Creative Play: Photo to Abstract

In my last creative exercise, I once again took inspiration from Pat Pauly and used one of her techniques for creating an abstract design from a photo.

First, I cropped one of my printed photos down to 7.5 x 10.

Photo to Abstract with Ellen Lindner.

I was aiming for something that was divisible by 2.5, so I could cut it into squares.

Next, I picked out my 6 favorite squares, making sure I had a good variety of light  and dark, as well as all the colors.

Photo to Abstract with Ellen Lindner.

I spent some time rotating and arranging those 6 squares and came up with this.

Photo to Abstract with Ellen Lindner.
It’s not meant to be a quilt design as is.  But, the idea is that the lines of it might make a good pattern for an abstract design.  Did you notice the word “Top” facing the wrong direction?  That’s because I composed it in this orientation and changed it later.

I traced the major shapes with permanent marker, so I could see them more easily.  Then, I traced them onto tracing paper.

Photo to Abstract with Ellen Lindner.

The idea is that the tracing paper pattern could serve as a pattern by itself.  And I think it could.  What do you think?  See, now it’s turned “correctly.”

I had leftover squares so I used 4 more and repeated the exercise.  (I just didn’t like those last 2 squares.)

Photo to Abstract with Ellen Lindner.


Hmm, maybe I like this one even better than those favorite squares.  Now I’m wondering what it would look like if I omitted the vertical and horizontal grid lines, merging shapes as needed.  More options!

It’s easy to be intimidated by the prospect of abstracting an image, but this technique was pretty useful, I thought.  Why not try it?

Update, I just found an image of one of Pat Pauly’s abstracted quilts.  It looks like she used a technique much like this.

Ellen Lindner
P.S.  See my other posts about recent creative play here, here, and here.

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  1. Mary says:

    Thanks for this tutorial. It is indeed, very helpful in abstracting an image. I look forward to seeing how you proceed. Of course, it will be wonderful.

  2. Maeve says:

    Really creative inspiration! I need to try this myself. Thanks for sharing!

  3. ellen says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed it, Mary. I sure have had fun with all of this!

  4. ellen says:

    Hi Maeve,

    I’d love to see your results if you try this.

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