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  • Writer's pictureAbi Whitlock

Abstraction and Realism - Bridging the Gap.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would ever get into abstract art and yet here we are…

Well, sort of.

Whilst I’ve always had an appreciation for abstract art and a respect for those artists that create brilliant, dramatic and skillful abstract artwork it’s never been a style of art that I, personally, have been drawn to, let alone have had a desire to experiment with myself. My style has always been very detail-focused and centered solely in realism. Realism still remains my absolute passion. It’s the kind of art I think about all the time and generally nerd out to.

So what changed?

I discovered the art of acrylic pouring.

Colourful, rainbow acrylic pour for underwater painting
Acrylic Pour for 'Chasing Rainbows II'

Acrylic pouring is the process of creating abstract art by combining fluid acrylics, a special pouring medium and sometimes other components e.g. silicone oil and allowing them to flow freely across a canvas. This creates beautiful, intricate patterns as the different coloured paints interact with each other, giving a marbled appearance to the canvas.

I loved this effect so much I knew I wanted to incorporate it into my work somehow. The way the fluid paint flowed across the canvas replicated the liquidity and movement of water which was an idea that really appealed to me. The dream-like colours and bubbles/cells created in the pour reminded me of the reflections you see underwater when looking up towards the water’s surface. I wanted that chaotic movement and freedom that flowing paint, itself, provided to feature in my water paintings whilst still retaining the realistic nature of my style.

And so an idea was born!

The Law of Thirds

My experiments with the technique lead me to a general method I now use to create all of my work. Around a third of the canvas is taken up by the vivid colours and swirling abstract patterns of the acrylic pour. Another third or so features the swimmer and is based in reality – I generally use a reference to get the general proportions and likeness for this portion correct. That leaves the last third; the bridge between the abstract portion and the realistic portion. In this third I rely totally on my imagination; taking shapes and colours from the other two thirds and combining them to create a delicate yet important link between the two disparate styles. This means that one third of my work is based in reality, one third is pulled from my imagination and one third is left up to chance and the random way paint flows across a surface.

Underwater painting, rainbow art, swimming, patterns
The bridging third in 'Chasing Rainbows'

The newfound freedom and excitement this has bought to my way of working can’t be understated and I already have so many ideas for new work in my head that I have yet to put to canvas. Let the experimentation continue!

painting, contemporary artwork, colourful, underwater, swimming, painting
'Chasing Rainbows II'


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