Eastern Philosophy in Abstract Art: Tips for Artists
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. Introduction to Eastern Philosophy
  2. Applying Eastern Philosophy in Art
  3. Create Balance and Harmony
  4. Embrace the Concept of Emptiness
  5. Use Symbolism
  6. Incorporate Natural Elements
  7. Play with Light and Shadow
  8. Experiment with Calligraphy
  9. Practice Meditation and Mindfulness
  10. Connect with the Art Community

Art and philosophy often go hand in hand, and when it comes to abstract expressionism, there's no exception. The influence of eastern philosophy in abstract expressionism is an intriguing topic that we're going to explore today. So, if you're an artist looking to infuse your work with a fresh perspective, or simply someone with a keen interest in the fusion of art and philosophy, this is for you.

Introduction to Eastern Philosophy

Now, let's dip our brushes into the vivid colors of eastern philosophy. Unlike its western counterpart, which often focuses on rationality and logic, eastern philosophy leans towards intuition and spirituality. It emphasizes interconnectedness, balance, and the intrinsic value of nature. If you think about it, it's a bit like a beautifully woven tapestry — every thread is important and contributes to the overall picture.

Eastern philosophy consists of various schools of thought, each with its own unique flavor. For example, Buddhism talks about the impermanence of life, while Taoism speaks about harmony and following the natural flow of things. And then, there's Confucianism, which focuses on ethics, family relationships, and societal harmony.

Now, think about these concepts as colors on your palette. How would you integrate them into your art? How would they shape your abstract expressionism? That's what we're going to find out.

As we move forward, remember that the beauty of eastern philosophy in abstract expressionism lies in its flexibility. You don't have to follow a strict set of rules. Instead, let it guide you, inspire you, and open new avenues for your artistic exploration.

So, are you ready to paint with the hues of eastern philosophy? Let's see how you can apply these concepts to create your own unique style of abstract expressionism.

Applying Eastern Philosophy in Art

Ever stood in front of an abstract painting and wondered, "What does it mean?" Well, that's the beauty of abstract expressionism. It encourages us to perceive beyond the visible, to feel rather than analyze. Now, let's see how we can apply eastern philosophy to this.

First off, remember that eastern philosophy is all about balance, harmony, and the natural flow of life. So, how about you start by reflecting these concepts in your color choices? For instance, you could use contrasting shades to depict the duality of Yin and Yang, a fundamental concept in Taoism. Or, paint an abstract image using soft, blended colors to represent Buddhist ideas of interconnectedness and impermanence.

Another way to incorporate eastern philosophy in abstract expressionism is through the use of shapes and forms. An irregular, free-flowing form can mirror the Taoist concept of 'going with the flow.' On the other hand, a circular shape could symbolize the Buddhist idea of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

And then, there's the spatial arrangement of your art. The placement of your art elements can create a sense of harmony and balance. Also remember, in eastern philosophy, less is often more. So, don't be afraid to leave some areas of your canvas empty. This 'emptiness' can actually speak volumes.

Now, don't feel overwhelmed. You don't have to use all these techniques at once. Try them one by one. Experiment. Explore. And most importantly, have fun with it.

As you dive deeper into the world of eastern philosophy in abstract expressionism, you'll discover that it's not just about painting a picture. It's about expressing your innermost thoughts and emotions, creating a dialogue without words, and connecting with your audience on a deeper level.

Create Balance and Harmony

Think about a time when you saw an object perfectly balanced. It could be anything—a stack of books, a pair of shoes, or even your own reflection in the mirror. Did you feel a sense of calm and peace? That's what balance can do. It brings order to chaos, infuses calmness into agitation, and provides structure to randomness.

Now, imagine bringing this balance into your art. In the context of eastern philosophy in abstract expressionism, balance doesn't necessarily mean symmetry. It's not about having equal parts of color, shape, or texture on both sides of your canvas. Instead, it's about finding harmony amidst the chaos, creating a rhythm that guides the viewer's eye across your artwork.

One way to create balance is to play with proportions. If you have a large, bold element on one side, try balancing it with several smaller elements on the other side. Another method is to use color. A dark color can be balanced with a light color, or a warm color with a cool one.

Harmony, on the other hand, is about creating a sense of unity in your artwork. It's what makes your art feel 'complete'. You can achieve harmony by repeating certain elements like color, shape, or texture throughout your artwork. Or, you could create a focal point that draws all elements together.

