Telling unconventional stories through abstract art

Hello! Alicia here for our first tutorial of the Season of Story. This season, I’m going to be thinking about stories in a very different way than most, and today, I’m going to share with you where I will be starting. In this tutorial, we will be thinking about stories in an unconventional way by expressing them through abstract art.

I recently saw a post on Facebook from a former teacher asking her former students to post an update on what has happened in their lives since leaving her classroom. I scrolled through the responses and quickly noticed a trend. The short stories people were sharing about their lives since leaving her high school English class consisted of most of the following things: the school they attended after high school, their degree, what they did for work, if they had kids, and where they lived now.

I immediately started thinking about how my life is more than those 5 things. Yes, they are important, but I wanted to share about how I am learning to play and create freely like a child again through art, how I discovered a love for hunting for the smallest unnoticed details of life, how much I loved the way Portland (the city I live in) smells in the mornings. I wanted to share my love for learning and the joy I feel from doing even the most mundane things with my family (from cleaning the house to riding our bikes up and down the streets in our neighborhood), how I’m in search of the secret to spending less time working and more time living, how I dream of traveling more and exploring the world. It also made me wonder what other important but not necessarily conventional stories I could tell about myself to someone I hadn’t seen in a long time or someone I was just meeting.

With it being the Season of Story, I have decided to dedicate this season to exploring the idea of my unconventional story, and abstract art seems most fitting to go with this exploration. Through this tutorial, I want you to consider how you might tell an unconventional story at a time when people usually share the standard stories about themselves and then express it in a non-representational way through abstract art. Consider what colors might represent the feelings of your story and what marks or shapes can represent the various important or unimportant elements.

 Abstraction allows man to see with his mind what he cannot see physically with his eyes.

-Arshile Gorky

Telling unconventional stories through abstract art


  • Art Journal
  • Acrylic paint
  • 1-2 mark making tools (pens, markers, paint markers, colored pencils, oil pastels, etc.)
  • A place to journal or make a list (optional)
  • Reference photos of elements to inspire what you want to include in your abstract story (optional)

Abstract art making can seem really easy but turn out to be a bit challenging. My most important tip for you is to consider your non-traditional story through thought or journaling, and then let the story move you through the making. Consider the story as you create intuitively.

I can’t wait to see your stories through your abstract art journaling at #GMSeasonofStory and #getmessyartjournal. Also, if you have any resources or thoughts on the idea of unconventional story sharing about our own lives, please share with me in the comments below or reach out to me on Instagram (@vineandthistle).

Now it’s your turn:

  • You may want to pick a limited color palette to start with or just start and see what colors speak to you as you create (consider the story, feeling you have in mind and what colors relate to the story).
  • Don’t overthink this. Have fun. You can always cover and start over or turn the page and move on!
  • Consider the technical terms I shared: composition, unity, and balance, but most of all, make the abstract art tell your story.
  • Share your art journal spreads with the Get Messy community using #GMSeasonofStory and #getmessyartjournal.


Alicia lives in Portland, Oregon. She loves to create intuitively and freely and let the art come out without holding back. When it all comes together on a spread, it feels magical, meaningful, and like a deep breath for her soul.


  1. Suzanne Earley

    Thank you for the video. I loved watching you work!

    • Alicia Schultz

      So happy you enjoyed it Suzanne!

  2. Divyam Bernstein

    Thank you for this beautiful tutorial, Alicia! Now I can’t wait to dive in to some abstract art!

    • Alicia Schultz

      & I cannot wait to see what you create Divyam!

  3. Janet Joehlin

    Love This! Thank you.

    • Alicia Schultz

      Thanks Janet!!

  4. Charlotte Erichsen

    Thank you for this tutorial, Alicia!
    It helped me work through a chapter of my history that was so full of emotions. Telling details or showing photos would not have done the job, but your unconventional approach did it! It was so interesting to go with the feeling of that time and let that create the page. I would never have thought this could work out so well! Amazing! And yet so simple!

  5. Clare Etheridge

    I just got up on vacation feeling like I need some inspiration, a boost to create and here you are. Thanks Alicia, I need to buy some paint as I didn’t bring any apart from watercolours so you have inspired me to shop and create!

  6. Sasha Zinevych

    Thank you, Alicia! Always love your tutorials!

  7. Marion Lachance

    oh thank you Alicia! I really enjoyed making a page in my journal based on your tutorial. I thought about bits and words of my story and just let it go on paper. Didn’t really know where I was going with my brushes but I finally took a new direction and loved the process of creating that one.

  8. CIndy Jacobs

    This is wonderful Alicia!! Thank you!! I’m excited to get to work! 🙂

  9. Deborah Llewelyn

    I loved this