BAP MJ + CM Make it a series
[00:00:00] Charla: It's important to create a series of work simply for your own skill building and understanding of your own process.
[00:00:06] Marijanel: That you could use creating a series as a way to find your style.
[00:00:11] Charla: For recognizing that each piece you create will build on the last piece.
[00:00:16] Marijanel: Welcome. Welcome to today's episode. Have you ever wanted to create, a series, a body of work, but you just don't know how?
Maybe you've reached a point in your art practice where you feel like you're finally discovering your style. You're, you're finally coming into your own, and yet you need to take it a step further in order to develop an entire series, something that cohesively shows who you are as an artist. Today on the show, Charla and I are gonna dive in to tips and tools on how you can create your art series.
So tell me why this is so important for artists to be able to create a body of work, Charla?
[00:00:57] Charla: Well, I think there's lots of, uh, reasons, lots of, uh, things we could discuss why it's important to create a series of work. I think there's different levels.
Like, it's, it's important to create a series of work simply for your own skill building and understanding of your own process, um, so that you're not like, uh, going from one degree to the next. You know, if you're gonna paint a portrait, and then you're gonna paint a landscape, and then you're gonna paint a still life, you're just doing things that are so different that you can't really become better at them.
[00:01:30] Marijanel: I've been guilty of that before. Just jumping around. Jumping around and wanting to try things, and then not being cohesive.
[00:01:36] Charla: Yeah, and that's fun.
[00:01:36] Marijanel: Yeah, that's exploratory.
[00:01:37] Charla: Yeah.
[00:01:37] Marijanel: We've, we've talked about the importance of that in the past.
[00:01:40] Charla: Yeah, really important.
[00:01:41] Marijanel: But now we're talking about something else. We're talking about honing in on, maybe would it be a particular subject matter or, uh, medium, but how, how do you define narrowing down a body of work?
[00:01:53] Charla: Yeah. What I think we really wanna get at is creating a very specific series, a very specific body of work, um, to have as an artist for different reasons, such as going out and applying for gallery representation or doing a show, or something along those lines. It's, it's especially important to have a series of work, something that is cohesive and tells a story. As artists, we need to be storytellers, and it's often hard as a painter to tell a full story in one painting. Like, a painting can be powerful. You create a masterpiece.
It's like watching a movie and just looking at one painting. You have that, that whole experience, but that experience is often easier to create in a series of work as each, each painting can be a little piece of the story. And then when they're all displayed in one show, like together in one room, it's an experience for the viewer to walk around that room and see all these pieces.
So that's really what we're talking about today for the purpose of showing, for the purpose of, of, um, storytelling, how do you create a series of art and, and why?
[00:03:08] Marijanel: This is something you've demonstrated really well because your work is quite categorized into bodies and series. And so can you start off by telling us a little bit about some of the series that you have and the success you've had behind them?
[00:03:23] Charla: I find that when I create a series of work and I take them to a show, even a group show, I just will put up a, a cohesive body of work. Not always a, a perfect series, but something that is cohesive. I always find the response is so, is different, and it's more positive and and better. I don't know if those words are really that great, but it's a better experience with more positive response in people, um, experiencing the work and and experiencing it for themselves without me having to represent the work and talk about it. If it's a cohesive body or a series or a story, they walk through it, and then they talk to me afterwards and are usually more emotional. But I've also been to shows where I haven't had a series created.
I'll just gather whatever I have in my studio and. It's different. People will talk to me differently. They'll move from one piece to the next. Then it's not quite as, um, the experience is not a flow for them. And the flow is more interesting. The story is more interesting. We, it's like, you just think of it as a movie or TV series.
If you're watching a TV series that you know, it's 10 episodes and the story starts, and then ends with the last one. And it's just, the story continues to each episode and gets more exciting, and more interesting, and it unfolds, and there's climax, and there's resolution. But if you open up a series, like there are series on on Netflix where it's, um, uh, I can't think of one off the top of my head, but it, it's a topic.
There was one about.
[00:04:58] Marijanel: Are you thinking about Kaleidoscope that you can mix, mix up all the episodes or are you thinking about that one?
[00:05:03] Charla: Um, no, I don't think I've seen that one. But there was one that was like, about, it was like a documentary style, and it was about play, something about like how grownups play or like, um, professionals play with their work or whatever.
And each episode was like a different profession, a different story, a different person. And so they all stood on their own so you could watch one and never watch the other ones, 'cuz the, the story was complete in one episode, and that has a place, and your art can be like that. You definitely want your art pieces to stand alone so that someone can take them home.