Remember, balance and harmony are not rigid rules, but guiding principles. Feel free to interpret them in your own way. After all, that's what eastern philosophy in abstract expressionism is all about—finding your own path, telling your own story, and expressing your own truth.

Embrace the Concept of Emptiness

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we often forget to appreciate the power of emptiness. We fill our days with tasks, our minds with thoughts, and our hearts with emotions. But what if we paused for a moment and embraced the concept of emptiness instead?

Emptiness, or 'Sunyata' as it's known in eastern philosophy, is a profound concept. It's not about nothingness or absence. Instead, it's about potential, possibility, and the promise of the new. It's the space where creativity can bloom and art can breathe.

So, how do you incorporate the concept of emptiness into your art? One way is by leaving parts of your canvas intentionally blank. This doesn't mean you're being lazy or running out of ideas. Instead, you're creating room for the viewer's imagination. You're inviting them to fill in the blanks with their own interpretations and experiences.

Another way to embrace emptiness is through minimalism. Instead of cluttering your canvas with multiple elements, focus on just one or two. Let them take the center stage. Let them tell your story. The rest of the canvas can be left empty, serving as a silent, yet powerful, backdrop.

Embracing the concept of emptiness in abstract expressionism can be a daring move. It forces you to step out of your comfort zone, to let go of the unnecessary, and to focus on the essential. But once you do, you'll realize that emptiness is not a void to be feared, but a space to be cherished.

Use Symbolism

Ever wondered how a mere image can evoke powerful emotions, or tell a complex story? The secret lies in symbolism—the art of using elements to represent ideas or qualities. Symbolism is an integral part of eastern philosophy and abstract expressionism. It's like a secret language that artists use to communicate with viewers.

Eastern philosophy is rich with symbols. There's the lotus flower, a symbol of purity and enlightenment, the yin-yang symbol representing balance, or the koi fish, a sign of perseverance and determination. These symbols carry profound meanings and can add depth to your artwork.

Let's say you're creating an abstract painting about resilience. You can use the symbol of the bamboo, which in eastern philosophy, represents flexibility and strength. The bamboo bends but does not break, symbolizing how we too can adapt to life's challenges without losing our core.

Symbols aren't just limited to objects. Colors, shapes, and even brush strokes can all be symbolic. For example, in eastern philosophy, the color red represents luck and joy, while circles often symbolize unity and completeness. Even the way you apply paint can be symbolic. Swift, broad strokes may denote energy and passion, while delicate, thin lines could signify precision and delicacy.

But remember, the power of symbolism lies in subtlety. It's not about blatantly displaying a symbol, but weaving it into your artwork in a way that feels natural and organic. So go ahead, explore the world of symbols, and let your artwork tell your story in a way words never could.

Incorporate Natural Elements

When it comes to eastern philosophy in abstract expressionism, nature plays a starring role. Many eastern philosophies, such as Taoism and Buddhism, emphasize the interconnectedness of all things in the universe. They teach us that we are part of nature, not separate from it, and this idea can be beautifully expressed in abstract art.

Think about the elements of nature that resonate with you. Is it the gentle rustle of leaves in the wind, the serene flow of a river, or the majestic presence of a mountain? Maybe it's the delicate beauty of a cherry blossom or the transformative life cycle of a butterfly. Whatever it is, you can bring these elements into your art to create a deeper connection between your work and the viewer.

For example, if you're inspired by the sea, you don't have to paint a detailed seascape to evoke the sense of the ocean. Instead, you could use layers of blue and green, with sweeping brush strokes to suggest waves and currents. You might even incorporate sand or sea salt into your paint for a textural element that truly brings your artwork to life.

Nature is not just about landscapes and animals, it's also about the elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space. These can be represented in colors, textures, and shapes, adding another layer of meaning to your work.

By incorporating natural elements into your abstract art, you're not just creating a beautiful piece of work. You're also reminding viewers of their connection to the natural world, and sharing a piece of your soul with them. That's the power of eastern philosophy in abstract expressionism.

Play with Light and Shadow

Light and shadow, two fundamental elements in the visual world, hold special significance in eastern philosophy. They represent the contrasting yet complementary principles of Yin and Yang, a concept deeply rooted in Taoism. In your journey of expressing eastern philosophy in abstract expressionism, playing with light and shadow can be an exciting and insightful exploration.

Imagine light as the known, the clear, the obvious, and shadow as the unknown, the subtle, the hidden. In your artwork, you can use this interplay to create depth, drama, and mystery. Remember, it's not about a literal representation of light and shadow, but an abstract interpretation of these elements.

