Why Should Artists Work in a Series?

Why Should Artists Work in a Series?

Have you ever wondered why some artists, such as Andrew Wyeth, and others create their artwork in a series format? My first experience with creating artwork as a series was as an undergraduate at McDaniel College, taking art classes at the senior level. In this Senior Studio Capstone class, my fellow students and I were given the assignment to create a series of artworks that expressed a theme of interest or importance to us and to write an artist’s statement that described our artwork’s theme.  For example, according to the website The Abundant Artist, some themes that artists might explore in a series include, 1.) “color and texture,” 2.) politics (Kathe Kollwitz), 3.) death, (Hirst) or 4.) messages that uplift, like Kelley Rae Roberts, Source: https://theabundantartist.com.

Prior to that, my assignments in drawing and painting consisted of drawing or painting to try and copy the still life or model in front of me, to teach the skills of observation. At that time, I had no idea how to even get started and had artist’s block for two weeks while I searched for artworks that inspired, all in vain. My Teacher did give us some guidance to the process though. He suggested that we create sketchbooks in which we pasted artworks of inspiration, no matter the medium, and he suggested that we look up art magazines, such as Art in America. Pouring over art magazines and artist websites, such as Forum Gallery, I could think of nothing new to say with my artwork that hadn’t already been said. I felt I had a lot of competition since there have already been many artists who have gone before me, who have created several unforgettable artworks to boot, such as Vermeer’s, Girl with a Pearl Earring, painted in 1665.

After weeks of struggle and seeking out artwork that inspired me, I had a solution. My answer came from an unlikely source, music. I decided to illustrate some of the songs of my favorite musician, Sting, using my self-portrait as a muse, along with color, and composition to portray various feelings of uncertainty, sadness, etc. Some of the songs I illustrated in my self-portrait series were Lithium Sunset and Secret Journey. The first song talks about how medication can help bring a person out of depression and make them strong enough to get back up again. While the second song, Secret Journey, talks about a mystical journey of enlightenment. I printed out the songs from Sting’s website, www.sting.com, pasted them in my sketchbooks, and underlined words and phrases that I thought were good candidates for illustration. And I referenced these songs and artworks of inspiration as I crafted my Artist’s Statement. As I searched through artwork that inspired, it became evident that I was drawn to the subject of the portrait, but I didn’t know how to make my work unique, because the portrait has been done numerous times before.

The imagery of Sting’s songs provided the perfect solution to my dilemma and I was off and running. My then-boyfriend, Dan, took photos of me to provide the source photos for my oil paintings. To make a long story short, I finished the series in time and even made a PowerPoint presentation as part of the project requirements of my finished works. In addition, I crafted an artist’s statement, which helped me to define the artwork by describing what the artwork would be about and what influences had to lead me to the finished work. I learned a lot about myself as an artist, such as how to distill ideas through writing artist statements and creating sketchbooks to illustrate my ideas by pasting artwork that inspired onto its pages. In particular, I discovered that I liked to make artworks that had a message, even if the search for the solution was far from easy. But back to my main question, “Why should artists work in a series?”

To investigate that question more fully, I did what many people would do, I googled it.  The websites, Abundant Artist and Art Business.com,  shed some light on the subject of content-based art. According to the authors, some of these benefits include: 1.) Making artwork in a series gives the artist a platform to connect with their audience on an emotional level because the artwork is focused and personal, 2.) Creating artwork in a series format helps others to understand what an artist’s work is about and who they are as a person, 3.) Artists who make artwork in a series are more likely to find art galleries to exhibit their work because they know how to market the artist and this format follow their business model, and 4.) Working in a series format helps artists to understand what topics/subjects are important to them, and which they like to draw or paint.

This week I am posting some photos of my latest painting, The Dream of Time Travel, which I started many months ago, and I am happy to say is finally complete! It is part of a series of paintings about the human condition, which is part of my portfolio for graduate school. These new works are a continuum of the series of paintings I completed as an undergraduate at McDaniel College, using the theme of the self-portrait, but expanding its representation to other themes such as poetry illustration. Thanks for stopping by!

Dream of Travel Version 2, sketch_edited-1
Stage 1: The Sketch.

Photo College Dream_edited-1
Stage 2: Photoshop Collage.

The Dream of Time travel, with watermark
Stage 3: Initial color lay in.

Dream of Time travel, final, small

Celebrities who Failed and Lived to Tell the Tale: Part 1

Why I haven’t been Blogging

Maybe you’ve noticed that I haven’t been blogging much recently and have wondered whether I had fallen off the planet, or have given up on blogging entirely or making art for that matter. It has been a month of life-altering changes since my husband and I bought our first home this past March. I have struggled to make time for art, much less write about it with all the additional responsibilities which have been added to my plate that come with being a homeowner. For example, the house is a fixer-upper, and my apartment needs to get ready for the move as well. I am sorry to say that despite my daily efforts, I still don’t feel prepared, even though the move is only one week away. My husband and I both work, and we’re spending nights and weekends trying to get our home move in ready. It’s been a lot of physical work too, and it’s been draining, exhausting work. Somehow, blogging has fallen through the cracks. In the middle of all this, I have been trying to complete a custom art portrait before the move, and to get to my sketchbook to draw and paint at least 1x a week. Furthermore, I want to present you with quality material and writing doesn’t come naturally to me. So, that’s why I have taken a break from blogging until I found a subject which really resonates with me. This brings me to my next point.

