Historical Precedents in Abstract Painting

Jeffrey Simmons has painted and exhibited his work in Seattle for over twenty years. Having grown up in the Midwest, he studied art at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His work is in many private, corporate, and public collections, and he has been a finalist for both the Betty Bowen Award from the Seattle Art Museum (1996) and the Neddy Award, currently administered by Cornish College of the Arts (2008). He is represented in the Northwest by Greg Kucera Gallery, Inc., in Seattle.
9:30 A.M.-12:30 P.M.
All Levels Welcome
Gage Capitol Hill
Paint: I favor acrylic paint for classwork, because the faster dry time makes corrections and alterations easier to accomplish and because cleanup can be done with water. I intend to talk about a wide range of pigments in class, but we all need a basic palette to work with. I suggest the following:

  • Hansa Yellow Light
  • Pyrrole Red
  • Quinacridone Magenta
  • Pthalo Blue (Red Shade) or Ultramarine Blue
  • Permanent Green Light
  • Red Iron Oxide
  • Carbon (Ivory) Black
  • Titanium White

Now, that’s a lot of colors, and paint can be expensive. If you already have a palette of colors that are accustomed to working with, just bring that. Make substitutions if you need to. Another option is to buy a prepackaged set of colors; the Golden brand “Color Mixing” sets, for example, will provide you
with a similar group of colors.

A selection of flat bristle or synthetic brushes are a good place to start — #4, #8, #10 would be useful. Prices can vary, particularly with synthetic brushes.Less expensive synthetic brushes have a tendency to splay after much usage.

Mixing/painting knives: I use a small 3 inch mixing knife that resembles a frosting spatula for decorating cakes. There are many different palette knives to choose from, and they can be also used for applying paint or scraping it off again, so you might select a couple of different shapes. The plastic ones tend to break.

Canvas:The quality of your support will make a difference, but can also add to the cost of materials. Canvas board or pre-stretched canvases will be a good place to start; I will discuss other options in class. Try to have at least three at the beginning. Canvas boards can be purchased in packages of three or more. 12 x 16 inches is a good size to begin with.

Palette: A disposable paper palette pad is fine, but there are also boards and trays that can be used with acrylic if you prefer not to generate additional waste.


  • Paper towels or cotton rags for cleanup
  • A container for water. I usually save the plastic 32 oz. containers that yogurt comes in.
  • Pencil/charcoal
  • Pad of paper
  • A ruler would be useful
  • A blue or green house painter’s tape is handy for masking straight edges
Each week we will take a look at a particular study from the history of Abstract Painting, presenting examples by various artists. Class projects will proceed from there. Beginning students may enjoy direct emulation of the examples presented, while more advanced students might use the ideas to inform their visual thinking about the imagery in their ongoing projects. Students may choose to work in either oil or acrylic paint, however, the rapid drying time of acrylic will allow for faster alterations to works in progress. Some work outside of class will be expected.