Traditional methods of drawing emphasize creating the illusion of thingness through representation of the irrelevant and distracting details of the thing. Abstract expressionism rejects such artificial illusion and purifies art to its essentials.
It is a mistake, however, to assume that abstract expressionist art is not representational. Nothing could be further from the truth. Abstract expressionism seeks true representation by eliminating the irrelevant, leaving only the essential of the thing represented.
Let us take as an example this drawing of a stagecoach:
In this old-fashioned drawing, the artist has wasted minutes, perhaps even hours, of effort on the various parts of four separate horses, the wheels of the coach, and even individual passengers inside, when it is clear that the essential element of the picture is its horizontality. The properly trained artist therefore reproduces only what is essential in his production:
Stagecoach, by Lambert Bedlam.
On the other hand, in this picture of Anna Karenina, inspired by the heroine of Tolstoy’s novel, the essential element is diagonality.
[This image died in the great Postimg massacre.]
Here the artist has expended a simply obscene amount of labor on irrelevancies, going so far as to duplicate every wrinkle of each glove. The abstract expressionist, on the other hand, at once recognizes what is essential, and reproduces that alone:
Anna Karenina, by Vitaly Wallaby-Perkins.
Who can doubt that Tolstoy would recognize his heroine at once?
Having once seen the method, we can immediately understand how the painters of the following works have applied it to their chosen subjects:
The American Mail Steamer John L. Stephens Arriving at Liverpool, by Ratchet Dawson III.
Nude Reading the Congressional Record, by Emily Pitchfork.
Frank Julian Sprague Falling Down an Elevator Shaft, by Arnold M. Shoehorn.
Rose Mary Woods Accidentally Erasing 18½ Minutes of Conversation, by Richard M. Nixon.