7 types of Abstract Art

What Is Abstract Art?

While realist art tries to put forward a depiction of actual reality, abstract art strives for the exact opposite. Early abstract artists working during the late 19th and early 20th centuries used colour, form, shape, and line to create paintings, sculptures, and drawings that purposefully felt independent from identifiable objects, landscapes, and people.
Abstraction gave artists a new level of freedom to experiment with artistic methods and allowed these artists to reshape the traditional meaning of what “art” was.

Abstract Art is: 

  • Non-representational
  • Expressive
  • Gestural
  • Contemporary
  • Modern
  • Minimalist
  • Bold
  • Thought-provoking
  • Feelings
  • Emotions
  • Emotive

Today, there are many different types of abstract art in contemporary painting. Of course, we have different types of abstract art depending on the medium, varying from abstract sculpture to abstract painting. However, from a visual perspective, in painting we can distinguish several different types of abstract art as archetypes of abstract painting.

We can define 7 style of abstract painting:

  1. Paint Splatter, Drip, and Splash
  2. Block Colour
  3. Marbling
  4. Line Art
  5. Abstract Organic
  6. Abstract Expressionism
  7. Abstract Gestural


1. Paint Splatter, Drip, and Splash
Artists that create paint splatter or paint splash art use brushes and other implements to flick, throw, or drip paint onto a canvas, rather than brushing paint directly onto that surface. Also known as drip painting or action painting, this technique rose in popularity during the abstract expressionist art movement, which began in the 1940s. Jackson Pollock, an American painter and leading force behind that movement, created some of today’s most recognisable pieces of paint splatter art. 

Paint splatter art can be a stress-free, creative outlet for your artistic energy—but it’s also a technique that can produce breathtaking masterpieces full of emotion and movement.

“When I'm painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It's only after a get acquainted period that I see what I've been about. I've no fears about making changes for the painting has a life of its own.” -  Jackson Pollock

Pollock Abstract ArtworkAn Unknown Inspiration - Jackson Pollock.  Shimmering Substance - Pollock


2. Block Colour

Colour-blocking is thought of as the exploration of taking colours that are opposites on the colour wheel and pairing them together to make interesting and complementary colour combinations. It is commonly associated in fashion as a trend that originated from the artwork of Dutch painter, Piet Mondrian.

Art reached new levels of abstraction through the work of American painter Mark Rothko, who was renowned for his large-scale “Colour Field” paintings. His monumental canvases explored the psychological and dramatic potential of block colour. 

To channel the block colour look in your own designs, look to Rothko, as well as the work of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, an early proponent of Modern Abstract art, for colourful, graphic inspiration. 

Both of these artists were key sources of inspiration for the designers of the International, or Swiss, Style of the 1950s. And no wonder — simple blocks of colour make for a simple and stunning backdrop to grid-based layouts.

“Abstract art is not the creation of another reality but the true vision of reality.”  - Piet Mondrian

Block Colour Abstract Art

Composition II in red, blue and yellow - Piet Mondrian


3. Marbling

Marbling is the process of floating fabric paints on the surface of a thick cellulose solution (called "size"), somewhat like oil on water. The floating paints are swirled into patterns.

Suminagashi, the ancient art of Japanese marbling, is arguably one of the earliest forms of abstract art, with the first known example dating to the 10th century. 

The artist floats coloured ink on water before transferring it to an absorbent surface, such as paper or fabric. Each marbling example is unique, and the results are ethereally beautiful and abstract.

Because marbled papers were used in book production during the 18th and 19th centuries, this art style is strongly associated with publishing and intellectualism. Try using marbled backgrounds in book or stationery designs, or use on websites to add a more tactile quality to a digital design. 

“I can control the flow of paint: there is no accident.” - Jackson Pollock

Marbling Abstract Artwork

Indigo Minerals II Painting - Jarman Fagalde 


4. Line Art

Abstract line art is kind of art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead use shapes, colours, forms and gestural marks to achieve this effect.

Catalan artist Joan Miró combined abstract line drawings and paintings with surrealist subject matter. Much of his work used, or was influenced by, the printing process of lithography, which may have contributed to the graphic feel of his art. 

​​Wassily Kandinsky was one of the first contemporary artists to bring abstraction into line art.

Abstract line art, in which simple, continuous lines were used to create forms and shapes, are a hallmark of Miró’s work and of many other abstract artists working during the 1950s and 1960s. 

Line art is beautiful in its simplicity, and can be used by designers to communicate concepts, and in the creation of icons and logos.

“Colour is a power which directly influences the soul.” - Wassily Kandinsky

Line Art Abstract Art

Composition VIII - Wassily Kandinsky


5. Abstract Organic

Organic Abstraction is an artistic style characterised by "the use of rounded or wavy abstract forms based on what one finds in nature." It takes its cues from rhythmic forms found in nature, both small scale, as in the structures of small-growth leaves and stems, and grand, as in the shapes of the universe that are revealed by astronomy and physics.

Fluid, curving forms and muted mid-century colours are the hallmarks of the abstract organic art style. Artists such as Charles and Ray Eames revisited and reinterpreted indigenous art styles during the 1950s, resulting in organic shapes and an emphasis on natural materials, textures, and colours.

The easy elegance of the abstract organic style has made it a firm favourite among designers for decades, many of whom use the style for branding projects, advertising, and packaging.

Naively-drawn, organic shapes and illustrations can work as stylish flat designs. Or, try placing 3D abstract illustrations as the backdrop of website layouts. 

“What works good is better than what looks good, because what works good lasts.” – Ray Eames

Abstract Organic Abstract Art

An early abstract painting - Ray Eames


6. Abstract Expressionism

Abstract expressionism is the term applied to new forms of abstract art developed by American painters such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning in the 1940s and 1950s. It is often characterised by gestural brush-strokes or mark-making, and the impression of spontaneity.

In this art movement artists sought to use abstract art to express their emotions. This was the case in the years following World War II as artists tried to grapple with the horrors they had seen. This term served as a vague umbrella term for artists combining expressionism with abstract art. These artists took the expressive tendencies of artists like Van Gogh, and Gauguin and combined them with the principles of abstraction. They built on the German Expressionism movement. The Ab Ex movement began in New York City in the 1940’s and is typically cited as the cause for the movement of the art world centre from Paris to New York.

“A painting is not a picture of an experience, but is the experience.” -  Mark Rothko

Expressionism Abstract Art

Untitled XXXIII - Willem de Kooning   Untitled   Orange, Red, Yellow - Mark Rothko


7. Abstract Gestural

Action painting, sometimes called "gestural abstraction", is a style of painting in which paint is spontaneously dribbled, splashed or smeared onto the canvas, rather than being carefully applied.

Rather than applying paint to a surface in a controlled, premeditated way, gestural painters apply paint intuitively, physically, by dripping, pouring, splattering, wiping, dumping, spraying, or whatever.

In other words, the brushwork in a gesturalist painting expresses the artist's emotions and personality just like a person's gestures reflect their feelings in everyday life. Gesturalism also emphasises the physical act of painting itself, drawing attention to the "process of creating".

Gestural Abstract Art

LA Highways - Polly Castor

Why abstract style is your favourite one?
Do you know other style of abstract art?

Fall in love with some of the artworks from our abstract collection.

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