Four international self-taught artists reveal how they create their amazing abstract art.

At first glance, it’s sometimes easy to dismiss abstract digital art as little more than desktop wallpaper. But look a little deeper, and you’ll find that abstract illustration can be exciting and inspiring.

Abstract digital art enables the inner mind of the artist to take flight on the canvas: it allows the artist to use artist shape and form as the building blocks for expressing himself, unrestricted by the challenges of trying to accurately represent a physical object.

It’s both original and mysterious, exciting and deeply personal. It often fuses 2D and 3D, and displays technical mastery as well as imagination. Here we present some exemplary pieces, created with the likes of 3DS Max, Cinema 4D and Photoshop.

Based in Indianapolis, US, Jonathan Foerster is a self-taught digital artist, whose work has attracted commissions from blue-chip clients around the world. His most recent project is promotional artwork for the band Omega Code.

Inspired by the art of Roger Dean, David Dolan, Robert Venosa, Zdzislaw Beksinski, and HR Giger, Jonathan’s personal work reflects his love of abstract and surreal imagery.

“I draw a lot from my emotions and experiences, and I try to project this through colour, form and atmosphere,” he explains. His core tools are Photoshop CS4 and 3DS Max 2010: “I’ve stuck with these two for a long time, but I use other tools here and there to achieve certain elements.”

Creating art like this takes patience: Foerster spends several months creating a single piece of work, using numerous layers and renders composited together with additional post colour work. He has recently started showing his work at local galleries and events around Indianapolis.

Chris Tohill is a 21-year old illustrator and designer based in Calgary, Canada who from the age of 14 has taught himself 3D, web, motion and graphic design.

His first foray into formal design education comes in September, when he enrols in a new media design course at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary. Tohill created the art shown here using Cinema 4D and Photoshop.

“I tend to stick to the basics when using these applications,” he says. “I find it easier to use smaller, less complex techniques to allow yourself to be more comfortable when planning and designing.”

He finds it hard to put a finger on his creative style. “I try to be as modern looking as possible, while using a lot of colours and complexity. I like it when someone can see something new in my art every time they look at it,” he explains.

Fortunately for Tohill, he says that inspiration comes easily: “It can be anything, from seeing the way that the light hits something, to listening to a favourite song. I use things like these as inspiration and put my own twist on the way I view the world around me,” he says.

German artist Markus Vogt describes his illustrative style as somewhere between sci-fi, dark art and Surrealism – and he finds inspiration in the work of artists such as HR Giger, MC Escher, Zdzislaw Beksinski, Paul Gerrard, and David Ho.

Markus uses Photoshop for his 2D work, and chooses between Cinema 4D, ZBrush, Vue or Bryce for his 3D pieces. Experimentation is key to his work, he says: “While I’m comfortable with the most common features of the software I use, I like to play around with those unfamilar tools to finish my illustrations.”

Based near Frankfurt, Markus is completely selftaught. He started his creative career six years ago. “At first I didn’t specialize in any one area. I tried everything from 2D to 3D - including figure design, abstracts, photomanipulation, fractal creations, landscape and scenery rendering – even small animation projects,” he says.

His first commissioned work has come from friends in the music business, and his work can be found at a range of online gallery communities.

At just 18 years old, Dutch abstract artist Rik Oostenbroek is already making a splash in the digital art community with his colourful compositions. His clients include Mazda, Panasonic, Volkswagen, Le Coq Sportif, and Campina – and his work has even appeared on the front cover of a design magazine.

Since discovering Photoshop a few years ago, Rik has mastered the Pen tool to create his glorious abstract art. “Having no boundaries whenever you work with this tool, you can create exactly the shapes you want,” he explains. He still works primarily in Photoshop.

“I tried lots of other programs, such as Bryce, but I still go running back to Photoshop,” he says. Creating striking abstract shapes and combining them with photographic elements is his preferred style of work.

“I try to create a balance between art and commercial eye candy,” he explains. His inspiration comes from music, nature and other digital artists such as Joshua Davis and Jerico Santander.