Abstract 3-D Art

Hello, hello hello!

Welcome back to our aspiring artists’ blog, where we can gather and enjoy some projects to inspire more creativity in our lives.

An artist whose work caught my eye recently was Christopher Niemann. He is a writer and illustrator whose art pieces have appeared on the cover of the New Yorker magazine. He even has his own episode in the documentary series, “Abstract: The Art of Design”, and has done a TED talk about abstract art.

I discovered him on Instagram @abstractsunday where he began posting paintings, drawings, and sketches that featured an everyday 3-D object. In his art, he playfully experiments with perspective and the qualities of his objects, creating simple yet incredibly entertaining art pieces.

Via @abstractsunday
Via @abstractsunday

It’s unclear whether he starts out with the object as his inspiration, or if he draws a sketch and from there he chooses an object, but that just leaves a ton of room for individuality on that front. For me, because I am not an avid-drawer, I chose to find my object first and then build my piece around it (but it definitely would be a good challenge to do a drawing or painting first and then incorporate your object into it).

So first thing’s first, gather your objects! Walk around your home and pick up anything that catches your eye, whether it has a funny shape, you love its color, or perhaps as soon as you saw it you knew exactly what you wanted to draw (also, just walking into a room, closing your eyes, and pointing at items is always an option if you find yourself particularly uninspired).

Now that you have a few items (however many you think you can handle), let's grab some paper and begin making some art! You can use a pencil, paint, watercolors, or any other media that comes to mind (or even a blend of a few!). Think back to when we did our coffee doodles and remember: it’s not about how good or realistic the drawing is. It’s about how you feel when you’re doing it and how you want to incorporate the item(s) you have gathered.

If you want to challenge yourself, you could create as many images as you can with just one object. Or, if you’re looking for a slightly less brain power-demanding route, you can do what I did, which was to inspect the objects and start drawing when an idea came to me (some objects take longer than others, but don’t worry— it’s all part of the process). For my first piece, I started with the scrunchie because as soon as I saw it I knew exactly what I wanted to do:

When I first started that one, I put the scrunchie down and lightly made a general outline of it so when I took it off the page I would have a good idea of where to make my doodles, which was very helpful. But when it came to my other two, this strategy was not quite as helpful.

I used my outline strategy for the clothespin and the roll of tape, and at first I thought it worked out, but I was totally thrown off by the perspective of the camera. I ended up having to tape down the clothespin and draw the fins around it, then take it off and do the teeth. Similarly with the hedgehog, I had to redo the position of the nose and eye/eyebrow so many times so it would fit the quills, belly, and feet properly. It took a lot of sketching and experimenting with camera angles, but eventually I found the sweet spots for each one— which, I gotta say, was incredibly satisfying. I highly recommend this project for that fact alone.

And that's how you will preserve your art, by using the perspectives of the camera to capture your masterpiece; then you're done!!

Something that is definitely important during this process is not letting your expectations dictate your outcome. After seeing the clothespin and tape roll, I (almost) immediately knew what I wanted to draw around them (or so I thought). As I started drawing, or even just took a closer look at them, my ideas changed quite a few times. I either found something different that I liked about that item, or as I started drawing my original idea, I realized it didn’t quite fit the object (or it was just way out of my skill level as an amateur artist). But that’s totally okay! Nothing ever really works out the way we planned anyway, so it’s best not to put your energy into forcing it. Instead, focus on creating what feels right in that moment, and carry it until you’re satisfied with it, or maybe until you come up with an even better idea.

For some of your items, you might just stare blankly at the page for a good while (which I did plenty of…), but remember something that Niemann mentioned in his documentary episode: “I’m such a control freak that I would always love to sit down and come up with the perfect formula for creating art, but it doesn't work that way… it really is staring at paper”. This is something I can definitely relate to; when doing art, I find myself getting easily frustrated when it’s not going as planned or it’s not looking how I want it to, but that’s when I would take a break. I’d step away, take some breaths, and probably realize that I’ll have to change my expectations, alter my original idea, or even shift ideas altogether so that my creativity, ideas, and art skills can all be on the same level.

And there you have it, your own Christoph Niemann-inspired art! I hope you all enjoyed this project, and stay tuned for next month's artists' blog!

Click here to watch Christoph's TED talk, and click here to watch his documentary episode!