Ever feel scattered? Or as if your work is all over the map or lacks a clear style or focus? Again and again I come back to this feeling that my work should be more 'consistent'. It should be recognizable as mine. And yet I would never tell someone else that their work should be consistent. I really believe (as you'll know if you've taken any in-person workshops with me) that you should explore what interests you. WE should explore deeply and honestly, and follow our passions and interests. Otherwise we're just banging out 'production art'.
The other end of that spectrum is skimming the surface of an idea. Try one piece, then move on. And that is not real exploration. I'm always telling people in my workshops to "do ten more" in answer to almost any question. But not "stick with that image/style/whatever for the rest of your career".
That said, some artists explore honestly and passionately in what looks to us viewers like a narrow, but deep, range of imagery. We read this as 'consistency' or 'cohesiveness' and seem to feel that this is the correct way to make art. Why the high value on recognizability and consistency? Does it make us as viewers feel good to recognize an artist's work? Or is it just more convenient for galleries and marketing?
Just like I have changed my profession several times over the span of my three decade career (potter, freelance art for manufacturers, painting and teaching), and my extracurricular interests are broad and cyclical (chicken husbandry, language learning, excel spreadsheets, graphic design, cheesemaking), my work changes in format and style pretty consistently. It is also cyclical. So I did stripes for over a year - that was the exception. But I've done stripes before, differently, with different perspectives.
Right now I am doing what I call collage quilts or collage mosaics, and then working them into pieces. The friggin world has fallen apart, and this feels like making something meaningful or just pretty, out of the shards. Or maybe I am just trying to make up a story that connects my work to something real. Oh well, it's the work I'm doing because I'm following what interests me. I'd love to get your comments on this topic.
|This is the mess, partially assembled.|
|This and the following three images are the 'quilts', collage on very light-weight paper.|
|Finished (I think) piece, as yet untitled, 24"x24", acrylic and collage on wood panel|
|24"x24" on wood panel|
|16"x20" on wood panel|
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This subject has haunted me for YEARS. I get disgusted with myself for overthinking it to death....So I guess I am just going to draw, paint, make books, glue, stitch fabric, and whatever interests me and find joy in that! I love your work and connecting with other artist via blogging has helped me stay sane during the pandemic, and now-during what horrors are going on. Thank you! Art is healing and important!ReplyDelete
Thanks you for this. Connection is SO important! And art IS very healing to make and to view.Delete
I’ve followed your work for years, appreciating the cycling through various techniques and styles, watching Stripes or collages evolve in ever-new, intriguing ways. Since I admire your work and your career choices, your cycling gives me permission to do the same. I am currently making small art quilts in a long series with fairly strict guidelines that give me a comfortable, familiar place to start, yet yield a journey that keeps taking me to surprising new forms. Knowing you do similar processes helps me feel ok about what I might otherwise worry was ‘getting stuck’ in one place. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on so many issues that artists struggle with.ReplyDelete
You only need YOUR permission to follow your interests - narrowly focused or broad. But I'm glad my musings helped nudge you.Delete
Such a comforting piece to read. I have wide ranging interests too and want so much to be recognised as a credible artist ... and so the constant battle with myself that I should "specialise", pick *one* thing and be good at it versus all my creative pursuits will align and contribute towards my unique artistic style. And so yes, I will keep exploring as I need right now and respond with my own authentic voice.ReplyDelete
I think that many many many (maybe the majority) of artists explore broadly rather than narrowly. I don't know. But this feeling that The World prefers specialization seems to strike a chord with lots of artists and creatives. That somehow we 'should' narrow it down. I simply can not make good work that way. Yes, explore deeply, but then let that exploration lead to something else.Delete
So appreciate this post! I feel like I've been on a wild journey through styles and processes this past year, and loving all of them. At the same time, there's nothing cohesive between one style and the next and for this reason, I tell myself I'm not ready to approach galleries or get into shows. Could you address this topic a bit further as it relates to having an actual art career? Thanks for all your wonderful and generous inspiration, by the way!ReplyDelete
Well, I am teaching a series of virtual (zoom) workshops on Professional Practices. Take a look here: http://janedaviesstudios.com/zoom.htmlDelete
Heartily agree! There is a lot to unpack here, but I find myself looking for a balance between one theme (too boring) and many (distracting), between exploration outside my comfort zone and retreating to known methods when everything else gets too much. It all seems to be leading, in some kind of zig-zag line, to work that is more like me, over time. I shall keep the "Do 10 more" option in mind as a great test for which options have staying power.ReplyDelete
I see you in all your work. Your voice can’t help but be there.ReplyDelete
That is one of the joys in art for me, that gut feeling when things click and also the joy in completely obliterating it. You help with that!
I love these! Just curious - why are you calling them quilts?ReplyDelete
Yes! I have that question too! Are you putting together smaller assembled pieces, or assembling as you go? These are WONDERFUL! It makes me want to just paint and paint and gather all of my scraps and just see what happens. Thank you for sharing this. So inspiring.Delete
You writing this, probably clearer than in my mind, is music to my ears!!ReplyDelete
I recognise every bit of it and feel so often guilty when i want to discover something new or invest in another craft ! But i do want to do it all. But very true and good advice is doiing things at least ten times !!
My curiosity is consistent ! Maybe i have to hang that in a gallery haha. Thank you for your words !!
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Only because it was a repeat.Delete
YAY! So glad for this. The consistency thing is a kind of trap for me. Instead, I try almost anything. It doesn't always result in a finished work, but often it does. I think each new learning adds to all the old things to make something fresh, but not necessarily unrecognizable as mine. But even if it were, I'm thrilled to explore and create whatever opens me and stimulates new ideas. When I "try" to make "consistent" work, it's stilted and no fun for me.ReplyDelete
I create. I want to explore the depths of me in my art and if it isn't consistent (it isn't), ok. Yay for art!