How to develop consistency in your art - a conversation between artists

 

How to develop consistency in your art is a perennial topic for many of us.

It doesn’t always come naturally or easily to all artists, especially in the early days, so sharing our experiences can make a huge difference when we’ve been toiling away in the studio only to experience frustrating and confusing results.

With kind permission, today I’m sharing a conversation from the private Facebook group for the Touchstone course, because I {we!} think it might helpful for others to see.

It really is never ‘just you’!

We were talking about how to tell whether it’s time to move on from a current subject, or whether we’re succumbing to shiny object syndrome and not digging deep enough.

Here’s our conversation…

Sharon: Still making pebbles and shells…acrylic and charcoal on paper. Feel I am getting stuck for ideas re ‘where next’? Any suggestions? Am liking the theme, want to find new ways of expressing it, more abstract ways.

Tara: “What is prompting you to ask ‘where next’? Do you feel like you’re already done with creating them this way, or is it habit to jump to the next thing? There’s potential to make a series of these, and what I’ve found is that in making a series new ideas come FROM that.

If it’s that you’ve found that this approach doesn’t have enough ‘meat’ to it to keep you interested, what other materials could you use? What about going 3D? Clay? Papier mache? A mobile?

Obviously you don’t have to try any of these if they don’t spark anything for you, but it’s worth finding out whether you’re genuinely done with this approach or are just used to moving on quickly.

Perhaps also take a look at how other artists are expressing this subject.”

Sharon: Mhm very perceptive! I do tend to rush from thing to thing! Always more interested in ‘what’s next’ than ‘what’s now’! But no, I am loving the series and want to stay with it, just worried it’s all a bit samey…but is that a problem?

 

Mhm now you’ve got me thinking! I am just not sure what is meant by a series, perhaps. In my mind each thing needs to bring something new….but is that asking too much? Should I be happy with more of the same? Confused 😉 but it’s good to ponder!

 

I think I am maybe worried that I am running out of ideas for “improving” my paintings, moving them forwards. It’s definitely a thing with me, never being satisfied, always looking ahead, excited by the new.

Tara: “Ok get ready for an essay! ;) Because these are great questions and worth digging into.

It’s funny isn’t it – so many of us {myself included} strive for consistency and cohesive work, and when it starts happening we’re like, surely this is too repetitive? Shouldn’t I be mixing it up? lol. Or we suddenly feel a bit bored.

I think it’s part of transitioning into a new mindset; making consistent work DOES mean doing similar things repeatedly

The easiest and most effective way to develop a series, in my experience, is to do many at once, rather than one after the other.

That way they naturally have similarities – and you’ll start to develop a repeatable process – but you can stay interested by allowing them to bounce off each other, and any surprise developments or happy accidents can either rule stuff out or inform the next ones.

They will also evolve at different paces, so you get to stay interested that way. And some won’t work out and that’s ok because there are others.

I think this idea of ‘needing each thing to bring something new’ is totally understandable, and I experience it myself, but I also know from experience that that way madness and disparate work lies!

It’s asking an awful lot of every single painting. It also implies that each one must be a masterpiece, which is not helpful thinking as that simply won’t happen.

Some paintings are about the learning. ;) 

It’s natural as an artist and creative person to always want to be excited by what’s new, but the fact is if you’re going to go deep and long with something, it’s not going to be fascinating all day every day.

Sometimes it feels boring. But that isn’t necessarily a sign you’re on the wrong track or the energy’s gone out of it.

It CAN be that, but if you’re aiming for consistency, then it’s actually part of the process.

You can expect to plateau sometimes as you explore your topic/theme/idea. If you can discern which it is, then you can think about what might be interesting to bring in:

  • A technique that might speak to the feel you’re trying to create perhaps.
  • Shifting your colour palette.
  • Introducing something that gives it context.

For example, I’ve been exploring painting water without actually painting what it looks like, and I’ve been using the process to support the outcome. ie. I’ve been using paint consistency to explore water’s different behaviours. A lot of it doesn’t work, but some does and that’s starting to become something. 

So perhaps try to think about your subject and how your process might mirror or contribute to how that can be expressed.

Also what you’re wanting to say; is there some meaning or feeling behind this?

It doesn’t have to be some epic deep story, just think about why this called to you in the first place.

It’s worth making notes as you go along, and once your brain starts ticking it over you’ll be getting ideas all over the place. I was awake in bed late last night scribbling notes onto scraps of paper. ;)”

Judy: “Tara .. this post needs reposting for any who may miss it. I find we can gain so much from the questions and answers. Both resonate. Thank you both.”

Sharon: Wow! Genius! So helpful, am wondering how I print this off so I can digest it more, it really makes sense. And such an AHA moment about wanting consistency but packing bags and moving on when I actually start to get it! Duuuhhh!

 

Thank you for your wisdom, Tara. I am going to keep going as I am, with only curiosity as my assistant!

 

Judy yes, a blog post…

Charmaine: “Your questions Sharon and Tara’s essay are very interesting, insightful and inspiring. I found the 7 day series challenge terrific for all the reasons Tara explains.

Working in a series is the way I want to explore any theme I want to create from now on. Whilst keeping the theme simmering in the background, be it the palette you’ve chosen, subject, medium or technique I find working with a series or multiples more exciting, challenging and importantly, motivating.

They may not all end up as a complete series and variations may/will occur. This also eliminates thinking “what will I do next?” as you near completion.”

Tara: “So glad my epistle was useful to you guys! ;) I’ll save the conversation and perhaps a blog post would be a good idea. Will think on it! I have to say I do love this course for the conversations it generates. :)”

Visit the artists who kindly allowed me to publish our conversation at the links below:

 

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