Abstract Landscape Art

Abstract Landscape Art – Expressing Yourself

I’ve always found landscape art work quite interesting. However, being a slave to a particular location’s physical characteristics wasn’t of particular interest to me. Creating a scene that defined a mood more than a location captures my interest. This is where abstract landscape art becomes engrossing to me.

The Lure of Plein-Air Painting

It may seem contradictory, but going out into the great outdoors and situating yourself midst your subject encourages the use of all your senses, whether consciously or not. The water creeping higher from an advancing tide. Light glistening off a cresting wave. Sunlight streaming between trees swaying in the wind. All these scenes open up your senses of hearing, seeing, touch, smell and even taste!

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh
Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Think of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. It’s a dreamy interpretation of the night sky and village as viewed from his window while staying at a mental health asylum. This painting opens itself to many interpretations, all derived from the abstract expressiveness of the landscape. We may not be sure of what Vincent was thinking as he painted, but we do know the subject as expressed by him is infinitely open to our own views and feelings.

When I view a scene, I initially take in all the scene has to offer. What is the overall mood? Does it have morning sun? Is there a light rainy mist? Is it a monotone sand dune or full of color like a wildflower meadow? And on another note, am I fully energized or am I chilled? My emotional state may strongly influence the mood of the painting.

Spring Thaw: Abstract Moodiness

Living close to the sea in Atlantic Canada offers opportunities to visit remote rural villages at all times of the year. Visiting a village or coastal area in the summer offers a completely different mood than a visit during late winter or early spring. When I view these locations, I try to capture more of what I am feeling than what I see.

During early spring, you’re pretty tired of the snow and the damp that has been the norm for most of the past six months. The view is still monochrome and still a bit dreary, but there is also a faint hint of what the future has in store for us in the upcoming season – sunlight glistening on the telegraph wires, a bit of glare on the wet dirt road, the hills still brown, but offering hope – nature’s twilight zone between winter and summer.

Abstract Landscape Art
Spring Thaw by Michael Doyle

The sea and the hills are very loosely defined to add to the mood, but also to allow a certain focus on the village itself. I guess the main feeling is a bit of melancholy but with distinct hope for the upcoming season!

Summer in the City: Playfulness

When summer is in full swing, there is a certain amount of joy in the air in places that experience long winters. When I want to express lightness and fun, I try to add a lot more color in my abstract landscape art.

Abstract Landscape Art
Summer in the City by Michael Doyle

With the trees, I want to show the dancing light and in the water I want to show blues and whites that show the sun sparkling on the pool waves.

The abstractness in the people seem to come about as I view these people enjoying the beautiful day with conversations merging instead of having a well-defined expression – I feel like I’m viewing an afternoon instead of a single moment in time. Maybe the idea is to have your painting be similar to a short video!

In much of what I create, I like to drop off the peripheral views of a scene and focus straight ahead. Perhaps this is because I’m not really a multi-tasker and like to delve into one project at a time. You never know!

Visual Isolation: Solitude

Walking on isolated beaches conjures up all sorts of thoughts. I am all alone and feeling isolated. Sometimes this is restorative. Other times you feel all alone in the world. But then, throw in signs of human activity. A fish shack. A fishing boat. You’re not alone. You’re now midst someone else’s world.

Abstract Landscape Art
Pebble Beach by Michael Doyle

Your thoughts are between their environment and yours. With this thought process, the background becomes indistinct as I focus on the fisher’s shack and boat, but with the pebbles and water glistening in the afternoon light. My thoughts then go to the occupant’s livelihood and their ability to eke out an existence from the land or water. Would I like to do the same thing?

Each of these thoughts adjusts the mood expressed in the painting as it develops. By creating an abstraction of the scene, your art now expresses a mood rather than just making an observation.

Interestingly, how a landscape evolves very much depends on the season, time of day and your mood at that moment.

Abstract Thoughts: The Art of Expression.

As I view a landscape scene, I really have no idea how it will turn out. A certain style may dominate, but the end result is a mishmash of thoughts, mood, season, time of day and perhaps whom you’re with.

Rather than realistically painting a scene, an abstractly expressive landscape may actually be a window into your mind, for better or worse. It’s often interesting that the painting’s expressed mood may only show up toward the end. Perhaps not what you originally felt when starting your creative process, but a work in progress.

I’d love to know what others think of this concept. Perhaps people paint or acquire art to create a mood that they can return to on a regular basis.

Let me know what you think.

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16 thoughts on “Abstract Landscape Art – Expressing Yourself”

  1. Wow, absolutely fantastic art, I am so impressed, my first question is how long did it take you to become sush a good artist, I would love to do stuff like this myself but unfortunately I just wouldn’t be able to do it, yours are all so good it’s difficult to choose which is my favorite one, but pebble beach and summer in the city are exceptionally good, could you recommend any online training courses where I could perhaps learn to paint, I would love to give it a go.



