10 Abstract Expressionism Ideas for Beginners
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. Create Dynamic Contrast
  2. Experiment with Color Field
  3. Use Dripping Technique
  4. Try Action Painting
  5. Incorporate Non-objective Imagery
  6. Use of Automatic Drawing
  7. Experiment with Collage and Found Objects
  8. Employ Abstract Sculpture
  9. Create Large-Scale Works
  10. Use of Gestural Brushstrokes

Abstract expressionism: a style of painting that's as intriguing as it is intimidating, especially if you're just starting. But fear not! We've compiled a list of 10 simple yet effective abstract expressionism painting ideas that will help you get your paintbrush moving. With these tips under your belt, you'll be ready to express your own abstract ideas through your art.

Create Dynamic Contrast

One of the most effective ways to bring your abstract expressionist painting to life is by creating dynamic contrast. This technique can give your artwork a unique sense of depth and motion that's sure to captivate viewers.

First off, let's talk about what dynamic contrast is: it's the difference between the lightest and darkest parts of your painting. It's like a visual tug-of-war, where light and dark elements fight for attention, bringing a sense of excitement and tension to your artwork.

Here are a few tips on how you can achieve this:

  • Use different shades: Don't limit yourself to just black and white. Explore different shades of the same color. For example, you can combine dark blues with lighter ones to create an interesting contrast.
  • Combine different colors: Who says contrast can only be achieved with shades? Combine colors that are opposite on the color wheel—like red and green, or blue and orange—to create a vibrant contrast.
  • Play with textures: Contrast isn't just about color; it's also about texture. You can use thick, bold strokes in one area and thin, delicate ones in another to create an appealing contrast.

Remember, abstract expressionism is all about expressing your emotions and ideas without getting too caught up in realistic representation. So feel free to play around with dynamic contrast and see what exciting abstract expressionism painting ideas you come up with!

Experiment with Color Field

Color field painting is another intriguing path you can explore in the world of abstract expressionism. This style puts emphasis on the vast expanses of color, allowing you to express your feelings and ideas through the interplay of different hues. So, how can you start experimenting with color field in your abstract expressionism painting ideas?

  • Choose your colors wisely: The colors you choose can set the mood for your entire painting. Warm colors like red, yellow, and orange can give off a sense of energy and passion, while cool colors like blue and green often bring a sense of calm and serenity.
  • Blend your colors: Mixing your colors can lead to some unexpected and exciting results. For instance, you can try blending two colors together and see the unique shade it creates, then incorporate this into your painting.
  • Consider color relationships: Colors aren't just standalone elements; they can interact with each other in fascinating ways. Consider how colors contrast or complement each other, and use this to your advantage in your painting.

Remember: in color field painting, color isn't just a tool—it's the star of the show. So don't be afraid to dive deep into your palette and let your colors do the talking in your abstract expressionism painting ideas.

Use Dripping Technique

When we talk about abstract expressionism painting ideas, we can't overlook the dripping technique. Made famous by the likes of Jackson Pollock, this method involves letting paint drip onto the canvas from your brush or even directly from the paint can. It may seem random, but with a bit of practice, you can create some truly mesmerizing patterns and textures.

  • Choose your paint: The kind of paint you use can significantly affect the outcome of your dripping technique. Acrylic paint is a popular choice for its versatility and ease of control. But if you're after a more fluid, unpredictable result, you might want to consider using oil paint or even watercolor.
  • Control your drips: While the dripping technique is largely about surrendering control, you still have a say in where and how the paint drips. You might want to try tilting your canvas, using a straw to guide the drips, or changing the distance from which you're dripping the paint to achieve different effects.
  • Experiment with layers: You don't have to stop at one layer of drips. By letting your paint dry between layers, you can create a sense of depth and dimension in your painting that wouldn't be possible otherwise.

Keep in mind, the dripping technique can be a bit messy, so make sure you're prepared before you start. Once you've embraced the unpredictability of it all, you're ready to create some truly unique abstract expressionism painting ideas.

