The Laws of Nature

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chasing rabbits and losing direction


Have you ever spent years working on just one series of paintings and then abandoned it? I have, many times. The "All Cracked Up" series (image) includes over fifty works in watercolor, acrylic, and oil that took five years to complete. I've sold all but a dozen of them and decided that was enough. Well ... never say never. Lately, a lot of folks have shown interest and so now I'm considering returning to it, or at least working at it on the side while I continue to paint "The Laws of Nature" series.

Most of you are probably thinking: "duh!" OK, I admit to being a little dense but I like to compartmentalize my creativity so that I don't get lost in it. I think we all have more ideas for paintings than time and energy. It's easy to chase a whole herd of rabbits down their maze of individual holes and lose focus. I used to do that when I started painting, but soon learned to hone in on one or two ideas and do them well.
There is no one correct approach to artmaking, so it's really a matter of finding a process that matches how we think. I can stick with the same series for at least half a decade and not get bored. There's always something new to "say." Other folks would find this tedious and a creativity killer.

Now that I have so little time to paint, I have time to think about the next steps. I think these steps will be working on my new series while resurrecting two previous series. I'll chase three rabbits and, hopefully, not lose direction.

What's your process?

16 comments:

PAMO said...

Congrats Kathy on all the sales! Your "All Cracked Up" series is beautiful and I think it will be interesting to see what you bring to it now that you've had some time away. I can't imagine you losing focus- I don't think it's in your DNA.

I'm not qualified (yet) to contribute to this discussion in any meaningful way, but I will say that I feel much more focused now that my art is primarily PAMO's world style cartoons. Trying to test out so many other things was distracting and now I feel like I'm learning more.

Peggy Stermer-Cox said...

Hi Katharine, What I particularly like about your "Fractured" series and your "Laws of Nature" series is that they are distinctive and creative. When I look at a catalog of watercolorists work, I immediately recognize yours.

I think working in series gives the artist the chance to dig deep, explore, experiment and get beyond the surface likeness of the subject.

Celeste Bergin said...

I paint whatever strikes my fancy. Sometimes I put "like with like" and then I have a series. That's simplistic...but it's how I do it ... maybe someday I'll do it differently.

hw (hallie) farber said...

Your plan makes sense--you pick a rabbit, chase it down the hole, and find a warren (50/60 paintings).

Mark Sheeky said...

My plan is probably like yours; rigourous, logical, methodical. Set long term and short term plans and enact them.

Recently though I've been more flexible because thinking too hard and logically excludes the unconscious mind, the most creative and wise bit. Thus, at least half of my monthly goals include the word "possibly" at the start, and I do those when and only if I feel like doing them.

I look forward to seeing more of the cracked series. It's brilliant that they are proving popular!

Robin said...

It's great to have a plan, but then as I have recently discovered it's great to be able to deviate from the plan when necessary. I like working in series, but then there are always times when I crave a certain subject or medium regardless of the plan, and I have to fill the craving. Your eggshell paintings are wonderfully organic and dramatic at the same time, it wouldn't make sense to not continue with it.

Margaret Ryall said...

I'm with you when it comes to working in a series and generating connected works. I think this is how I challenge myself but I also take detours to experiment or to revisit subjects I've liked to paint in the past - one that just make me happy. I guess I'm chasing rabbits and backtracking!

Kathy said...

Hi Pam - it's been a good year, but there are few fat years in the life of an artist, so I expect 2011 to be lean. That's how it goes. Don't underestimate your abilities and understanding of art -- you ARE qualified to contribute to this discussion and much more!!

Hi Peggy - I know that you've been working in series for a long time and the results are great!

Hi Celeste - I think you've "hit" on something - often we subconsciously paint in a series because we're attracted to related things. Good point!

Hi Hallie - love the way you put it!

Hi Mark - "possibly" is an excellent word!!

Hi Margaret - we do work in a similar fashion. I rarely sidetrack these days, but I think that's mostly because I fall in love with whatever series I'm working on and it totally captures my attention for a long, long time. Hmmmm.... OCD??

Dan Kent said...

What's interesting, of course, is that I see a lot of similarities between both series - so this may not be a departure at all. Working on one may inform the other.

Kathy said...

Hi Dan - you are so astute!! Indeed, one derives from the other in many ways. I guess that's to be expected if an artist stays true to herself and produces authentic work. It'll always "read" as a KAC no matter what series it is.

L.W.Roth, said...

I'm not methodical when it comes to painting YET I do paint in series. Which series I'm working on depends on which of the subjects interests me in that particular time period. In other words, I vacillate between a limited number of subjects. It's taken me the last year to learn what those subjects are and why I find them so fascinating.

-Don said...

For years I painted masks just because I loved them. I painted them for me with no thought of them being a series. I was just trolling along with no thought of direction or specific style. Then a couple of years ago I accelerated into uncharted waters and now I find several series are lying in my wake. They weren't planned as series, they were just experiments that arose from 'what ifs'. Recently I slowed the boat down to survey what's floating behind me as I try to chart my next course. Then I suddenly found myself dead-in-the-water with my motor flooded with too many thoughts. Now I think it's time for me to get out the oars and just start paddling...

Series, schmeeries...

-Don

Mary Paquet said...

Kathy, you are amazingly focused and I really admire that. The results are wonderful. I can't wait to see your work from circling back to a series.

I have done two true series, and they were for Mike Bailey's class. However, I view my art as a series capturing moments in time that are important to me. I use whatever medium fits the subject or calls to me at the time. Sure sounds like I'm chasing rabbits, but I don't feel like the great white hunter!

Kathy said...

Hi LW - I respect your journey. We all have to do this our own way.

Hi Don - keep rowing and work up a good sweat!! At least you're moving in a direction and the work that you've left in your wake is phenomenal!

Hi Mary - I've been following your blog and I think you have purpose in the direction you've taken. You're taking a lot of workshops and learning so much about technique, design, and artistry and this IS a great exploration in itself and a very necessary journey. Keep going ...

layers said...

I believe very strongly in painting in a series-- whether it is 5-10-20 or lasts a year or 5 years-- I paint in that series as long as I think I can bring something fresh and new to the next painting-- once I feel that I am repeating myself- especially if they are selling or others like them- I become bored with the series and it is time to move on... and I have found that once I am done with a series I just can't paint another one-- just does not feel right-- and so I never go back to an old series-- unless I have thought of completely new ways to paint them...

Kathy said...

Hi Donna - it IS hard to go back to an old series and I've never done it before. However, I'm rethinkng it and have found that I do have more to say. As you point out, it's all about having something to say.