But, I much more prefer sitting down to a 10 episode series where it's like one long movie, and you're captivated, and you can't, you can't, uh, turn away, and you need to binge watch it. And that's kind of what a series of art is like. You want people to binge watch your art, and not be able to walk away, and want to see the next, and the next, and the next.
'Cause they're just all so captivating, and they all tell a story together. I think that's probably, like, the best metaphor that I can think of.
[00:06:04] Marijanel: Yeah, no, that's an excellent metaphor. So you have the series examples in your own work.
[00:06:09] Charla: Yeah.
[00:06:10] Marijanel: Of every child deserves a family. One of my favorites, 'cuz I was a little bit of the inspiration behind it, is the one, the series you have called Bones.
[00:06:19] Charla: Yeah.
[00:06:20] Marijanel: I remember being there with you.
[00:06:22] Charla: Yeah. That series, like, is a good example of um, when something, when there's, like, probably a social justice, uh, issue that you are very interested in. And that series came out of something that I was really intrigued with at the time, which was children that don't have families, like, as they age in the system.
[00:06:43] Marijanel: We were talking about every child deserves a family.
[00:06:45] Charla: Yeah. Kids that aren't, um, adopted and are living in foster care homes. And that was always something that interested me here in Canada. But I had met this girl who lived in Panama, and she was talking a lot about the system there and how there's a lot of kids in that don't have families, and they've shut down all the orphanages because they're unhealthy environments.
And now there's all these kids that don't have families, and they didn't have a system of foster care and adoption, so they were taking care of kids. But the government wasn't allowing them to adopt them or bring them in officially into their homes. So anyways, it is a long story, but it was so captivating to me that these, these children who, who actually had families who wanted them, couldn't even be adopted or, or taken into their homes officially.
And when I was in Kenya, which was years after I did this series, there was a similar thing where all these kids are on the street, and the government had no system in place for these kids to be adopted. Because most of the time they would need to be adopted outta country and they claimed, and there is a lot of, um, merit to it, they didn't wanna do it because of child sex trafficking. So, and there's a lot of merit to that is true. If they opened it up and it wasn't a good system, the kids could be taken for trafficking. But I do think there's systems could be created. But anyways, this is just a really, it's not, that's not what we're talking about right now.
It's not the topic of the podcast.
[00:08:12] Marijanel: It's the heart behind why you made the series. It was that you had an interest, an interest in a, uh, I guess a personal caring, compassion for a situation.
[00:08:22] Charla: Yeah.
[00:08:22] Marijanel: And social justice. So do you find that that's what drives a lot of artists to create a series, is something of interest that sparks them, is like a driver behind their work to make a complete body of work. Do you need that to, to make a body of work?
[00:08:41] Charla: Um, I think you, there needs to be something behind it, otherwise you, you'll get lost. . But it doesn't have to be a social justice issue. Like I did the Bones series, which you had mentioned. Um, a lot, there's a lot of different reasons.
I actually love the skeleton simply from studying it in university and knowing it so well. It intrigues me so much, and I understand the skeleton. So I suddenly had this, I, um, idea of, of layering it in a painting, and I wanted to just explore it. So I wanted, cuz I had one idea, but as soon as I had that idea out on canvas, I had another idea and another idea.
So I was really exploring it, but in a deep way. Wasn't just, I wanna learn the skeleton, I wanna learn a skill. I was exploring the concept of, and the meaning behind what the skeleton stands for or, or could stand for.
[00:09:38] Marijanel: Which we have an entire podcast episode about that which will link in into your notes.
[00:09:44] Charla: Yes, that's true. So, um, you could go listen to that if it intrigues you. So it was about exploring the idea technically and, and getting better at, at, at this concept, this visual concept I had. But it was also had a deeper meaning. So for me, I think, and I think it's probably true for a lot of people, if you're, if you're going to create a series that's going to tell a story that you wanna put in a show, there needs to be something behind it that makes you passionate.
So the Bones series, you know, it wasn't about social justice. I always say it was about redeeming the skeleton, like everyone looks at the skeleton as a scary item, as a scary thing, but meanwhile, it's our structure, it's our frame. It's what makes us strong and keeps us upright. And although there's a whole lot, you could listen to the podcast about what the meaning behind it was.
But that wasn't a social justice, but it was something that was really exciting to me and made me really inspired to create art. So I think you have to have something that's driving you. 'Cuz if it's a concept or an idea that you're not really passionate about, you're gonna get like maybe three paintings done, and you're gonna get bored.
