I think I've mentioned before that my abstracted figures usually begin as fairly straightforward renderings. I pay attention to design, drawing, color relationships and value structure... all the basic things, but I'm not thinking too much about how it'll look abstracted.
Then slowly I start to look for ways to take out information, usually by finding opportunities to lose edges between adjacent shapes.
The two images are two stages of a same painting. On the first one, I've just started to lose edges after being satisfied with a straightforward description. You can see where I lost the edge between the sheet and her thigh, and again at her calf. Also the shadow areas on her lower leg is beginning to get a little nebulous.
Her left upper arm appears to have a section missing, where I just extended the dark background into the flesh.
I went further and blurred the whole lower leg area, dragging the light value over the shadow. I just needed to indicated that the legs were there. I didn't need any other detail to tell my story.
Melting light into light and shadow into shadow happens elsewhere, too. In fact I try to do it where ever I can. But if I did it too much, all of a sudden I don't have anything recognizable. I don't want to end up with a completely non-representational abstract painting–nothing wrong with that, if that's your aim, but it's not mine–so when I start to lose too much, I redefine what I lost.
It's a lot of back and forth, really. And as I'm losing losing edges here and there, I'm also trying to decide where to have my sharp edges.
I try to use them very sparingly. Like exclamation points in a paragraph. If you use too many of them, nothing stands out as important.
So the process is a pursuit of balance... or a purposeful imbalance between sharp edges and lost ones. Like tension and release.
It's like jazz, man...