The Process of a Series


I'm making progress on the pieces for the Spring show and I thought it may be of interest to show how I go about developing a series, one of my favourite things, actually.

There are generally three stages/criteria that virtually all my series have in common.
  1. Subject matter. Theme and visuals.
  2. Size. Yep. It matters!
  3. Look and Feel. Unifying palette and markmaking.

Subject Matter

Almost always there are words that kick things off.  For this current series, the show theme is 'Memory'. I wrote about this paragraph in my last post:
"He hated confronting those lost moments, being presented with some detail from his past and having to look on it like a stranger. It made his life feel like a made-up thing. A net full of holes."
Which got me thinking about the reliability of our memories, the lives we construct and alternate realities.



Right on the heels of a paragraph or phrase are the visuals, which often show up as if they had been connected all along or something. In this case, a bunch of photos found while looking for something completely unrelated. I'm super lucky to have my husband's family photos land in my lap, all very prolific photographers from the turn of the Twentieth Century forward.

The phrase 'like a made-up thing' kept repeating in my head as I thumbed through this grouping. Perhaps it was the decided lack of males or the, often, solitary poses or maybe my perceived feeling of trust and intimacy between (female) photographer and subject, all I know is these ladies sure got my attention. And my theme 'A Made Up Life: Lost Moments, Remembered, Reimagined' came into being.

Size

Deciding on final sizing comes right after choosing my central images. The first stack was winnowed down to twelve cohesive photos, naturally falling into four groups of three. I knew I wanted to incorporate some assemblage pieces into the mix which are often smaller than my bigger works. The original photos were a teeny tiny 2×3 inches and wouldn't be practical to use, so it allowed me the freedom to dictate the finished dimensions. I also had a bunch of older paintings I wanted to scrape down and reuse which became the basis for a couple of the groupings. Sizing ranges from the smaller (8×8 inch) assemblage works to the larger (20×24 inch) repurposed paintings that were languishing around the studio. 
 

Look and Feel

The next step is to coordinate the colour palette across the entire series. Limiting to three or four colours really ties the series together, with an additional colour or two linking each subset. Subject matter can often dictate where I pull these from ... an ocean series, for example, could use anthraquinone blue, paynes gray (a perennial favourite) and teal. When reusing old substrates there are often little bits of colour left on that give me a jumpstart for colour palettes as was the case for choosing Prussian blue, Cobalt Blue and Transparent Yellow Iron Oxide.

Similarly, cohesive mark-making across a series unites the different parts into a satisfying whole. Frankly, I make many of the same marks on ALL of my pieces - three circles, three squares, three lines (yep. I like threes) dressmakers pattern wheels, roadmap-like lines (often white), stars, circles, dashed lines - but I try to be mindful when working within a series to tie each subset together.


I work on all pieces at a time though some are at different stages. I try to get all the substrates finished at once, so the messy parts of construction, sanding, plastering etc are done in one fell swoop. Subsets are worked on almost as a singular painting with each stage... background, imagery, top washes, additional transfers, mark-making, encaustic layers, final incised markings... being done simultaneously across all substrates. As a result, I often have 5 or 6 works in progress come to fruition at the same time. Which can be a little hectic (not to mention using every horizontal space) but is super satisfying as they reach that final hoorah!

If there's anything you'd like clarified, maybe things I glossed over or missed altogether, comment down below! If you found this interesting or helpful, please let me know that too.

Next week I'll talk about Why I like working in series.

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