I often fear I don’t have a unique style or voice in my art. It’s something that is hard to define, comes with time, and changes as your work changes over time. When artists hear they must have a unique style to sell or promote their art some argue back: “I don’t want the restriction of being subject to one style or message.”
WHO exactly said you have to have the same style? Who? Picasso was successful during his lifetime and he certainly had MULTIPLE styles and forms of artistic expression. Despite the change of style in his art there are still shared qualities in all of his work that makes it his. Let art historians and critics debate over those details. Make your art. By the virtue of your decision to create there will be similarities because all of your art has one thing in common: YOU.
I wonder if this is a larger excuse to avoid trying to sell or promote our art?
“Well, if I don’t have a unique voice, I can’t possibly offer my work for purchase, or share it with a larger audience.”
We ALL have a unique voice, but we have to make art regularly to have it consistently show in our art. And art can take a long time! This is why batching is your friend.
What is batching? Batching is when you create multiple artworks at once all following a similar theme or investigation. For example, I’m batching a series of small paintings that reflect imagery of arabic lanterns. Each composition is different but I’ve chosen to use similar colors in all of them.
When I work on the background on one of the paintings, I also go through all of the others and work on those backgrounds too. When all of the backgrounds are “done,” I then move to the next part of the paintings. It is a systemized way of making multiple artworks and allows me to make more art, more quickly. (Thank you Mr. Henry Ford! ;)).
I still choose to work on multiple projects with multiple ideas. Right now in progress I have: a self-portrait painting, a large scale mandala painting, mandala drawings, an embroidery painting, and my lantern paintings.
Each group of art is unique and different so I have the opportunity to play around with and explore new ideas. Some of my work may never get finished. And that’s okay too. What is important is that I commit to finishing some of the work I create. Especially if I wish to promote and sell my art.
Some artists express fears of being pigeon-holed by an idea. And yes, in some ways, you will be when people start to buy your art. A client buys an artwork because they like it. That generally means they will likely want more of the same. But if you have an overarching theme or idea that runs through your work, you still have plenty of room for exploration.
You should be able to generate a community of clients with versatile tastes.
For example, with my series of lanterns I could continue to investigate ideas about the Middle East, or work with travel imagery in general. They both afford me a lot of freedom. To be honest I’m loving these lanterns so much I may just paint more of them until I get sick of them. Hubby suggests I play with a new color scheme, so that may be in my future.
Showing some kind of consistency to your audience breeds trust. It allows you to build relationships with people so they enjoy learning more about you and your art. Batching allows you to create a series of artworks, which galleries do appreciate, as will your potential clients who buy from your website. It means that more than one person can have a love of your arabic lantern painting and buy one. And they may love it so much, they could come back for something personalized, or larger!
Once I’m tired of my lanterns I won’t paint them anymore. But I will have a series of paintings that show my collectors I can develop an idea and work through to completion. It also affords my clients multiple chances to purchase something they enjoy.
Often we get caught up in one idea and jump to the next. I have more to talk about with regard to my art and more to share with my community when I batch my art. And if I decide I want to paint camels, or cupcakes, or candles, I’ll batch them as well!
The funny thing is ultimately we are all creating artwork that does have a connecting thread. As I said before: we are the artist making it! But as soon as I tell an artist to stick to an idea for more than one painting I can hear stories like “but I feel limited.”
Do you feel limited because you are boxed in or because you are choosing not to fully embrace your art, mission and message as a creator?
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Have you tried batching your artwork? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.
I’ve done some batching but mostly when it comes to watercolor backgrounds, and they’re all different
Do you feel it still helps your production?
Yes, I do. It’s a lot quicker to finish them when I do a couple at a time than if I have to put things away and bring them out in between.
That’s a good point. I’m just starting out so I’m learning. I’ve only finished 4 canvases that I would consider selling. All are mixed media but very different.
