My Own Visual Language


As a painter I spend many long hours in the studio, alone. When I have an exhibition of my work, I have the privilege of talking with collectors and hearing their response to my work. I am often asked, “Why abstract expressionism? Is there a representational Influence?”

Looking back over the past 20 years of working as an artist, I can see that I passed through several phases. In the beginning, there was a lot of focus on realistic life drawing and studying the figure. Later, time was spent doing collage work, tearing papers, layering surfaces and adjusting colors. Through these practices, I noticed that I had a deep desire to develop my own compositions, process and expression that was not dependent on recognizable imagery. I wanted to create my own visual language.

This epiphany gave me the courage and the drive to follow my inner voice — every artist understands what I am talking about here. My voice spoke so clearly and loudly to me that it could not be ignored, hence the evolution of my most recent work, which I call contemporary abstract expressionism.

To my great delight, intensive studies in art history connected me with other like-minded spirits — Joan Mitchell, Willem de Kooning and Cy Twombly, for example. It astonished me that these great artists had similar values and goals in their art making. They were revolutionaries in their time, breaking away from accepted ideas in both technique and subject matter, and disregarding intense criticism. When I observed their work, I felt an instant connection, almost as if I knew them personally.

Through these observations, I began to utilize a broad definition of abstract expressionism in my art: emotionally driven work that avoids any kind of intentional, representational imagery. My paintings are derived from intuition and improvisation with a high regard for process. For me, this process revolves around many layers of paint. Studying my work, a viewer can see evidence of earlier marks just beneath the surface, which cultivates a sense of mystery and curiosity. I try to balance intuition and intention to create optimum visual harmony in my work.

Truthfully, my abstract art has given me a priceless gift: the opportunity to explore and better understand my deepest self. It has allowed me the freedom to express myself outside the bounds of traditional reason or planning, to live in the moment, and respond to the world with serendipity and unfiltered honesty. I am grateful for this gift.

Creating each piece of abstract art takes me on an exciting journey — no road map — just the practice of trusting my voice and expressing gratitude to those who blazed the trail of abstract expressionism before me. I look forward to sharing this journey with collectors and readers and my many artist friends. Please feel free to post remarks about your own journey!

Brenda Hope Zappitell creates abstract expressionist works not only born out of intuition but also serendipitously influenced by nature and life experiences. She earned her B.S.W. from Florida State University in 1986 and her J.D. from University of Miami Law School in 1990. Zappitell is mostly self-taught but has attended classes and workshops in New Mexico, Mexico and Florida. She is represented at galleries around the country and has participated in solo and group exhibitions. Her work is in both private and public collections. Visit