This year, in the art group are concentration is on working in a Series. Both Linda and I felt it was the next step in our development as artists. I can't say that they all jumped up and down, in their chairs with excitement.
There is an interesting exercise in a new book, that is out, Visual Guide to Working in a Series. The author, Elizabeth Barton, suggests that in order to develop a theme, you take out any written material that is readily available. That's it, just grab something off the bookshelf.
It could be a novel, a reference book, a magazine, anything except the phone book.
Look for the first noun that catches your eye. For her example the author is looking at A Christmas Carol and she saw gold, dogs, staircase and buttons.
After you have your noun, write down all the ways that the item could be addressed in a series. Obviously some ideas will work better than others, but remember this is an exercise in creative thinking.
Maybe you want to do a series on a special technique that you are exploring.
The author goes into great detail about why it's important to explore and develop a series. What constitutes a series. What as an artist you gain from working in a series.
It's an idea I honestly, resisted for a number of years. I had so many different ideas about what I wanted to do that I couldn't see myself just focusing on one theme.
I think one of the problems facing our art group is the question, "What do I do with all the samples from my experiments this past summer?" I think that's a mindset that comes from being thrifty, not wasting anything and it's a good one for most things but not for experimentation.
Experimenting with a technique allows us to see how it works or doesn't work. What needs to be adjusted, changed or substituted. It shows us where our level of patience is, too. Some techniques and processes are expensive, time consuming, take up a great deal of space and just aren't practical for us to do, in the long run.
I think we have to think of the results of our experiments as samples for our sketchbooks. Maybe if we are lucky there is a piece that we want to develop or use but we have to take the pressure off ourselves with this "I have to use this" mentality.
We also have to remember that often when we were experimenting we were using inexpensive grade cotton, perhaps student grade paint and you used what was on hand.
Now, that you know how a technique works and you would like to use it in a piece you can use the right colors, right fabric and paints or dyes.
Just looking at your stack of experimental work and thinking you HAVE TO make something with it, is the wrong approach. If you look at something and it reminds you of something then make a note and pin it to it.
Speaking of notes, make sure you have a note on your stack of experimental pieces that indicates how it was made. Surely, you aren't trusting your memory are you?
So, putting aside that mindset of thrift, let's take a look at what you have done over the years. I hope you took pictures of your work. If you did then pull them all together in an album on your computer.
Some editing programs allow you to put a number of pictures together on one screen. If yours does, great because you can take a look at them. You have a visual timeline of your development. You can see what "theme" seems to pop up more than you expected.
At first I wasn't going to do this for my artwork but when I did I found that I often do landscapes.
When I did this for my photographs it was much easier because I had already put them into individual folders based on subject matter.
It's not hard for me to see where my themes would be. I can see a Series developing, easily, that involved the use of my photographs and mixed media. I can see the same technique being used and the same theme with different subject matter.
I'm not sure I would have see it so easily if I hadn't sorted it all out. I think you really have to see what you have done, where your interests are and what surprises there might be.
I often take pictures of the "odd" and the "weird" that I find when I am out and about. Things that are just unique and not to be found anywhere else.
Enough chit chat, time to go over to the Studio and actually get to work on that Series.
How about you? Going to do something creative today?