Whether we realize it or not, most artists end up creating a series. After all, any creative person in any art form will tell you that we keep revisiting the same subject matter over and over. Something pulls at us. We may not know why, but we find ourselves unable to resist the pull, because we want to understand, or conquer, or simply immerse ourselves in the mystery that eludes us. We can do it unconsciously, and drift, or we can do it with intention, and learn and grow in ways we never imagined possible. A series is a way to do it with intention.
What is a series? Perhaps the most well known are Monet’s depictions of haystacks and the Rouen Cathedral, which he painted over and over in different light, different seasons, and different weather conditions. Or Warhol’s soup cans and celebrity silkscreen portraits. Then there are the lesser known, but still extremely important, series such as Joan Mitchell’s luminous and lyrical Grande Vallée paintings. No matter how different the subject matter or style, a series gives an artist a chance to create a unique, cohesive, distinctive body of work. A series allows an artist to find out who she or he really is, and to say, through her or his work, “This is what I stand for, unabashedly.”
Now, many artists, especially in the beginning, tend to have a catch as catch can approach. It’s totally understandable–there’s so much to explore! But when we, as artists, grow, we begin to realize that to go deeper is to find more meaning and to discover more of who we really are. And, as importantly, we begin to understand that those who view our work need to have something to hang onto if they’re to connect with us. We get to know and understand ourselves, our viewers get to do the same, and in the process, they perhaps get to tap into parts of their own experience to understand themselves better as well.
Lately, I’ve been working on two series: Cape Neddick (the featured image you see on this page is from that series) and In the Garden Deep. They are different, and they came about for different reasons, but they are both helping me immerse and go deep. I’ll talk about each in different blog posts, but for now, I encourage all emerging artists who may read my blog to explore a series, whether it’s a subject you’re fascinated by, a philosophical approach to art, a related theme, or anything that’s pulling you. It will help your viewers appreciate your work and be moved by what you have to say. It will make you a better artist, I promise.