I usually begin my abstracts either with an vague idea or theme in mind, or non-objectively (without a defined subject).
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However, as layering is a significant part of my painting process, I often find myself forming associations with the shapes created, which can lead to realistic elements being incorporated into formerly non-objective works. When painting a series I normally work on multiple paintings concurrently. This allows me to develop techniques, themes, and variations on these, while maintaining a cohesive body of work.