Try Action Painting

Another fascinating approach to abstract expressionism painting ideas involves channeling your energy directly onto the canvas. This method, known as action painting, is all about capturing motion and feeling rather than focusing on the final product.

  • Think about movement: The key to action painting is in its name: action. This isn't about carefully planned brushstrokes; it's about expressing yourself through the movement of your arm, your brush, and your body. So, put on some music, let loose, and see where your movements take you.
  • Select your tools: While traditional paintbrushes can certainly be used for action painting, you might find other tools that better capture your energy. Try using palette knives, sponges, or even your own hands to apply the paint and create different textures and effects.
  • Let the paint lead: Action painting is about spontaneity. Don't worry if you don't know what you're going to paint when you stand in front of your canvas. Let the colors and the motion guide you. The result might surprise you.

In the end, remember that action painting is not about creating a perfect piece of art—it's about the process. So, don't be afraid to make a mess, to make mistakes, and to let your feelings guide your abstract expressionism painting ideas.

Incorporate Non-objective Imagery

One of the most exciting aspects of abstract expressionism painting ideas is the freedom to break away from representational art. Incorporating non-objective imagery is a way to do just that—let's explore this idea a bit further.

  • What is non-objective imagery?: This might sound like a fancy term, but it's quite simple. Non-objective imagery refers to elements that don't depict anything we can identify from the real world. Instead, they focus on color, shape, and form. It's like creating your very own visual language!
  • Color, form, and texture: When using non-objective imagery, your painting doesn't need to "look like" anything in particular. You are free to explore different colors, forms, and textures. You can create striking compositions with blobs of color, geometric shapes, or sweeping lines—whatever speaks to you.
  • Expressing emotion: Non-objective imagery is a great way to express emotion. Bright colors might convey joy or energy, while darker tones could represent sadness or mystery. Remember, there's no right or wrong here—it's all about what you feel and want to convey.

So, the next time you're searching for abstract expressionism painting ideas, why not try your hand at non-objective imagery? You might find this liberating approach opens up a whole new world of creativity for you.

Use of Automatic Drawing

Ever thought about painting without a plan? That's what automatic drawing is all about. Let's dive into this abstract expressionism painting idea and see how it can open up new avenues of creativity for you.

  • What is automatic drawing?: Automatic drawing involves creating without conscious thought, allowing your hand to move freely across the canvas. It's all about spontaneity and letting your subconscious take the reins.
  • Letting go of control: This technique is a fantastic way to step out of your comfort zone. You might be surprised at the shapes and patterns your hand creates when you let go of control. Remember, it's not about the destination, but the journey of creation.
  • Discovering new forms: Automatic drawing can help you discover new forms and ideas that you might not have thought of otherwise. It's a great way to push the boundaries of your creativity and bring fresh, unexpected elements into your art.

So, why not give automatic drawing a try? It's a bold, fun, and exciting way to generate new abstract expressionism painting ideas, and you never know—you might just surprise yourself with the results!

Experiment with Collage and Found Objects

Looking for a new way to express your creativity? Why not give collage a go? This abstract expressionism painting idea involves using found objects to create a multi-dimensional masterpiece. Let's explore this a bit more.

  • What is a collage?: Collage is an art technique where the artwork is made from an assemblage of different forms, creating a new whole. This could include pieces of colored or hand-made papers, ribbons, bits of text, photographs, and other found objects, glued to a canvas or board.
  • Using found objects: The use of found objects in your collage can add a touch of uniqueness to your work. These could be anything from buttons, bits of fabric, leaves, or even pieces of an old map. It's a great way to incorporate elements of the everyday world into your art.
  • Creating variety in texture: One of the biggest advantages of using collage and found objects is the variety of textures it can add to your artwork. This can make your piece more visually appealing and give it a sense of depth and complexity.

