Breaking the Rules, Asking the Questions

Soft Summer Breeze 1

“Soft Summer Breeze”
22 x 28, copyright Molly Larson Cook, 2018
Acrylic on Canvas


Although Robert Henri wrote and painted years before abstract expressionism came into play, I find a lot of inspiration for my abstract work in some of the passages in his never-out-of-my-sight book, The Art Spirit.

To wit:  “A great painter will know a great deal about how he did it, but still he will say, ‘How did I do it?’ The real artist’s work is a surprise to himself…He does not paint men, landscape or furniture, but an idea.”


“Pretend you are dancing or singing a picture.”


“Reveal the spirit of the thing…Reality does not exist in material things. Rather paint the flying spirit of the bird than its feathers.”

These three short passages go straight to the heart of what I love about abstract expressionism and what I’m trying to do with my current – and continuing – collection, “The Colors of Jazz.”

The improvisational qualities of jazz and abstract art go hand in hand for me.  As a listener and a viewer, I want the surprises.  As a dancer I want space for my own steps and not a choreographed routine.  Line dancing does nothing for me but bring out my rebel spirit!

Most of all, I want the surprises and the space as an artist.

I know the techniques. I know about colors and values and design and relationships, but still the question comes now and again:  “How did I do that?” It’s the question that gets my painting juices going and keeps them going.

I spent some time studying to be a jazz vocalist which is an oxymoron of its own but a great one for a girl singer (you’re a girl singer, no matter how old you are) because jazz and abstract art are a fine combination of rules and breaking those rules.

When people say of abstract art, “I have a five-year-old who can paint like that,” I want to tell them, “No. You don’t.  You have a five-year-old who can paint like a five-year-old.”

An abstract artist, like a fine jazz musician, is something altogether else, and it takes a certain kind of eye or ear to appreciate either one.  We know our music or our art are not for every taste.  But we know the ones who love us will love us forever.





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