Do you sometimes feel your art is all over the place? Have you considered working in series or creating a body of art?
Hi, my name is Carrie. I want you to proudly call yourself Artist. Here on Artist Strong I help artists build their skill and develop their unique artist voice. Today let’s talk about 3 ways you can build a body of art.
Countless creatives complain that they have to be stuck with one style for their art. I disagree. And creating a body of work, or work in a series, is one of the easiest ways to enjoy the variety of your work AND still present cohesively to the public.
A body of art is a group of artworks created by an artist that share something in common. This phrase is sometimes used to speak in an overarching way about ALL the art someone makes in their lifetime but it can also be used like the term series. A series of artwork is a specific grouping of works due to some kind of shared qualities in the work.
And that’s what we are going to discuss in a bit more detail now: what can those “shared qualities” look like?
The first suggestion I have for you is a shared theme. In my Anonymous Woman series I was working from the US National Archives and found a group of photos from the 1940s. This shared source of material created a larger message in the work and offers continuity.
Your theme doesn’t have to have meaning or message the way mine did. It could be:
- a series of paintings and photographs that share a love for National Parks,
- a group of artworks focusing on your Grandmother’s rose bushes, or
- sketches you did while your baby was napping.
I personally enjoy working with theme because it forces me to consider my voice and style as an artist and how it connects to meaning.
My second suggestion is to group works by medium. Put your photographs together. Put your mixed media works together. If you make a lot of art and feel like you jump all over the place even simply grouping your work like this can create some continuity.
Even better, it can be a useful tool for reflection so you might inform future work. Who knows, you may draw connections between works you previously missed!
Before I share my third suggestion I want to emphasize that this doesn’t mean you have to stop making all of the varied art you create. These are strategies by which you can organize your work for yourself AND for any public you share your work with.
Presenting or releasing works for sale in a series can communicate the organization, commitment and professionalism in our art. Just because our creative process can jump all over the place doesn’t mean the presentation of our art should.
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My last suggestion for today is to consider the palette of your works. The term palette here refers to the color choices you’ve made in your art. You may have a load of landscapes in your art storage but perhaps you spot some colors that dominate across a smaller group of works. This can help you break up your works into smaller groups for different releases, presentations, etc.
My three suggestions today aren’t stand alone options, nor are they your only strategies to develop coherence in your art. Often we use all three with varying levels of influence depending on each body of art.
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Now it’s your turn:
What other qualities have you worked with in your art to create coherence? Or,
Which one do you plan to apply to reviewing and grouping your art today?
Share your answers, questions, and thoughts in the comments below.
And remember: Proudly call yourself Artist. We are Artist Strong! Thanks for watching and see you next time.
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Recently I was thinking about this topic and have began to organize my artwork by similarities.and differences.
Thank you for putting into writing what I have been thinking about.
Great Val, I’d love to know what you discover!
Thanks for your helpful videos, Carrie. I found them after googling ‘Is it worth having a consistent body of work as a painter?’ It’s something that I’m thinking a lot about at the moment. I have been following my nose for 3 years and now feel I’ve experimented a lot but need to work in a more consistent way. A lot of my work originates with a very personal response to something or an experience so the work really changes according to my mood. The problem is the unpredictability of what I’m going to do next, the feeling that I’m not a ‘serious’ artist’, a feeling of being out of control and muddled. I am interested in the idea you put forward in another older article on the same theme in which you said a series can be a good place to try something out and hone your skills. I guess it’s about making a commitment to something – even if that commitment is only for a few week, few months or a year (or more).
Hi Deborah, thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts here. You last line is THE big aha for me: we can make micro-commitments that perhaps are not as daunting, to stick with an idea – for a time period (NOT forever) – in a way that suits our nature that allows for that development.
I also encourage you to look at all the work you’ve already created. Can you group works together in any way? What surprises you about them when you see them all together?
Thanks Carrie I’m going to get them all out and have a really good think.