So, are you ready to mix things up a bit? Experimenting with collage and found objects can bring a whole new dimension to your abstract expressionism painting ideas. Remember, art is all about expression and exploration—so don't be afraid to get a little creative!

Employ Abstract Sculpture

Sculpture? In a painting? You heard right! One of the most fascinating abstract expressionism painting ideas lies in incorporating elements of sculpture into your artwork. This might sound a bit out there, but let's break it down:

  • What is abstract sculpture?: Abstract sculpture, like abstract painting, doesn't try to represent an accurate depiction of visual reality. Instead, it uses shapes, colors, forms, and gestural marks to achieve its effect.
  • Incorporating sculpture in your painting: Ever thought of adding a 3D touch to your painting? Using materials like clay, wood, or even metal, you can create small sculptures to attach to your canvas. This could be anything from abstract shapes to more recognizable forms.
  • Creating a unique visual experience: Combining painting with sculpture can create a unique visual experience. The added depth can make your work more engaging and interactive, inviting viewers to look at your work from different angles.

So, why not push the boundaries of your abstract expressionism painting ideas? By embracing abstract sculpture in your art, you can create pieces that are not only visually striking but also full of depth and intrigue. Remember, in the world of abstract expressionism, there are no rules—only endless possibilities!

Create Large-Scale Works

Ever stared at a giant painting and wondered how the artist managed to create such a masterpiece? The sheer size of a large-scale painting can be awe-inspiring. One of the lesser-known yet highly effective abstract expressionism painting ideas is to go big with your art. Let's dive into why and how:

  • Why go big?: Large-scale works often have a powerful impact. They command attention and allow for a level of detail and complexity that smaller works may not. Plus, they give you a grand canvas to express your imagination.
  • How to approach large-scale painting: Starting a large-scale work can seem daunting. Begin by sketching out your ideas on a smaller scale. Once you're happy with your design, you can then transfer it onto your large canvas. Remember to step back often to check the overall effect, as you'll be working close-up a lot of the time.
  • Tools and techniques: For large-scale abstract expressionism painting ideas, you'll need larger tools. Consider using large brushes, palette knives, or even rollers to apply paint. Experiment with different techniques such as layering, scraping, and dripping to create different effects.

Ultimately, creating large-scale works can be an exciting adventure in the realm of abstract expressionism. It's about daring to dream big, taking risks, and expressing your emotions on a grand scale. So, why not give it a shot? You might just surprise yourself with what you can achieve.

Use of Gestural Brushstrokes

When it comes to abstract expressionism painting ideas, utilizing gestural brushstrokes is akin to speaking a visual language. In abstract expressionism, these brushstrokes often embody the artist's emotional energy. So, how do you make your brush dance to your emotions? Let's explore:

  • Embrace the freedom: Forget strict shapes or uniform strokes. When using gestural brushstrokes, let your brush move freely across the canvas. Whether it's a swirl, zig-zag, or a blot, every stroke is a reflection of your mood and inner world.
  • Experiment with different brushes: Different brush types can create different effects. A flat brush can make broad, sweeping strokes, while a round brush might be perfect for detailed work. Try using various sizes and shapes to see what works best for you.
  • Play with paint: The thickness of your paint can greatly affect your brushstrokes. Thicker paint can create textured, visible strokes, while thinner paint gives a smoother finish. Don't be afraid to experiment with different paint consistencies.

Remember, the beauty of gestural brushstrokes comes from their spontaneity and uniqueness. So, let go of any inhibitions and allow your brush to move naturally. It's not just about creating art—it's about expressing yourself in the most authentic way possible. And who knows? Your next gestural brushstroke might just be your masterpiece.

If you enjoyed exploring abstract expressionism ideas for beginners and want to further develop your artistic vision, don't miss the workshop, 'Expressing Your Unique Artistic Vision' by Michael Ryan. This workshop will help you unlock your creative potential and guide you in expressing your unique artistic vision through abstract expressionism.