Batching is helpful when you start to think about selling or promotion your art. It’s ALSO helpful for people who are starting to figure out what they want to say with their art. By pushing ourselves to complete a series of works in groups we have to think a bit more about why we do what we do. I find it helpful on both accounts!
Right now I am trying to figure out the one thing that defines me as an artist. That one thing that will let people know its my painting when they look at it. But I’m really having alot of trouble deciding. I really want a cohesiveness throughout my work.This really helps me. I’ll try “batching” and see how it goes
Hi Jessica, this can definitely be one strategy. Another is to group together works you’ve already made to look at them with fresh eyes and see if you find any connecting threads. I have a post about this topic coming out in the next few months, literally typed it up yesterday! Let us know how batching works?
I’ve started to batch but I’m on four different styles and batching each one What can you advise? I make
Hi Anna, what do you need advice on? If you have 4 different styles, why not batch the design of each style to make a bunch at a time that fit one style, then work on glazes or the design part of all of them in one go (that share the one style)? Do each style in batches! You could have them at different stages of development so if one batch is drying or cooling off you can be doing the glaze or hand-building/throwing others…
I can batch about two pieces. That’s my ADD at work. I set out to create a series of photos of urban power poles. I took 80 photos and deleted 78. The two left I really like! Now onto something else.
Painting more than one of the same theme at the same time is still batching. The point of ALL of my articles is to help everyone be empowered to make artistic choices that are aligned with them as an individual. Glad you know what works for you.
I had to laugh.. I didn’t know I have been ‘batching’ for years. I love painting the same thing over and over until I’ve reached my goal of either loving or hating it. And besides I have 18 grand children that love them
A lot of times we artists do things we don’t can be used a system for anyone to improve their output. 18 grandkids – wow!
I too have been batching without knowing it for the last 4 yrs since picking up a paint brush and looking into the depths of my half forgotten artistic desires . So batching allows me to explore those depths in detail. Thank you for giving it a name, it is highly appreciated thank you.
Christine I’m so glad you’ve found your art again and that you have naturally found ways to help your creativity blossom.
I didn’t know I was “batching” either. I tend to get focused on a particular idea, style, media, or color scheme and primarily create within that framework until I’m tired of it, or something else fascinates me
I find that each path teaches me something new about myself, the media, the techniques, the subject, and anything else you can think of.
That carries with me to the next idea, and the next.
Sometimes I come back and revisit a style or technique. Not often, but when I feel there is more to say or a batch is incomplete.
And no, not everything in any given batch is any good!
Thanks Diana for sharing. I really enjoy hearing other people’s approach and its so rich here in the comments with other ideas, takes, etc. You are now part of that. 🙂
Interesting topic. I too have had a few so-called experts tell me to create a style. They aren’t observant enough to notice I do have a style. I’m versatile. Of course those experts are not artists who are selling their art. Glad I refuse to listen. I do get commissions & I have sells of my numerous styles because I work in watercolor and acrylics. My suggestion is to get a studio open to the public. I listen to what they want. I am interested in what’s happening now & what is all around me.
Thanks for sharing Sylvia.
Another term for batching (which I’ve never heard)
Is “theme “ or “series “these terms are used by professional artists .
Batching has a very naive
amateur feel to it… you may want to switch to some other terms!
Elaine, batching is actually different than creating a series or theme. You can batch gessoing artwork, batch hanging and framing work, batch preparing paints or materials for the work you are about to create… I talk about creating in a series here: https://www.artiststrong.com/why-artists-work-in-series/ and here: https://www.artiststrong.com/body-of-art/
I make Bowl Cozies. I used to do 1, from start to finish, then move on to the next one… VERY time consuming!
Last year, I started “batching”, before I ever heard of it.
Now, I cut out 40 batting squares, followed by 40 fabric squares, then match them up, & start “Chain sewing”. I save time, & thread.
Sometimes, I also have a theme, while I’m batching. Today, I started a batch of patriotic themed Cozies.
