The Joys of Working in Series

by | May 10, 2009 | Blog | 2 comments

Having just completed a group of 12 paintings for my latest show, I am ruminating on the benefits of working on many paintings at the same time. Having a show or exhibition already scheduled not only gives incentive to working in multiples, but also helps to push artists into new heights with their work. I highly recommend trying it if you haven’t already. First of all you need to book a show. If you don’t have a gallery representing your work, then consider picking a date to have an exhibition in your studio. A few days before clean it up, hang your work, get some great food, and hopefully you have already invited friends, and put a posting in the local paper. You can also easily get shows in restaurants, banks and other venues that enjoy the public, art and someone else putting in the labor and expense. For more information on getting shows check Art Calendar, a great monthly informative artist magazine.

So, now you have a show booked, and hopefully you scheduled it a few months away (at least) to give lots of time to paint. I like working in stages. First I decide on how many paintings I think I can do in that time, and how many will be needed to fill the space. Then I make all my supports (canvases and panels) at once. I make a third of them large sized, another third medium, and the last third small. Some are vertical, some horizontal and don’t forget squares. I stretch canvas, seal it, and gesso (prime) them all at once. Doing everything in stages saves a lot of time, and is easier to focus on each task at hand, because each stage requires different tools, products, and a different way of working or energy/focus. Once I have all my supports ready to go, I allow a few days (at least) to sit and think, going through favorite images I collect in folders, flip through books in the library, write ideas down, and sketch. Eventually a vision begins to form – not specific finished painting images, but a general “feel” or look that I want to attain.

For my latest show the paintings are all acrylic on gold leaf, so I first gold leafed all 12 supports. That took over two weeks, but it was great to be able to just focus on one thing at a time. Then I began to paint on each one of them. Since I work in layers, each layer takes less than an hour to apply, but needs a day to dry. So I can put one layer on 6-8 paintings each day. This is the fun part for me. I get to try different things for each one, and watch them all grow together.

A real benefit for me is to have all the paintings fueling each other. If I am not working on a show, then each painting leaves my studio as its done, and doesn’t get the chance to influence me and the next one as much. This time I had them all hanging as I worked on them, and each one played off the next. By working on many at the same time, I was able to go deeper into an idea, and have it played out more fully than if I had just worked on one at a time.

Here is a link to preview my latest exhibition, Afterglow, acrylic on gold leaf paintings.

And now a nice break from my routine, and then on to another series for my next show in October.

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  1. Margaret Ryall

    Your post supports my favourite way of working. Since I started to work in a series I know the content of my work has improved as well as my use of time. I also like to have an imposed deadline to keep me moving. Thanks for the link to Art Calendar which looks very interesting and I will pursue.

    I find your blog very informative and I’m glad you’re posting again.

  2. Genie

    Great post Nancy. You warm my heart. You are so kind and generous.

    The paintings are lovely. I hope your exhibition is a huge success.



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About Nancy

Nancy Reyner is a professional fine-art painter with over 30 years experience using a variety of mediums including oil, acrylic, watercolor and mixed media. She has appeared on television for HGTV’s “That’s Clever,” and authored several best-selling painting books with F&W Media. She currently lives in Santa Fe, NM. Read more.
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