[00:10:50] Marijanel: Right.
[00:10:50] Charla: So, you know, a series has to have, has to be cohesive. So you can't really get bored of the bones and then go and draw trees. It's just, you know, doesn't work.
[00:11:00] Marijanel: Just a quick note here in this podcast to ask you if you're ever frustrated mixing your paint colors. Do you feel like you just. End up with mud and you need help?
If that's the case, you're gonna be thrilled to know that boldschool.com offers a learning path that's dedicated to color theory. It's called the Color Path, and it will transform your eye and skills as an artist to know, understand, and mix colors. Check it out on our website. Our classes and community are here to support you and mentor you, not only in growing your skills, but in becoming a wholehearted artist.
Now back to the show.
So find the message in the series and find something that's near and dear to you that you don't lose attention. Like something that you've been able to pay attention to for awhile that means something to you. So then going into more of the technical side of the creation phase, so you know, I'm just imagining the artist listening, saying, I wanna make a series.
It's been such a blocker for me to get it done. I have a message, I have ideas, but what is the actual creation phase? Like, you know, beyond the theme, what does someone have to do to, to start making this happen?
[00:12:15] Charla: Uh, I think there's a few ways. I've done it, a few ways. I've done, I've just winged it, you know, I'm inspired. So one day I'll just decide to, to paint the series and I'll, um, the next day hopefully, I'll still feel like painting the series until I get bored of it.
[00:12:29] Marijanel: Yeah.
[00:12:29] Charla: So, you know, sometimes that happens where, like the Bone Series, for example, is I could paint two or three. And then not paint anymore, but come back to it a year from now and paint two or three more.
And over the run of a few years you have a series and which is even, I think I find a very interesting way to do it because you'll see a real evolution in your work because time has gone by.
[00:12:53] Marijanel: So it doesn't have to be that every single painting you're, that you're, that you're doing, it doesn't have to be one after the other, after the other making the series.
[00:13:02] Charla: Yeah.
[00:13:02] Marijanel: You can take breaks. Set it aside. You're, you're still knowing that you're working on the series, but you go do some other art, explore some other things to come back to the series.
[00:13:12] Charla: Yeah. You develop, you're developing the series as you go. Maybe it's something, it's probably a more explore exploration in that type of a series.
Because you're interested in it in the moment, but then you might just come back to it later when other things have developed and explore some different areas of that series. But then, oh, go ahead.
[00:13:32] Marijanel: What do you think about, um, just in gathering the resources. The research and what you need to put into the series.
Has it been helpful for you to have like an ongoing scrapbook or like cohesive references that you kind of just add to through time to that you know, belongs to a certain series? And, and what do those need to look like as far as similar style or continuity?
[00:13:58] Charla: Yeah, I think it would be almost like, you could call it a vision board. You could, you could have a sketchbook specifically for a concept that you're developing. And you could work your whole concept out in a sketchbook, and then you could go to work creating your series, like one after the other really. Um, but you could also just slowly over time add to that vision board and sketchbook.
Um, and develop the idea of the series and, and create the series over time, like I had just mentioned. I think that that's kind of an important part of planning your work in general and the more stuff that you gather that's inspiring to you, you know, the more dynamic and interesting that your, your work will become over time.
There is the danger if you're just gonna create a series and you're just gonna do one after the other, there's a danger of them all looking the same, you know, getting, using the same palette. 'Cuz you can often get stuck in the same palette.
[00:14:55] Marijanel: Yeah.
[00:14:55] Charla: Which can be a part of the series. It could be a color palette series where everything is teal or everything is magenta or whatever.
But, um, if you don't wanna get stuck in your pieces being too similar, then it is, it is a good idea to develop them a little bit more over time or, and then the other thing is that you might, you might say, I need 10 pieces for my series, but you actually create 15 and you pick your best 10. You don't have to just do the 10.
You know, cuz sometimes the pieces aren't the best in the world, so you wanna have some options. So there's, I mean, there's a million ways to do it, but if you're a structured person and you like to work in structure, then it's really easy to create a little bit of a process and how you get inspired for your series, how you're gonna paint your series.
A lot of series will, you could create a series that every piece is the same size. So when you envision them in a gallery setting, it's, each piece is very nice and orderly all throughout, but the content on the canvas is very diverse and unique between each piece. Or, your series could be all about having different sizes, really large pieces, really small speed pieces.
It really depends on the story that you're telling. And as artists, we get to do whatever we want. You know, it's, it's about story and experience. Taking a series is about taking somebody that walks in the door to the gallery, it's always gonna be a physical space that they view it in. Well or online.