Great idea Laure, thanks for sharing! I love hearing how people with different media apply the idea, it’s so helpful for others who happen upon this conversation 🙂
I love rhe whole article.
Finally somebody you understands me and my expression.
Lioking forward to receiving more articles from you. Thm
Thanks for being here Morgaine!
I am an abstract artist. I make cards, use canvas and cardstock for my designs. Most of the time I will have 3 starting points, such as hearts, 8’s, letters of the alphabet and stars. Some of my past pieces, I’d use several starts but at the moment I use 3 of the same for starts. I prefer hearts and stars. A lot of my pieces start out as part of my art therapy but I normally finish them in whatever mood I’m in – hope it makes sense.
Makes perfect sense to me Danita!
I began doing African line art painting with my grandson who is 8 ,online with his teacher. My grandson tells me I am now obsessed because I have done about 30 to his 1.
I really do enjoy it .
Good for you!
This is a great idea. Will give it a try. I am doing something sorta similar in a way. I got an idea for a great painting but it contained two (ok three) elements that I need more skills to complete well. So I developed two (or maybe three-not sure yet) other painting ideas that will force me to practice or learn to paint in a more skilled manner, the challenging big project painting parts. That way, when I approach my larger painting, I will have, “faced my giants,” so to speak. This should help give me variety so I don’t get sick of the subject while developing skill. Not to mention I will have three or four things finished, instead of one slightly shaky painting.
Great idea Cynthia do let us know how it turns out! 🙂
I love doing series, not only does it give your art continuity, as an artist it increases you ability and knowledge on the subject. Thank you nice post!
Great points Janet. Thank you for sharing and reading!
I didn’t know this had a name but I do it! Mostly because I am impatient, so I can work on one painting while I wait for another to dry. Plus I waste less paint!
Hi Becca! I do it for the same reason, especially when working on my mandala paintings which are all about color. It’s nice to jump around between them and use the paint up and then have a layer dry for me to work around or on top of!
Didn’t know that I am “batching” ! I agree it’s a great way to use all of your paint, saves time by moving from wet painting to dry painting, and gives continuity in your paintings…using the same size canvas helps also. This is a great way to get ready for an upcoming show, especially if you are like me. I work better and faster when I am in a crunch!
Cynthia, exactly! Thanks for sharing and reading 🙂
Yes! I always have more than one project going in any given theme or idea.
What a great idea. When I did graphic design in the ‘olden’ days, it was normal to have several pieces of artwork on the go at various stages of production. But with painting or sculpture, it’s been one at a time. Any more than that, I was giving myself grief over having no focus to finish. (I have no idea where that notion has come from!)
This makes so much sense and is very liberating. Thank you.
Melanie I’m so happy to hear you find this idea liberating. That’s exactly what I want for you! <3 Have a lovely day.
What a sense of relief – I have been arguing with myself for a while over a. I havent yet developed one specific style – So i wasn’t sure if I was ready to “go public” yet and b. It seems like it’s taking me so long to get a body of work together that – maybe I’m not a “real artist” and am kidding myself and just give up. A little voice inside has kept encouraging me to stay the course and your article was just what I needed to hear to know I wasn’t alone with my doubts and to just keep on going 👩🎨
Karen I’m so pleased to hear it. You will find that voice and it will evolve over time too. Give yourself permission to explore all of you through your art; I guarantee if you do you’ll find people who appreciate your work ❤️
Thank you for this article, it’s the second time I’ve read it and it gives me a goal and focus for my future paintings. I hope to be able to sell my first one someday soon!
If you persevere John you will achieve your goal. I hope that day is sooner rather than later 🙂
I call my batching Series. I usually do 3pcs. In a group with the same theme or style. It helps me stay focused on an idea or subject.
Batching is not always a series but it can be. A series has a shared theme or concept driving the works. Batching only refers to technical choices, or things like gessoing a bunch of canvases at the same time. The terms definitely have overlap.
