Forage in the summer. Paint in the winter.
My first memory of ever doing an art series was in grade six. My older brother did a pen and ink drawing of a hockey goalie. I was super impressed, so I did one of my own and sold it to my classmate for a quarter. These led to more sales to other friends, and I became a professional goalie artist of sorts at the age of 12! I probably spent the quarters on hockey cards.
I worked as an Illustrator in the past, and many of the projects required several pieces to complete a visual narration. Art for education publications in particular need a series of illustrations to describe a topic visually. These require some research and learning about the subject. I found one of the gratifying things about the job is exploring and learning about something, and then describing it visually.
Now when I approach a subject that interests me, I want to explore it beyond doing a one-off. I’ve failed enough times at my first attempt at anything to know it will probably not be my best. The same is true when I haven’t sketched or painted for awhile. I think I can jump back at it but I quickly find I am drawing or painting in a stiff and choppy manner. However I become looser and more confident as I continue. Creating a series allows me to explore a subject visually by approaching it from different angles, studying form, texture, etc. My third or fourth attempt will usually look much more confident than my first. Once I have done several and can see a successful progression, it leaves me wanting to do more. By repeating a theme with similar characteristics and surface qualities, I refine my technique and a cohesive body of work emerges.
Sea and Landscapes is my most meaningful and extensive series. After about 15 trips (I lost count) to SE Asia and the oceans around it, I have thousands of photos, hundreds of sketches, and infinite amounts of experiences. Living landlocked my whole life, being near the Ocean brings a feeling of freedom and reinvention. I always draw directly onto the paper and never trace because I feel drawing onto the paper rather than tracing infuses the work with energy and life even if it isn’t technically perfect. Choosing photo references and creating impactful emotive watercolor paintings allows me to re-live those moments and keep them in my memory.
When creating a series of smaller pieces I will sketch up around 4 at a time and move on to the next piece while the previous washes are still drying. I repeat the process until the group is complete.
When I add pen and ink with watercolours such as in my Wildlife Ink series, I ink as many as eight to ten at a time on on stretched sheet of hot press paper, and then add washes over India Ink. If my own photo reference is not possible I create my own compostion through cropping, light and shadow, creating my own backgrounds.
Commercially I find creating a series of work helps to draw in an audience, then legitimizing the work by showing it isnt just a one off, that you know the subject and know how to capture it in a beautiful way. I also find it improves the chances of connecting with your audience by giving them options, for example “I love finches, I’ll take it”.
I think of series as mini galleries of work, kind of like galleries within a main gallery. When I set up at art festivals/shows I do just that, the tent being the main gallery and different series on panels or tables being mini galleries.
Art Galleries usually prefer a singular medium and subject matter with the beleif it leads to proficiency at what you do. Familiarity with your style and subject(s), and building an identity or brand as an artist. My chaotic creative mind wont allow me to consistently and continuously explore in such a singular permanent fashion so I create series of works. This gives me unified consistent bodies of work without the commitment and permanence of one medium and one subject matter.
My current sea and landscape series is a long way from my grade six goalie drawings. But I have a lot more exploring to do. The seeds of short term and long term ideas are already turning, and those ideas will be a visual journey explored through a series.
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