Artistic Variations on a Theme
Painting in a series is a popular artist’s method. Have you ever created similar paintings using the same subject matter? Then you’ve worked in a series! Claude Monet’s famous Haystacks Series (1890-1891) may first come to mind. Monet created twenty-five paintings for Haystacks, each using the same landscape. He painted the scene directly outdoors, allowing each painting to reflect the changes in quality of light and atmosphere that varied according to the time of day and season. Monet painted several series. Even though Haystacks is the more notorious, his Water Lilies Series includes an impressive 250 canvases!
What is a Painting Series
A series can be as simple as painting on three or more surfaces during the same painting session or in succession. These images will usually share one or more aspects such as color palette, subject matter or size. A series allows a single idea to expand in scope. At the top of this page are two examples from my painting series of the New Mexico landscape where I live. One is at sunset while the other is broad daylight. Similar to Monet, I used the same subject but with different qualities of light and atmosphere.
How to Create a Series
There are many ways to work in a series. One of my favorite ways reminds me of speed dating – it’s fast paced! Gather together several small surfaces of similar size. Arrange them so they are all accessible on your worktable at the same time. This way you can paint on all of the surfaces during the same painting session. Find an idea that inspires you. It could be something realistic such as a landscape, portrait or still life. It can also be something abstract. Be spontaneous and go with your first idea. Don’t spend too much time planning or you may risk never getting started. Gather any photos, drawings or other references you like to work with. Plan to paint on all of the surfaces in the amount of time you have to paint. You don’t have to finish them all, just plan to add something to each surface. Keep time intervals between canvases short. You can set a timer or just move from canvas to canvas by feel. Switching from one surface to the next encourages working fast and being more spontaneous. This process gets your creative juices ﬂowing to work through many ideas quickly. As an alternative, and if you like moving at a slower pace, follow the above instructions but only work on one surface per working session. The main idea is to not feel you have to finish one painting before moving on to the next, but instead allow yourself to spread your working energy out on several at the same time.
Why Paint in Series
There are many benefits of working on several paintings at the same time. If you have a show scheduled with a deadline looming, working in multiples can relieve any deadline pressure as well as give your show a big jumpstart into production mode. Another benefit is that the paintings inspire each other. Even if I’m not working in a specific series, I noticed that a painting I just finished, if left hanging up for me to see it, will often inspire the next. Working in multiples will also allow me to delve more deeply into an idea. Instead of trying to get all my ideas about a certain topic onto one canvas, it can play out more effectively on several.
Did this inspire you to try painting in a series? If so, or if you already work in series, please add your experiences or ideas with series in the comment section below. It will be fun to read about how other painters work with this idea.
Complete Painting Instruction
Complete Painting Instruction
Learn everything you need from your first brushstroke to the finished painting. Acquire techniques and ground breaking concepts to shape your artistic vision.