The greatest divide, artistically speaking, among art students seems to me between those who like to work representationally and those who like to work abstractly. Both camps seem rather set in their ways, not crossing over into the opposite territory unless an assignment demands it. However, as someone who has worked almost entirely representationally their entire life, I’ve recently found that there is something particularly joyous about abstraction.

I’ve found it to be a freeing experience that allows me to break away from the confines of realism, even if it is stylized realism. Instead of looking for exactitude, I feel my way around the paper or canvas, something I’m not used to doing. It still takes a lot of thought to create an abstract piece, but by distilling art down to its formal components there’s a certain freedom that representational work doesn’t allow. There’s a pressure with representational work to create something known, something recognizable, while abstract work taps into a person’s inherent sense of beauty.

What can so easily seem like an artist has turned off their brain is actually an artist using a completely different perspective. Here: color, form and composition are mixed with basic emotion, untarnished by overthinking and over-analyzing. And that is what so appeals to me about abstract art. I have a habit of overthinking everything, but when I slash my paintbrush across the canvas or curl wire into a certain shape, my brain is on a very different wavelength. There are no facts, there’s just the immediate symbolism, the innate connotations and reactions to color, form, and shape.

Rather than work from the connotations society gives objects, people, gender, and more, I am working from instinct and my work becomes about playing into that instinct rather than trying to convey a specific idea.

The rules of composition still apply and are very much necessary to create an effective piece, so total freedom isn’t achieved. However, it feels like it has, since I’ve thrown away the constraints of reality.