true abstract, the colors were changed (again, harnessing technology). Next under is the painting - moving from neutrals into color to enliven shapes and space.

As it is, color adds interest but does not help with recognition. 

And then there is the original - an abstract that for some is not as abstract as it was in neutrals and out-of-context colors. Next under the painting. Color's role (over shape) now dominant thus no longer is the painting an abstract to the eye - at least to some. 


13 x 20 in. acrylic on canvas

While studying the original painting, an idea struck - for remembering Napoleon Bonaparte's philosophy that "A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon." 

Some of the first drafts from that idea - the collision of warfighting and painting - seems to me to have much potential for advertising and selling the Marine Corps and recruiting Marines.


And some ideas with another 'abstract' painting...

The possibilities, with sundry ribbon combinations, practically endless.

Simplicity - of line and color and shape. 


Not abstract.

Will the intriguing visual - abstract art - arouse curiosity? Will young men and women be attracted to learn more about service to country - about "soldiering" - by simple painted bits of colored ribbon?

Think Napoleon. 

Marines, you be the judge. You too, Judge. 

What do you think?

Post Script

Original painting 'Decoration' left to right: Silver Star; Combat Action; Purple Heart; Navy/Marine Corps Commendation; Navy Cross. 

Other painting left to right: Medal of Honor; Purple Heart; National Defense; Navy/Marine Corps Achievement.  

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