Why Abstract?


WhyNot?Before I began to paint, buried underneath loads of compensating bullshit, was the feeling that whatever I might create had no right to exist.

It wouldn’t be “good” enough, so what would be the point of creating it?

Painting abstract changed all that.

For me, it was the key that unlocked all doors.

I genuinely believe that if I would’ve started by trying to paint illustratively, I would have been sunk.

Even if the images were invented in my mind, I would have been so trapped in the mode of comparing what I was trying to paint with what was actually coming out on the canvas that I would have beaten myself until there was nothing left but dried blood on the floor.

By getting myself to make spontaneous marks on the paper without pre-determined expectations or demands, I was able to move past that.

Something about painting in this fashion loosened the bonds of needing to control the outcome. Needing to be seen as “good” by other people. Needing to stick to the plan. Needing to be right. Needing to be perfect.

There is no perfect in abstract. How could there be? Each painting is fluid and self-referential and unlike anything that exists. No standard is possible. There’s nothing to measure up to. The concept doesn’t apply.

When I make my paintings, I watch them take shape on the canvas in the form of other realities so far removed from this one that there is no room for comparison whatsoever.

Someone looking at them might not see that. They might see a flat mess of unattractive lines and ungainly shapes and uncomfortable spaces. They might see a whale, or a coffee cup and a donut.

People, including me, only see what their frame of reference allows them to. We relate what we see and what we experience to what we already know.

When I paint these pieces, though, my goal is to discover something I don’t already know. Something I haven’t already imagined.

When you start a painting from this perspective, you never know what you’re going to end up with. You are, in a very real sense, imagining a new world in real time, bringing it into being as the paint flows off the brush.

Some of these worlds are incongruent, and strange, and unfamiliar. Others have shadows and echoes of things that relate to this world.

Obviously I still have my own frame of reference that reflects the sum total of what I think, what I feel and every input I’ve ever encountered over the course of my life.

I wouldn’t want to throw those things away; they are important. They are part of my experience here on planet Earth. And that has value.

However, to cling to this as the ONLY value that’s important, the ONLY basis for expression and existence, would be to close one’s self off from an infinite expanse of experience that is out there, waiting to be invented.

By painting things that have no analog in the “real world” and then looking at them – really looking at them, I began to see everything around me differently. I saw myself differently.

I started changing. Things around me began to change as well.

I opened up a whole new reality that made the one I had been living in look like a pale and shriveled imitation.

With each new painting, whether I loved it or wanted to torch it, I grew stronger in my self.

And once I was finally able to see the value in what I was creating, everything in my life went exponential.

I began to be free.

Whether my paintings are seen as appealing or lousy is of little concern. They express the self that has been struggling to be recognized since the day I was born. All of it, be it adept or awkward, hideous or breathtaking, is who I am. Others may not perceive this, but it does not change the central fact that it is the case.

The more I do this type of painting, the less limited by pre-existing negative beliefs I become. It shows up not just in how I relate to painting, but in my thoughts and emotions and my relationships with other people. Where I am now versus where I was is beyond magnificent.

I have an unshakeable conviction that anyone can do this, find this, have this. Even if you have never once considered making art. Even if you are an accomplished artist with more talent and skill than I could ever hope to achieve. If you can allow yourself to do it, making paintings, lots of them, with NO EXPECTATIONS, NO JUDGMENTS AND NO LIMITATIONS has the power to completely change your life.

All creative activity is a very good thing, and creating any form of art opens a person to new insight and new ways of seeing. There are many paths that lead to the same destination.

But what I’ve learned is that letting go of the need to put down on the canvas images that other people will recognize and value creates the space to recognize and value the self you truly are. The self that is so much more.

When I told an artist friend of mine that I was writing this blog about my experience with painting, he said that talking about art was like trying to explain a magic trick.

He was more right than he even knew.

No matter what kind of art I decide to create in the future, I will never stop creating spontaneously in the moment, painting directly from the soul.

Because when I say that this has transformed my life, I mean it on the deepest and most profound level possible. I am different to such a degree that it cannot be expressed with words…only through more painting.

And if that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.


  1. This is amazing. Thanks.

  2. Brenda Litman
    April 14, 2015 at 9:03 pm // Reply

    What a wonderful manifesto you have written for your art and abstract art in general!

  3. I can relate to this at a degree that spooks me. The true awakening process is one of pure magic… A heavy shift of perception in the right direction will make incredible things happen. “Each event and adventure is called to your Self by your Self in order that you might create and experience Who You Really Are.”

  4. Wende Pemrick
    April 11, 2015 at 2:25 pm // Reply

    This post is moving, your story is truly an inspiration

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