The outbreath and inbreath in abstract painting
Beauty & Spirit Note from the Studio 
News & muse from abstract artist Julie Bernstein Engelmann
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Dear <<First Name>>,

It occurred to me lately that, in a broad sense, the experience of creating an abstract painting has two stages. I think of them as the outbreath and the inbreath. Clarifying the difference between the two stages - or energies - really helped me understand why I sometimes got stuck at a certain point in my paintings.

Proud Day
Julie Bernstein Engelmann, 24"H x 20"W, Acrylic on partially primed raw canvas. Available

When my kids were 2 and 6, I witnessed a special moment.
My son climbed into my daughter's bed,
snuggled under her arm, and she comforted him.
It was an unexpected gift to see, for the first time, 
the two beings I brought into the world
comforting one another - without me.
An indescribable secret blessing.
A proud day. 

In the outbreath stage, you create a beautiful mess. This includes the background, the gestural energy, contrast, and all the shapes and marks of joy and experimentation. It's the outflow stage.

Then comes a saturation point. Your painting-in-progress is full; you've had a chance to speak. Then there's an energetic shift toward inflow.

In the inbreath stage, it's your painting's turn to speak; you take it in. Soon you find what you love in the beautiful mess, enhance and resolve parts to make it shine, and bring the painting home into the beauty it promises to become. 

This second stage is my passion and what I most love to teach. Yet what I have been learning is just how important it is to get to the end of the first stage before turning the corner into the second. 

Here is an example of a successful outbreath.

At left was my first stage, the outbreath. Compare it to the finished painting, "Mission of the Masters," 48"H x 36"W. 

Notice that by the end of the first stage of this painting, all the energy was pretty much there before I turned the corner from outbreath to inbreath. That made finishing the painting relatively easy, like breathing ;) 

Now look at the evolution of "Proud Day." 

You can see the careful progression, perhaps a lack of abandon. (The finished painting is at top of this Note.) 

This painting took a long time to resolve. I so wanted to call it finished at that third photo, because I liked it as it was. But it just didn't have the strength to stand up.

Now I know what the problem was. I had started moving into the second stage too soon, tucking in the edges before I had fully let loose the strength of the beautiful mess.

It meant I had to introduce some heavier elements at the last minute. That's like moving a new piece of furniture in after you've gotten everything else in place. It takes readjusting. 

Since then, I've noticed that whenever I get stuck on a painting it's because I have been too eager to "start finishing" before the beautiful mess was all there.  
Now I'm going to think of the outbreath stage as running in a field of flowers - until my breath runs out. Only then will I stop, breathe in, and consider how to make a garden out of the wildflowers. 

Yours in the joy of beauty and spirit,


P.S. Please join me in painting The Inspired Abstract. There's still time to register! My workshop is coming up this weekend, November 22-24 in Sedona, Arizona. See details below or on my website. 

The Inspired Abstract
Birth your beloved and mysterious artwork
3-day workshop with Julie Bernstein Engelmann
Two opportunities: 

November 22-24 (Fri-Sun), 2019  Sedona, Arizona
May 8-10 (Fri-Sun), 2020  Sedona, Arizona

Turn your life’s inspiring moments into richly beautiful abstract paintings. In this workshop you’ll gain a powerful foundation for abstract painting. Using layers, Julie will guide you to enter the painting process naturally, develop a deep and luscious visual space, and weave exquisite personal marks and forms that grow from your seed inspiration. You’ll discover the spirit in your painting and learn to gently enhance its drama, so it can shine powerfully.

You’ll leave with two acrylic paintings that embody meaning, naturalness, and spatial depth and flow – qualities that lift an abstract painting from amateur to professional. Along the way, you’ll gain discernment and come to understand abstract painting much more deeply.    Learn More... 

Here is my video on The Inspired Abstract workshop (2:52 minutes) 
About the music on this video: Over the summer a tune came to me and wouldn't let me go. I borrowed a neighbor's keyboard, worked out the chords, and recorded it one phrase at a time. My husband spliced it together, and it turned out the perfect length for this video! Belated thanks to my parents for all those piano lessons I didn't appreciate! 

Artist Consult with Julie  Learn More...
Beauty & Spirit Abstract Artist Circle Beauty & Spirit Abstract Artist Circle
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