Should you work in series?
I’m a big proponent of working in series and here’s why:
I’m in it for instant gratification.
Okay those things are true but they have good reasons behind them. You’ll see what I mean.
I’m lazy. In other words, I want to reuse something that I know is working. I mean why reinvent the wheel when you have a perfectly good idea right in front of you? If the first daffodil you drew looks great, why not do another from a different angle? Or another of my favorite shortcuts - crop it into a different image entirely. Take a look at this excerpt from my new book “The Maker’s Book.”
I’m cheap. If you work in series, using the same size canvas or paper over and over again, you can buy in bulk. It’s a lot cheaper to buy canvas in bulk. And, the cool thing about using the same size canvas is that the composition is easier to deal with. If you work in a square format over and over again, you are going to get really good at composing in that format.
I’m in it for the instant gratification. I want to get a “win” right off the bat. The idea of struggling for an idea or pulling my hair out over what to paint just isn’t my thing. So if I have ten paintings of lotus flowers that work, chances are I’m going to go into the studio and try my hand at another lotus flower. I am not going to suddenly take up painting dogs or hedgehogs. I’m going to stick to what I know is working.
When the time comes for me to shift into a new series or a new image, it will happen naturally. At least that’s been my experience over these last three decades or so.
And by the way, a series is not three of something. I don’t care what anyone says. Three does not make a series! You need to really dig in and get the meat out of the idea. Give me twenty of something. It worked for Richard Diebenkorn and the Ocean Park Series; Picasso and his linocuts; Agnes Martin and her sublime works on canvas.
So the next time you are working on something, think about how you can create a series around it. Is it a recurring color, shape or line quality? What did Richard Diebenkorn do that worked so well? Why do Agnes Martin's paintings have such a strong sense of continuity from one to the next? What element of design runs throughout Picasso's linocuts?
These artists knew that deep investigation of a theme or topic will result in art that has depth and breadth and harmony.
Try it for yourself. Find a theme or design element that speaks to you and build and entire series around it.