I have never heard of this and I can’t wait to try it! It makes so much sense!
Yay Leslie! I’d love to know how it works for you. Keep us posted?
Carrie, your writing is well done and thoughtful/insightful. Many posts are poorly done, so I appreciate yours. Your lantern art is beautiful.
Thanks Debrah, I’m dedicated to providing value to my community and I’m glad you can see that! <3 Thank you for your kind words, taking the time to comment, and being part of this space. 🙂
I recently started working with oil and cold wax medium on Arches oil paper. I tape off 9 5″ squares onto the paper attached to a board and work all 9 paintings at the same time, batching, and find a continuity that would be harder to achieve working individually. Then I suddenly have 9 finished paintings! Due to the similarities, they tend to sell in groups. Bonus!
Exactly! Thanks so much for sharing JoAnne 🙂
Interesting discussion. Sounds like something I may need to try. I’ve worked in so many different medians I’m not sure what I want to do when I grow up! Now that I’m retired, I have the time to explore. Thanks for sharing.
Yay for exploring! enjoy every minute of it Nancy 🙂
I love this article. Took the Archetype test, I am a Many Media Explorer, and also took the link to G. Rubin’s Tendency Test; I am a Rebel. I am not willing to run in one direction only or follow other peoples ideas! Even when several people tell me, they love just that particular type of my artwork – I cannot stick to it!
But – It took a heavy burden off my shoulders to read, quote: “Make your art. By the virtue of your decision to create there will be similarities because all of your art has one thing in common: YOU.” Phew – I have been so frustrated to listen to: ” you cannot be a selling/popular/professional artist, if you do not continue with the same media/style/motif etc over and over.”
I understand fully the importance of batching – but the statement in the article here – You, yourself are the thread of consistency, I did not see untill now. It was my missing link. Gives me hope and excitement to keep creating whatever I want – but in a batch of cause 🙂 Whenever I do make something I do not want to turn into a serie – I could just keep out of the shop-window, so to speak.
Hi Lene! So happy to have you here. And YAY for a big aha. How awesome. I hope your path is full of many more wins 🙂
I am an acrylic abstract painter. I now realize that I have been doing “batching” without realizing it. I find myself getting almost obsessed with a particular theme or technique and end up with similar yet different paintings. I thought that could be a deterrent to the success of my work, but perhaps that could be a good thing.
My main concern now is how to promote my work successfully. I have been a “painter-for-personal-pleasure” all my life, but at 77, I am serious about selling it and being a “legitimate” artist. I would love to hear your suggestions about to I may go about this.
Hi Leila, thanks for being here and sharing! Definitely not a deterrent, that can help you have more to offer your collectors.
First off, you need to truly define and outline what “legitimate” means to you. How much money do you need to earn to meet that standard? Do you have to show your art in galleries too? What about art markets? That word legitimate can be very pesky because often we have internalized definitions of art we don’t even realize or own up to that impede us from doing the work.
If you can properly outline what YOU want (not what other people tell you, but what you hear your inner artist wanting) then it’s about creating goals and testing. It’s a HUGE experiment. Test different ways of selling and promoting. I suggest you choose one social media platform and go ALL in with it as a way to connect with potential buyers. And understand: this is a long game. This doesn’t happen overnight. It’s about showing consistency so people build trust in you as an artist and a brand and then want to invest in you and your art. It’s about relationship building, too. Ask yourself: how can you show up for the people who would want to buy your art? How can you serve them? (Could be blog posts, videos, daily images of your art, Q&as…). There is no one path. And I encourage you to test, test, test to find YOURS!
Curious Creator. I now know why I have all types of art supplies and play with all. I’ve tried batching but it drives me nuts to have something incomplete. I started my art journey coloring for stress relief. Yes, it absolutely works. Now, my husband tells me I’m out of control. Thanks for this article. I’m not going to wonder what my style.
