How creating art in a series can help you grow as an artist

How creating art in a series can help you  to grow as an artist

In today’s episode of the Art with Soul podcast, we talk about creating art in a series. We go through some ideas that you can explore in a series, why working in a series may be an interesting idea, and even if you should consider working in a series. This episode is in celebration of the release of my first collection of abstract paintings called Sands of Time. You’ll find a written transcript of the episode {edited for readability} + additional links and resources below.

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It’s an exciting day around here today, as I’ve just released my very first collection of abstracts paintings! This is the first time that I’ve deliberately approached working in a series. It’s also my very first collection of abstract paintings, a style that I’ve become much more familiar with only earlier this year. To celebrate this milestone with you – teaching myself abstracts and working in a collection – I’ve put together a 2-part podcast on working in a series and how you can teach yourself a new art style.

Creating art in a series

I’m no expert on painting in a series, though my experience with working on this collection and on my intuitive figurative abstracts have given me a somewhat unique perspective on creating art in a series.

While the Sands of Time collection is the first time that I intentionally worked on a series, I’ve been working on intuitive abstract figuratives since about two years. That’s a process that feels much more organic, almost like a personal style rather than as a theme, which is something that would take a lot more deliberation and would be a lot more intentional.

Painting in a collection vs a structured series

The way I see it, a series can evolve organically, based on the style and subjects that you paint most often. In which case it wouldn’t really be a series, but more your overall style and a body of work that you create – perhaps a collection is a better way of looking at it.

When you decide to paint in a series, you would typically choose to paint a certain number of paintings, all exploring a very particular subject matter. In that way, a series is much more contained and defined than a collection.

And then there’s something that straddles the two – like the Sands of Time collection. It’s an exploration on a very particular subject matter, but it isn’t limited to a set number of paintings.

This approach to creating a series of paintings is rather unique, in that it isn’t something I’ve seen discussed too often.

There are a couple of different ways in which you can structure a series of paintings.

You can decide to explore a color, like Picasso did with his Blue period. Or maybe a subject can become your muse, like Degas’ dancers. Or maybe you have a different theme to your paintings, like Cy Twombly’s exploration of Sapho’s poetry, or my exploration of my favorite Persian and Urdu poets in the Sands of Time collection.

Do you really need to create art in a series?

But why should you work on a theme? And do all artists need to work in a series? Isn’t it a bit limiting, repetitive and boring? Why not just paint whatever you feel like painting?

These may just be some of the questions swirling in your mind – they were my area of resistance too, for a very long time.

Despite the advice you may see floating around, creating art in a series is not really essential. It depends on you and your reasons for creating art.

If your art practice is for personal pleasure, then you don’t need to work on a series – unless that is something that you want to do.

If you’re hoping to sell your art or show it at galleries, though, painting in a series becomes much more important. For one, it helps prospective collectors and galleries to really understand your style and what your art stands for, as well as the themes, subjects and ideas that you work with.

Why painting in a series can help you to grow as an artist

Even if you aren’t looking to become a full-time working artist, working on a series can help you to explore an idea or a style of painting much more deeply – to see how you can push your own painting and creative process.

Sharing from my own experience with intuitive figurative abstracts, a subject I’ve been exploring since around two years, has helped me to hone in on my own style of painting, to find the symbols and motifs that show up in my work repeatedly, and to create my own visual language through that exploration.

In this way, working in a series or on a particular subject matter – like Degas’ dancers – can help you to develop a certain level of comfort with the process itself. It’s not that your paintings or your color palette become stale and repetitive, but that you become confident with the subject matter itself, even when it feels like your paintings aren’t going anywhere or seem to be stuck in the ugly middle phase!

How creating art in a series can help you find new ideas

The other worry artists could sometimes butt up against, is that working in a series would feel boring or repetitive. But what I have found is that it can actually be pretty freeing, and open up new ideas and possibilities as well.

Pulling again from my own experience, when I jumped into 100 days of painting intuitively, I didn’t really consider that what I was essentially doing, was working on a series of paintings, so I didn’t stop to worry about whether or not it would be boring or feel repetitive. I jumped into the project wanting to master the style, because I loved intuitive paintings, but they also intimidated me.

It was only after I had spent some time on that challenge that I realized that I was, in fact, working on a series! One that eventually became my style and my ongoing dance with the canvas. It certainly wasn’t boring, or repetitive! Each painting boosted my confidence and pushed me to try and experiment with new and different things.

With that experience tucked into my pocket, it was fairly easy for me to decide to work on a series in a much more deliberate manner. With each of the paintings that I did in my Sands of Time collection, I understood more about abstract expressionism and how I can marry conceptualizing a painting with the intuitive painting process and expressive mark making.

Also read: Kickstart your creativity with the 100 day project

As I hope you can see from my experience, painting in a series can be helpful when you’re trying to find or master your style, or even learn a new art style, which is the topic for the next episode of the podcast!

If you have any questions at all about working in a series, drop them in the comments below, or DM me on Instagram, and I’d be happy to answer them for you!

View the Sands of Time collection

Posted in The Art with Soul Podcast.

I’m an artist and art educator, podcaster, tarot reader, and writer. I share my discoveries along the path to inspire you to live a more creative, soul-centered life. Receive my love letters for more of my musings on life and creativity. P.S. I love Instagram - join me there?

4 Comments

  1. Congratulations on competing your collection!
    I like the idea of exploring around a theme or concept. I was scheduled to be the featured artist for a gallery show last June ….that didn’t happen (and the gallery unfortunately closed) This is a good prompt for going forward.

    • Thank you!

      Such a bummer that the show had to be put on hold. Seeing galleries shutting down is also so heartbreaking. Hope you get to show your work once things start to open up!

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