Polly's pages (aka 'Donna Williams')

Ever the arty Autie

Expressionist Art – freeing your self expression from judgement and perfectionism


A lot of people believe they can’t produce art or that what they produce is ‘crap’. From which perspective? The Realist Artist will spend a lifetime fixating on detail, striving for perfection, priding themselves in the skill of replication. But did they learn to express THEMSELVES?

Were the first artists practicing realism? Think Heiroglyphics, rock paintings… does this strike you are pure replication? Or expression? What captured an experience better, a mood? And whose experience… whose mood?

Expressionist art can be harmonious or jarring… but moods and experiences can be harmonious or jarring themselves. So sometimes a jarring painting is accurate in terms of self expression within expressionist art.

Expressionist art can still utilise ‘artistic principles’… the ‘Van Gogh’ theory of color, a sense of perspective, the impressionists skills in the use of light, a sense of subject and background, a sense of composition, some sense of the materials, the use of brushes… or lack any of these and still be great EXPRESSIONist art. Think of The Scream… not realism… and its colors are muddied, its background vague, but it is expressive, that’s its focus, you look at it and know the FEELING, the EXPERIENCE.

Expressionist art CAN give an impression, yet is not strictly impressionist. It can take a realist subject but enliven it with expressionism. It can be abstract yet full of meaning. It can be conceptual yet lack any identifiable subject or background.

Good Expressionist Art is merely – EXPRESSIVE. Judging it on any other terms is like being a hatter and presuming expertise in shoes.

There are those who love the mastery of perfect replication. I can admire the eye that can do that, the steady hand and needlepoint patience that has the OCPD dedication to something so controlled, so all about control. I nevertheless bore quickly of realist artworks unless they EXPRESS something, COMMUNICATE something, make me WONDER, empathise, or evoke something in me.

So why would you want to do Expressionist Art? Think of the things you can’t tell anyone… think of how you’d feel having gone through trauma, loss.. think of how you’d feel dealing with cancer, brain injury, loss of your speech, facing your own death. Would painting a bowl of flowers help you unravel and work with the feelings associated with your experiences, give you a means of expressing what words perhaps could not? Expressionist art is not prescriptive. You can take it to any place in the realm of your experience or imagination.

Donna Williams, BA Hons, Dip Ed.
Author, artist, singer-songwriter, screenwriter.
Autism consultant and public speaker.

I acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Owners of this country throughout Australia, and their connection to land and community.