I am an artist, not a writer. My Intent is not to educate, enlighten or inspire but rather to clarify my motivations to myself. I find that when I write down the thoughts and reasons that I take certain paths, it helps me to avoid repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Let's face it, authentic work evolves through a series of mistakes, lessons learned and options eliminated.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How is Abstract Art Like Ballroom Dancing?

My wife and I were looking for something that we could do together other than eat out or go to the movies. We settled on ballroom dancing as a method of enjoying more quality time with each other. When I was young, dancing was more or less an individual sport. You stood on a crowded dance floor and did strange gyrations with no regard to whether your partner was even in the same room. In order to actually dance together, my wife would need to be able to anticipate and follow my steps. I realized we needed a plan. We decided to take lessons. If you break down dancing it is basically walking. I figured, I could walk. In the past when I wanted to learn a particular dance step, I would watch someone else perform the desired action and I would simply repeat it. I found that when taking lessons the act of walking had to be broken down to it's basic components so the student could grasp it's complexity. First you had to listen to the beat and be able to determine what particular walking pattern was appropriate. The man always starts with his left foot. The steps are dictated by hieroglyphic foot diagrams accompanied by verbal directions concerning the transference of weight and hip action, keeping in mind whether heel or toe contacted the dance floor first. All this is performed while quietly repeating to your self "slow, slow, quick, quick". Being an artist, and a visual learner, following this regimen resulted in a frustrated zombie like performance that reminded me of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" sans any discernible rhythm. The point I am trying to make here is that there are rules that have to be learned and then practiced. You have to be willing do a lot of really bad dancing over a long period of time. It takes time for basics to become imbedded into one's subconscious to the point that you don't even think about them. Here is the strange part, to be a really good dancer you have to be able to break the rules. So a good question would be, wouldn't it be easier and quicker not to learn the rules in the first place if the ultimate goal is to ignore them? I think it would be quite obvious to the casual observer, the difference in the performance between the person who never learned or understood the rules and the person who absorbed and processed them to the point that they were no longer bound by them.

Abstract art, or for that matter, any form of art, is subject to rules pertaining to the use of form, line, texture, color, balance and rhythm along with many other factors. Basic fundamentals that need to be learned practiced and understood. If not, the artists is limited in creative options and potential. Some lucky few, intuitively understand what makes art work. Artists often speak of working on auto pilot and not over thinking their art, relying on gut instinct. This works best when those instincts are grounded in sound knowledge and experience. A good abstract painter does not paint non-objectively because he has to, but because he needs to.


  1. William, you are a brave man to take ballroom dancing classes. Good for you! Will we see photos?
    Thank you for another informative and interesting post. Today I'll put on a tango or foxtrot and see how it affects my painting!

  2. Carole, Photos are not in the cards.


Thank you for your comment, I appreciate your input.