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Monday, April 16, 2018

Tips for Creating an Art Series

What is a series? A series (by my definition) is 5 or more pieces of art that share a common element. Anything less than 5, at least for me, may have a theme but it has not yet reached the level of a "series". It has the potential to be taken to a higher level and evolve if I choose to do so.

I can't tell you how many artists I've spoken with over the years who were pissed off because some gallery asked if they had other pieces of the same kind. When they said "no" the gallery lost interest. The gallery wanted a series that had some common bond that they could exhibit rather than two watercolors, a pastel and a pencil drawing. Galleries ask for a series for reasons. Its not only to help their marketing of your work, but its to show your development as an artist.

I remember a time when I hated doing series work. I felt they limited me. I wanted to explore everything and I felt that working within a series would place a barrier on that exploration. Because I live in New Orleans people always asked me why I didn't do art that would sell to the tourists. I thought it was because I didn't want to get stuck in a single reoccurring theme. In reality what I was afraid of was becoming just another mediocre street artist who sold prints in the French Quarter. 

I thought that a series was a single idea, where I did the same thing over and over again because it sold well in the galleries. The idea of doing the same thing over and over again was a nightmare to me. 

Then one day I suddenly grasped what a series allowed me to do.I was missing the point of what a series was. It does not limit. Rather it expands your exploratory abilities within that common theme. Over time I've come to love the concept of a series. It lets me start simply and expand and experiment with the subject matter until I've exhausted my ideas. And even then its not finished because I can come back to it at any point and add new work. As my skills evolve so do work created in each of my series. 

I learned that working within a series usually meant going from a simple idea to a much more complex one, ever expanding my skills to take into consideration new aspects within the same theme. When a series had finally played itself out, I could set it aside and go on to something new. What I'd left behind though was a conceptual idea that stretched over multiple pieces of art. The idea was no longer limited to one piece of art.

Consider that a single piece of art is like a single piece of fruit. But a series is like the whole tree where every piece of fruit represents something distinctly different, the flavor, the texture, the color all have subtle variations not found in any other piece of fruit.

As I've said many times, in Assimilation Art, nothing truly has an ending. Nor should it. We should always re-explore old territory. It gives us new perspectives that we did not gain when we first created the art. Again if we use our fruit tree as an example, a fruit tree that dies bears no fruit. The fruit tree that keeps coming back to life as our skills change, always bears fruit.

Many artists that I come in contact seem to get bogged down in the "concept" of a series. For example, it may be enough to have a concept based on say "trains". But the concept can be far too narrow. What ends up happening is exactly what we dread. We start painting trains over and over again. This one is blue, this one is green, this one has two cars linked together, this one is coming, this one is going. The result is that the series plays itself out quickly, or you are lost in the monotonous continuity of creating the same thing over and over again. Not only does the artist become sloppy and bored, but so does the audience.

The artist should always keep their eyes open as to how to evolve the concept. The concept of "trains" could evolve. You could now take the series one step up to encompass "vehicles". Now the playing field is much broader.

Its very hard sometimes to create concepts for multiple pieces of art. A lot of artists struggle with creating a series because ideas can be hard to come by and because many artists don't like to get stuck doing the same thing over and over again. 

There are a lot of issues to creating a great series of art as opposed to a single piece of great art. Conceptually we can run out of ideas fast after the first few pieces are created. 

My pattern is to start with a single piece but always keep my eyes open for how that single piece can become more. In some cases one series will spawn another series. But what is most important is that I don't get bored with it.If that happens its crucial to move on or else the art will suffer. 

Here is the concept for a new series I am beginning. The first piece was created for the Low Res Art Series . Once I completed it though, I saw the possibilities of spawning it into its own series. I considered it for a few days. The concept evolved with my thought process until I came to the decision to call the new series "Celestial Ruins". The concept was based on ruins around the world, but taken to a more surrealistic level. Since surrealism is a major theme in much of my work, this fit both my skill level and made for an exciting experimental series. Here are the first two piece in the series.

You'll note that I am also using a new formatting concept for titles and watermarks. This is super important because it gives the art a finished off look when its displayed online. Many artists just toss the work up and don't consider how important it is to look as professional as possible. I think this new formatting is one of my favorite so far. 

So, one last word on series. Always remember that a series needs at least one common element to bind it all together. In this new series that element is "ruins". Its a very simple element, but with a lot of room to expand out. But that common element can be something concrete or something more ephemeral, like color or emotion. Whatever you use stick with that one thing no matter how far afield you go and you'll always stay on the right track. 


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