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How I Painted My First Abstract

By Kerrysteele @kerrysteeleart
When I was little I sometimes painted with my grandmother (Mémé) in her attic. It was a small space with one sunny window and it had all the romance of a Parisian garret as far as I was concerned at age 7. It smelled of warm lumber and dust and it was wonderful.

How I painted my first abstract

Henri Matisse

We gessoed our own board and canvas and I still am transported by the smell of gesso. One day in particular remains a clear memory. I was 7 and I had a the dreaded blank canvas in front of me and fussed because I did not know what to paint. I had already painted a vase of flowers that I did not like and was bored with the idea. I particularly recall turning my nose up at typical "kid" themes but I was stumped. My grandmother told me to just put down paint and not to worry about it. Huh? Won't that be ugly? I wondered. "Its a mish-mash painting" she said.
While the term "mish-mash" does not have a great connotation, it spoke to a 7 year-old me.
It was exhilarating. It was there that I discovered that the painting does not need to be of something to be about something. It is a concept many people struggle with.
 Both artists and non-artists try to find literal objects in my work and its frustrating to explain that that there is no witch eating ice cream or dog at a bar in the painting and they need not look for anything else. So that day, mish-mash I did and I still love this one.

How I painted my first abstract

In the attic with Mémé  circa 1975 by Kerry Burke (Steele)


This painting is the reason I choose to paint mostly abstracts today. The heady memory of art supplies, musty wood  and a cherished moment of discovery with a very dear relative are in this canvas.

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