Friday, June 6, 2008

Thoughts on a Series

Spring Trees
4" x 4.5"
Casey Klahn

Somewhere I read, recently, about tips for doing a series of paintings. Let's explore the practice of creating a group of works.

The economics of doing art in a series is perhaps the obvious reason that comes to mind. But, there is much more to the art series than that. As a matter of fact, without the underlying artistic rationale for painting a series, the results can often fall flat.

Do a series of similar works to get down on paper (or canvas) the fuller extent of your ideas. Are your pictures more than the representation of some objects? Do they have anything to say to the viewer of deeper meaning? Explore the nuances of a color composition, or of a particular place in all of it's complex facets.

Hang a series of ten paintings that share a coherent and well developed idea. You will be going past the technique and the handling of pastels; beyond the aesthetics of pleasant images. You will be expressing the depth of your artistic development, and revealing more clearly what your ideas are.

I would rather see your room of ten signature works hanging than a solitary Pollock at the MoMA, any day!

With these things in mind, what are some methods for creating a series of works?

  1. Try to see a One Man Show at a local gallery or an artist focused Exhibition at the Museum. Notice what creates the continuity in this hanging. Likely the framing will be the same, and maybe even the sizes and aspects of the paintings will be uniform.
  2. Either decide what you are trying to say with your artistic growth, or look very intently at what has been coming off of your easel. Is it trending in a certain direction? Is it new in some way for you?
  3. I try to get my subjects or objects the same. Now, I am doing a series of deciduous trees which are drawn in the Eastern Washington setting. This is a departure from my typical conifers, and the change or growth is an important element of a successful series. Nicole Caulfield is doing still lifes in boxes, in the style of the Tromp L'oeil. Harry Bell did a series on water taxis in Venice (very unique). Joan DaGradi is doing post-Hurricane Katrina condemned houses in New Orleans.
  4. One method to provide continuity is to not only follow an idea, but to repeat, limit or at least narrow your palette. The effect on your exhibition will be noticeable.
  5. Especially for the pastelist, make a decision about what paper you will be doing your series on. Will the images be more coherent on the same paper brand and color? Maybe yes and maybe no - you'll need to decide, and possibly stock up on one particular paper.
Ready to take that next step in your artistic development? Hang a grouping of ten coherent pastel works, and remember to get someone to take your picture there!


vivien said...

good post Casey :>)

I love to work in series developing ideas - the coast is an ongoing one, about seasons and time and changing light and there are other series too.

I hope you are doing some of these in the sketchbook exchange in my book!

Casey Klahn said...

Yes, and it looks like I'm one-away in the rotation from your book!

Thanks for reading.

Lor Lor said...

This has given me food for thought Casey.
I've been having a lot of fun with pastels in the last few days and it looks like I have fledgling series.
Plus your blog has been really helpful, its much more interesting reading about your experiences with pastels than an art instruction book.
Thanks again.

Casey Klahn said...

When ever an artist is converted to pastels, an angel gets their wings, and I hear the ringing of a little bell...

Martha Marshall said...

Even with nonobjective painting it's a necessary exercise. I have struggled with it over the years, and have tended at least to work in series. As a result, I've recently found a series that seems to have endless possibilities.

Casey Klahn said...

It is funny how the series opens up rather than limits possibilities.

I love your Haiku Series, Martha!