How do you do this, you ask? Well, you could use lighter shades to represent elements you want to bring to the forefront, and darker shades for those you want to recede into the background. You could also experiment with the intensity of colors — bright colors for areas you want to highlight, and muted shades for areas you want to downplay.

But it's not just about color. Texture too, can be a powerful tool in creating the illusion of light and shadow. Smooth surfaces can suggest brightness, while rough, textured surfaces can convey shadow.

Remember, in eastern philosophy, light and shadow are not opposites, but complementary forces that work together to create a harmonious whole. So, as you play with light and shadow in your abstract expressionism, aim to create a balance between the two, a harmony that reflects the deep wisdom of eastern philosophy.

Experiment with Calligraphy

Calligraphy isn't just about beautiful handwriting. In Eastern cultures, especially in China and Japan, it's a form of artistic expression. And it has a place in abstract expressionism, too. So why not bring some of this Eastern philosophy into your abstract art by experimenting with calligraphy?

One way to do this is by using calligraphic strokes in your art. These strokes, bold or delicate, can add a unique touch to your work. You can use them to create patterns, shapes, or even to write words that hold special meaning. And you don't have to stick to traditional calligraphy — feel free to create your own style!

Another way to incorporate calligraphy is by using ink. In Eastern philosophy, the black ink used in calligraphy symbolizes the void, the infinite, the essence of all things. By using ink in your abstract art, you can create bold, dramatic effects that speak to these profound concepts.

And don't forget about the brush. The brush is an extension of the artist's spirit, according to Eastern philosophy. By experimenting with different brush techniques, you can express your emotions and thoughts in a way that's uniquely you.

So go ahead, give calligraphy a try. You might be surprised at the depth and richness it adds to your abstract expressionism, all while bringing in elements of Eastern philosophy.

Practice Meditation and Mindfulness

Have you ever noticed how the greatest artists often have a deep sense of calm and focus in their work? That's no accident. Many artists practice meditation and mindfulness, a key aspect of Eastern philosophy, to enhance their creative process. There's no reason you can't do the same to improve your abstract expressionism.

Meditation is a practice of quieting the mind, allowing you to tap into your innermost thoughts and emotions. It's an opportunity to explore your deepest self — a self that can guide your hand in creating truly meaningful art. You can start with just a few minutes a day. Sit quietly, breathe deeply, and let your thoughts come and go without judgement. Over time, you'll likely notice a change in your artistic process and the work you produce.

Mindfulness, on the other hand, is about being fully present in the moment. It's about paying attention to what's happening right now, in your body and in your surroundings. When you're painting, try to be fully present with the brush in your hand, the colors on your palette, the canvas in front of you. Notice the smell of the paint, the texture of the canvas, the way the colors blend together. This kind of mindful attention can bring a new level of depth and authenticity to your abstract expressionism.

Remember, meditation and mindfulness aren't just about producing better art. They're about living a fuller, more mindful life. And who knows? You might find they bring a little bit of that Eastern philosophy into your everyday world too.

Connect with the Art Community

Just as Eastern philosophy emphasizes the importance of community and connection, so too should your journey in abstract expressionism. Sharing your art and your ideas is a wonderful way to grow as an artist. It's not always easy to put yourself out there, but the rewards can be immense.

Start by seeking out artists whose work you admire. This doesn’t mean you have to travel to the other side of the world to meet an acclaimed abstract expressionist. You can start right in your own community. Attend local art shows, participate in workshops, or join an art club. You're bound to meet artists who can provide advice, inspiration, and perhaps even friendship.

And don’t forget about the virtual world. With the power of the internet, you can connect with artists and art lovers from all over the world. Join online art forums, share your work on social media, or start your own art blog. You might be surprised at how supportive and inspiring the online art community can be.

Remember, connecting with the art community isn't just about networking or gaining exposure for your work. It's about being part of a conversation, a collective pursuit of understanding and expression. As you explore the principles of Eastern philosophy in your abstract expressionism, you'll find that this sense of connection enriches not just your art, but your life as a whole.

If you're intrigued by the concept of Eastern philosophy in abstract art and want to explore further, we recommend the workshop 'Classical Painting in the Modern Day' by Eric Drummond. This workshop delves into the timeless techniques of classical painting, which can be applied to your abstract art practice, bringing a unique fusion of Eastern and Western artistic approaches.