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Abstract Landscapes with Moira Mudie - October 14th, 2006

An abstract landscape is a painting that begins as an abstract and then becomes a landscape. As Moira Mudie, our instructor, suggested, it is a landscape with a twist. One well-known artist who uses this technique is Henry Wo Yue-Kee, an artist that Moira has studied with. Moira began by showing the workshop participants some abstract landscapes.

Discussing abstract landscapes 

To begin the abstract landscape, first crumple your rice paper - with random crumples. Those crumples will eventually become mountains.

Crumpled paper for the abstract landscape

Mixing sumi-e ink into a dark wash starts the process.

Mixing ink for start of painting

Using the flat of the brush, Moira demonstrated how to create rocky mountains out of the crumpled paper.

Ink to paper for rocky mountains

Moira then shifted to another part of the paper, again working with the crumpled sections.

Extending ink on rice paper

Moving to other sections of the paper, Moira's mountain ranges began to appear. 

Ink on rice paper almost complete

Stepping back, Moira Mudie observed the emerging landscape so far. Note the variation in tone, some sections near the bottom are very black while the top is lighter. To her left, there is a sheet of instructions. These instructions were a handout for the workshop participants to remind them of the sequence of steps demonstrated by Moira.

Ink complete on painting

Next came colour. This abstract landscape became a fall landscape so gold, burnt sienna and red were used.

Mixing colour for abstract landscape

The base of the brush spread the colour with the same broad strokes as was used with the black ink.

Starting colour using fall colours

Moira painted about the black ink previously applied.

Colour basically complete for abstract landscape in the fall

An interesting tapping technique was used to add random specks of colour.

Tap technique to splatter colour randomly

A hake brush softened some areas by blending the colours.

Hake brush softens the colour

The mix of colours and black ink led to a dramatic and vivid landscape at this point.

Initial colour almost complete

Moira then worked in red colouring to further the development of this fall landscape.

Adding red to highlight fall scene

It was time for the workshop participants to try their hand at an abstract landscape while Moira's painting was drying.

Workshop participants try their hand at abstract landscapes

Then it was part two of the workshop as Moira completed the abstract landscape with a drier painting.

Discussing our progress so far

Moira returned to black ink to highlight the mountains and rocks.

More black ink highlights mountains and rocks

Using the flat of the brush, Moira emphasized certain parts of the painting. Moira advised us to take a random approach rather than to apply the black ink in a uniform way. This approach led to a landscape that was closer to what we normally see in nature.

Continuing to add black ink

Pelican white is one colour that can be effectively used, particularly in winter scenes, Moira advised us. Even with a fall scene some white can be used to highlight lighter areas.

Adding Pelican white

To create a lake or stream, Moira used a light indigo blue and painted the less crumpled parts of the rice paper. 

Light indigo blue for water

A reverse brush stroke can be used to create a vivid water effect.

Using reverse brush technique for effect

Now is the time to think of adding houses, trees, people, stairs, bridges, pagodas and so on consistent with the perspective, Moira told the workshop participants.

Review of almost finished painting

Moira added more red and white and gold colouring to dramatize the work.

More highlighting to bring out the drama of the landscape

The painting was almost filled with paint at this point but some light spaces added a necessary contrast to create a realistic landscape from an abstract beginning. Here's a tip: consider turning the painting around and looking at it from several views. You may find that a landscape that you had not considered suddenly appears before you when you change perspective!

One final look at abstract landscape painting

Some final touches of cadmium yellow created the finished painting: a dynamic, abstract landscape.

Complete abstract landscape painting

Workshop participants returned to working on the abstract landscapes they had started earlier to apply their own finishing touches with a few suggestions from Moira Mudie with one-on-one coaching discussions.