Working in a Series
Updated: Feb 17, 2022
I am currently working on a series of paintings for an exhibition called "The Shape of Us" at Masham Gallery in the spring. As I am working on this I am reminded just how much I love to work in a series. It solves several issues for me, the first of which is getting stuck into my work without faffing and procrastinating! Know the feeling? When you know you have a job to do but you'll just tidy your work space first or re-order your supplies....! Yes, that!
Sometimes, even when it is work you love to do, getting started, being faced by the literal blank page, is sticky. So by having some form of theme, or idea to work to can build a little enthusiasm.
I can spend a good chunk of time prepping the papers, choosing a unified colour palette, painting a series of backgrounds (usually 4 or 8, depending on the size) and with that done, I already know what's next.
Author Ernest Hemingway would famously stop work for the day mid sentence. That way, when he turned up at the page the nest day, he knew exactly what he needed to write next, following the flow of the sentence. It is a similar thing, painting in a series. By working on 4 or more paintings at once, I can paint into one, move onto the next and the next, while the paint dries. Often I can continue round and round the set as the acrylic paint, or the ink that I am using dries quickly. So I can stop when I like, having made progress on all of the paintings and knowing what comes next, the next day. Working this way means that the colours I have mixed are used across the series too, which ties them all together. This varies a little if I am working in charcoal and soft pastels but I often select what I instinctively know I want to use and set them out on a tray, making my palette for the series. I may well add to this, or not use all the colours in each painting, but the links are there.
I find this way of working also sets a mood and builds a sense of cohesion across the series.
The other key point of working in a series is that if I am creating work for a specific exhibition or to a commission, if I work on more pieces than I need I can stay free and easy in the creation. I tend to avoid that tightness and anxiety that comes with working on The One piece, the final piece for the client. I can create several and select the one that feels right, or the best.
Above is a series of three paintings I made last year for my own series based on a sketch made in a life drawing session with Juliano Hollivier. I especially loved the shape. I drew and redrew it countless times until it became this stylised, simplified shape. I then drew this onto canvases and started painting each in a different colourway...a little Warhol style! These were originally on coloured backgrounds that I later chose to repaint in gold and silver to give depth and luxurious richness to the series....which became the larger Glimmer Collection.
The Glimmer Collection is currently available in my Artshop until the end of January 2022.
Keep following for news of the exhibition at Masham Gallery, coming in March 2022.