Some people naturally appreciate modern art. I am not one of them. Several times, I’ve found myself standing in an art gallery, staring at a painting called something like “Red Line on White Canvas,” and thinking, “I could do that.”
Today, I actually tried it. I got out my colored pencils . . . and had absolutely no ideas. I hadn’t realized how hard it would be to create art that didn’t look like physical objects.
To give myself some inspiration, I browsed the work of two abstract expressionist painters, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. Rothko’s paintings depict colored rectangles. Newman’s works feature bright colors with thin vertical lines running through them. I’m not a very good artist, but I decided to imitate both of these artists. How hard could it be to draw some lines and color blocks?
It was much harder than I thought. Drawing the shapes was fairly easy, but it was hard to create a picture that was visually pleasing. I couldn’t explain why, but my pictures were less interesting than the originals. My rectangles looked like random blobs. My lines weren’t very striking.
This reminded me of a conversation several of my friends who are art majors had about abstract art. They said that it was hard to create good composition with such limited subject matter.
While I still don’t understand modern art, I gained a new appreciation for artists who can make such a simple structure hold the viewers’ attention. It’s a deceptively simple art form.