    1. Thanks for your great comments! I have been at my artwork for quite a while and did go to art college, though most of what I’ve done over the years is graphic design.

      Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with a lot of on-line art classes. But mybluprint.com does offer a number of courses encompassing sketching and painting lessons in a step-by-step approach. It may well be a great site to check out. Good luck!

  2. This is indeed an interesting article, It is oftern said that Art elicits the contemplation of the mysteries of era. Whether you admire it or not, art influences our feelings and sometimes alter our mood even drastically. we make choices about color, line, texture, and composition to evoke or express feelings. Sometimes this leads to abstracting a subject to make it more expressive.

    1. Indeed, the mysteries of an era are very often expressed in artwork. It’s also interesting that art that you may not like still conjures up feelings. Isn’t that, essentially, what an artist attempts to do – create a response the same way a writer attempts to get a point across. Perhaps abstract art is like an abstract thought…

      Thanks for your comments!

  3. Hi Mike. Thank you for this fantastic article. I felt like I was walking on the beach, or observing the brown hills. I also love abstract landscape art. But I must admit I love landscape art of any kind. If it’s done well I feel like I’m in that picture and part of the landscape. You took me into the abstract world with some of the great pictures you added too your blog. Van Gogh’s Starry night captures the soul and drifts you in and out of reality. ‘Summer in the city’ warms the body and makes you wish that summer was back (it’s winter where I live). I absolutely loved his blog and can’t wait to see more. Jim

    1. Thanks Jim! I’m right in the middle of summer here. Because summer seems so short here (we had a looong cold spring) I appreciate the warm days and gentle breezes that we get so few of here in Atlantic Canada. “Starry Night” does hold a special place in my psych. I actually love most of Van Gogh’s paintings and go to any of the touring shows I’m close to when I can.

      Thank you for your comments. 

  4. This is the first that I heard of this term and it is interesting because I see theses types of arts all the time. I live in NYC and yes I get to see the real Starry night 🙂 at MoMa. When I look at Starry Night, I feel sad and lonely. It is amazing on how paintings can do that to us.

    I love Summer in the City, the coloring just brings people to live and they just mind their businesses. I wish I can express my mood to paintings. 

    Great paintings. 

    1. Wow! Having close access to MoMa sound incredible! Yes, I believe paintings such as Starry Night can really stir up emotions. I have a print of it hanging in my house. It gives me inspiration.

      Thanks for your kind comments.

  5. What I appreciate most about your pieces is how you use white space & light to draw the observer’s eye to the centre of the page – I will have to try that in my next piece. I’m an acrylic artist, so never have as much white space. I will have to think of how I can get some of your effect using my medium. Thanks for the tip – I look forward to seeing more of your work.

    1. Thanks, Kendra, for your comments. I also do some artwork with acrylics. I appreciate the way the paints can dry quickly, if I want. And their ability to cover underlying paint either opaquely or transparently. Who knows… Someday I may even experiment with oils!

  6. The examples you gave were truly inspiring. ‘Starry Night’ is one of my favorite pieces of art. I could stare at the painting all day. The feelings it evokes in me: are sadness and loneliness but also a childlike wonder. My eyes never seem to focus on the village for too long but get lost in the night sky.

    The other examples you gave, I would never have pegged them as abstract. Indeed, I am not an art expert; I know what they teach in high school art class. But I have gone to art museums to take in the great works, but as you were explaining, I could see how the art had abstract aspects.

    Thank you for sharing these beautiful paintings and thoughts with us.

    1. I guess I would call my artwork in a grey area between abstract and reality, kind of like a twilight zone. Some parts of a painting are visually straight forward, while others are a bit enigmatic. I like to err toward mood if I can. Thanks for your comments!

  7. Nice post with a great explanation.
    I never thought of Van Gogh’s art that way, but I am impressed by it.

    Your paintings are also very impressive! My immediate impression of Spring Thaw was of the East Coast of Canada. While I have never been there, I have watched plenty of movies filmed there and you captured it beautifully.
    As well, Summer in the City reminded me of vacations I was on as a child. Thank you for sharing your amazing work!

    1. Thanks for your kind comments! Indeed “Spring Thaw” is classic rural Atlantic Canada. I head out of the city and enjoy driving the rural back roads at every opportunity. It’s a truly unique area! As for “Summer in the City”, I lived between 2 pools as a kid and spent summers in the water. I still go to a pool every week!

    1. Thanks, Rique. The interesting thing about paintings or art in general is how it gets interpreted by both artist and observer. We are often inspired in many different ways.

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