How to Make Expressionist Art

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Things You'll Need

  • Sketchpad and pencil

  • Paints

  • Brush

  • Canvas

Andre Masson's "The Massacre" represents an emotional state through its use of color and movement.

Art has the unique ability to express the innermost emotions in a physical form. This unique ability was the unifying theme among the Expressionists, a group of early 20th Century artists who rejected realism in favor of painting a subjective world that represented emotion rather than observation. Expressionist art can be powerful, moving and cathartic. To create Expressionist art is to take an internal emotional state and externalize it so it can be creatively shared with others.


Step 1

Choose the subject of your artwork. This can be a person, place or object, or even a mental image, such as a memory or dream.

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Step 2

Sketch the image you want to create. Don't plan in advance or second-guess yourself. Try several different sketches, keeping your emotional reaction uppermost in your mind. Choose the one you feel best captures the feeling of your experience.

Step 3

Select the colors you intend to use. Expressionist painters typically used a limited palette of colors. One of the key breakthroughs of Expressionism was that color could be used symbolically rather than realistically. Painters, such as Van Gogh and Kandinsky, used color to powerful effect. Select five or six colors, including several lighter and darker shades of the same hue.


Step 4

Paint an image based on your sketch. Don't be afraid to modify your work in progress if that seems right to you. Use bold contrasts of color, even if that means deviating from nature, like the lurid sky in the background of Munch's "The Scream." Don't censor yourself; Expressionist art didn't flinch from expressing even shocking and unsettling aspects of human emotion.


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