Failure: A topic with which many can relate

I’ve been thinking in depth about blog topics for a while now and trying to figure out what to write about. During this time, I have wondered, what kinds of topics would appeal to both artists and non-artists alike? After considering several topics, I decided that I wanted to write about “famous failures” which were written about by Sid Savara, in his article, “(Sivara, Sid. Famous Failures: Michael Jordan, Abraham Lincoln, and J.K. Rowling. https://sidsavara.com/famous-failures-michael-jordan-abrahma-lincoln-andjk-rowling/.Accessed 29 March 2018.  In my personal life, this topic feels increasingly relevant.  I have been dealing with several challenges in my art career, such as struggling to find consistent income from art sales. In truth, there have been a lot of ups and downs with my art sales over the years and I’m not sure what I can do to tweak my approach toward selling my artwork. At times, I honestly just feel like just giving up on the business aspect of art, and pursuing it as a hobby instead. There are so many aspects involved with being an artist-entrepreneur and I do not know if I have the drive, intelligence and patience to run that type of marathon, or the ability to learn skills so outside of my skill set, like marketing. It is a constant juggling act between the business side of being an artist and actually making time to make art.

My Personal Failure: Why Isn’t My Art Selling?

One of the setbacks I have been dealing with is inconsistent art sales. I’m asking myself, why isn’t my artwork selling? Could it be that I am not using the right marketing strategies or that I don’t post often enough on Facebook, and Instagram? Do I need to work more on my presentation of my artwork through my photography on my website, and commerce sites by purchasing a new and more professional camera and learning new photography techniques? Or, is there some other reason I haven’t figured out yet? Is it my medium, price point, style, or subject matter? Do I need more of a range of prices to attract more customers to my Etsy shop, Red Bubble shop or art shows? In the meantime, while I consider these questions, I am drawing inspiration from “famous failures” to learn how other people have successfully dealt with personal setbacks.

 

Abraham Lincoln: Famous Failure example 1

One of my favorite famous failures is Abraham Lincoln. To begin my discussion of this topic, I would like to start with a quote from Michael Jordan who stated: “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is how I succeed.” ( Sivara, Sid. Famous Failures: Michael Jordan, Abraham Lincoln, and J.K. Rowling. This quotation originates from a Nike Commercial by Michael Jordan, entitled, “Failure”.)

In a similar way, to Michael Jordan, Abraham Lincoln also faced many failures and setbacks on his journey to becoming the 16th President of the United States and one of the best we’ve ever had in my opinion. According to Savara, some of Lincoln’s failure’s included: being unemployed in 1832, being beaten for the legislature in 1832, failing in business in 1833, and rejected for Speaker in 1838. It was not until 1860, that he reached his greatest achievement when he was elected President of the United States. (ibid)

How did Lincoln going despite his countless challenging life circumstances and personal tragedies and probably clinical depression? I’m not sure what the answer to that is at the moment, but from one of his quotes, I would deduce that he was not content with failure and would not let it define him. In the words of Lincoln: “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” To look at this question in more depth, I have done additional research about his strengths as a leader and some of his personal coping strategies, such as writing letters to people he was angry with and not sending them, which he called, “hot letters,” telling jokes to ease his melancholy, having good self-awareness  about  his weak points. Some other strengths he possessed include:  constantly learning and adding to his knowledge base, such as his intense study of military strategy, so he could play an active role as commander-in-chief, during the Civil war and talk directly to military leaders about their military strategies, and finally, listening to the opinions of others, whose opinions differed from his own, (Sources: Shenk, Joshua Wolf. Lincoln’s Great Depression. The Atlantic Monthly, October 2005 Issue, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/10/lincolns-great-depression/304247/ Accessed 19 April 2018, Coutu, Diane. Leadership Lessons from Abraham Lincoln. The Harvard Business Review, April 2009, https://hbr.org/2009/04/leadership-lessons-from-abraham-lincoln. Accessed 19 April 2018, Moreton, Catherine L.10 Qualities that Made Abraham Lincoln a Great Leader, June 25, 2008, https://hr.blr.com/whitepapers/staffing-training/leadership/10-qualities-that-made-abraham-lincoln-a-great-lea. Accessed 19 April 2018.

 

To conclude, I am going to divide this topic of Famous Failures, into sections so that the articles will be short and more readable. Each article will focus on a specific person

 

Abraham Lincoln Portrait with green, edit
Abraham Lincoln in Blue, Oil on Canvas, 9 x 12 inches, 2009, Jodie Schmidt.

 

Abraham Lincoln After portrait
Abe Lincoln, Oil on Canvas, 9 x 12 inches, 2018, Jodie Schmidt.

Abraham Lincoln in Pop Art Style
Pop Art Style Lincoln, Oil on Canvas, 11 x 14 inches, 2007, Jodie Schmidt.

with specific details about their stories. So next week, I will be writing about the life story of the author, J.K. Rowling. I hope that you enjoyed this post and that it brings light and encouragement to your day. Failure is inevitable but how we respond to it, is our choice.