Good for you Michele! Coloring DOES help for stress, I’m so glad it was a an entry for you into your creativity. Keep making, and do you!
I love this article and all the comments. I never wanted to paint more than one of something, but when I a friend wanted 5 narcissus 6×6’s with my watercolors, I dug in and did all at once. I made 5 drawings of the Narcissus cluster from different views, masked off the flowers and started on the backgrounds. It was amazing how much I learned by “practicing” each step 5 times. – Ellen https://www.etsy.com/shop/EllensArtShop
Thanks so much for sharing Ellen!
So when you are “batching” how many do you consider to be a batch? I’m always trying to explain this to my husband because I clearly have a style but with that being said they are not cohesive. I’m definitely going to try to batch some work for an upcoming art walk. Also when you do this do you do all same sizes or similar sizes and shapes? I typically find my self doing sets or 3-4 and different sizes. Would love to hear thoughts.
Hi Sissie! I think batching can happen with any number of artworks. I’d say 3 or more of anything is batching. It’s up to you how many works you enjoy exploring at a time and how many you decide to create in total! I’ve done it with different shapes and sizes because I use the canvases I have on hand. But I’ve also seen it done with the same sizes, too. There’s truly no right or wrong way to use this strategy, as long as you feel its helping you make more art.
Also – ALL of your work has a connection and that connection is YOU. It’s okay if all the work doesn’t always look the same, we evolve, and our collectors will like that about us too. 🙂
I tried to batch some work since reading this and it ended up looking like three of the same painting just different sizes 😂 I kept trying to change up the colors slightly but just wasn’t happy with it till I’m kept putting them back to the same color combinations.
If you want consistency in your work, seek to develop voice, or want to sell your art, having work that looks similar to one another is not a bad thing.
At the same point in time, allow yourself some flexibility! You don’t have to copy every step. The example I use has the same theme but different compositions. How else might you mix things up to give yourself some variety?
Just read this and it settles my mind somewhat. Been batching for years and it is when I do my best work, learn the most, and have the most interesting conversations with “observers”. Love your take and agree 100%. Thank you and kudos.
Thank you for reading and sharing 🙂
This was strangely exactly what I needed to find in my inbox and read today, thank you! I am a recovering perfectionist and professional procrastinator, this combination makes it difficult to actually start one painting – somehow the idea of doing 3 feels easier, more liberating, less like I need to have everything ‘just so’ – I can easily do 3 backgrounds then the thought that I have 3 chances to get one ‘right’ is somehow reassuring too Hopefully because there will be 3 they will look better together too as there is something pleasing about looking at a coordinating set! Excited to paint today, I’m going to do it now, thank you!!
Oh Jayne that’s awesome to hear. I hope you’ll come back here and let us know how it goes. From one recovering perfectionist to another: I’m cheering you on <3
I have never really batched my paintings on purpose before, but today I realize that I have space in the new house to lay out three paintings/easels. I usually paint away from home, which means I carry my easel/paint box and one canvas or canvas board.
Today I laid out three 2 x 3 canvases and do them all layer by layer. They all look rather similar because I didn’t swap out paint or clean the paint brushes between but I am pretty satisfied with getting three done instead of my usual one.
Sometimes working with the same colors and scenery can also teach us more about what we observe than only one. And should you wish to share your work with others, either as gifts or for purchase, if people particularly like one kind of imagery, this makes it easier to share many on that same theme.
I love batching… being reasonably prolific it really helps move things along especially if using oils as there is always something drying while I work on the next one. It also gives me the consistency of colour so having to remix paint to perfection is rarely an issue. They don’t always end up being themed but often I do at least two in a similar style as I think that presents nicely as a possible pair in exhibitions.
Yes! This is so helpful for media like oils or watercolors that require some pauses between layers. Great share! Thank you for taking the time to share here 🙂