But when they walk in the door of the gallery, they walk in the door of your website. They're gonna be taken through the experience and the, and the story. That you're, you are wanting to tell.
[00:16:35] Marijanel: Do you think that someone needs to know their style really well before starting a series? Or do you think that a series ,developing a series right from the get-go could help them to find their style? Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
[00:16:52] Charla: I, I mean, I, I would bet this is a controversial question. Get a lot of people's backs up, but I think you need to find your style. But finding your style is a lifelong process.
So there has to be a place that, um, you can kind of start.
[00:17:07] Marijanel: So you'll be finding a sliver of the style, a sliver of your style can come out through a series, and I see it as being interchangeable, that you could use creating a series as a way to find your style and vice versa. You could. Find your style and make a series out of it.
So it's probably both. The, the reason I bring it up is 'cuz I think it's pretty important, I mean, as artists we wanna leave our mark. We wanna have a recognizable style. There's no sense to just all of us looking the same and not being able to differentiate Charla's art from Marijanel's art. So having our style is really important.
I know when I talk to artists about like deeper level, heart matters, everyone when you get to the core of it, they say, I just wanna be unique. I wanna be different. I wanna show who I am as an individual. That's so important to us, not only as artists, but as humans. And so creating a style, it sounds, or excuse me, creating a series, it sounds like when we're talking words like continuity and, um, you know, keeping things like, you know, growing your, growing your body of work in such a structured way, it starts to sound maybe boxed in, but I actually see it as taking the lid off the box where you're, you are not stuck to one painting to show the world what you can do. You can develop this entire body that all has facets and shows, like, every work of art within that body has another sliver of what you can do, but all with this beautiful continuity of showing who you are. And I have one more example. It's not using the example of painting, but my son is, is in video editing, and he's fairly new developing an editing portfolio, and I noticed one day that he was just really concentrated hard on.
Um, one particular segment of one particular video, and I saw immediately the likeness of being an artist. And I said, right now you're dialed in, and you're paying attention to this one little thing, but you have to understand that this video is just one in a complete portfolio that you're building. And it's gonna be, like, you, you can't just concentrate here when you're building here.
Not that I'm saying don't be excellent or, or let something go unnoticed. Do pay attention to details, but know that one painting or one in his, you know, in this example of one video slice of video editing isn't defining who you are in your skill. But repeating the process and growing a body begins to show more of who you are.
[00:19:52] Charla: Yeah.
[00:19:53] Marijanel: And that's where I see the value is that I think a lot of times we're really tunnel visioned. Like, this is actually sitting beside me, and it's Charla's painting, but I'll use it as a little visual. But you know, if you, if we got like really, really caught up, just looking, looking, looking here in one piece of art, and then we have trouble releasing it, and we have trouble believing in ourselves, and it, it just becomes two tunnel vision. Challenging yourself to make an entire series where you have to finish pieces and move on in order to create the next part in the body is, I say, a step up in skill level, uh, like you're leveling up your ability to produce and release art.
[00:20:44] Charla: And, and forcing yourself to, like, finish pieces. And recognizing, I think we've talked about this before, recognizing that each piece you create will build on the last piece.
[00:20:53] Marijanel: Yes.
[00:20:53] Charla: So you don't have to make that piece perfect.
[00:20:55] Marijanel: It's a there, you just said it all. That's all I was trying to say to my son the whole time. I was like, this is gonna build on it. But you just said it so eloquently there.
[00:21:03] Charla: We'll have to listen back. Cause I remember what I said already. But it's, it's a stepping stone to, to what you're gonna do next, and next, and next, and, and it will auto, your work will automatically tell a story as long as you're not being too exploratory.
It'll tell the story of your evolution. And it's really interesting to look like I've been painting professionally for more than a decade, and it's really interesting to look back at what I would call my entire body of work, like a decade's worth of work that is one body, whether it wants to be or not.
It's all my work. And you look at the evolution in the years, and at first I saw this, it was just really interesting 'cause I was just looking at it recently as I was redoing my site, my website, And in the beginning, you know, I could see where I was learning, and growing, and my work was evolving and evolving.
And then there's this one year where I had all this breakthrough, and I remember that year so clearly. And the work, I thought that year was just, was really, really good. And I still think it was really good. And I look at myself as evolving and continuing that trend. But then a couple of years later, I have this year where my work went really simplistic and almost like back to the beginning, and I was like, what happened that year?
What? My work almost went downhill, like I did, none of it was good. And then I remembered actually that year was the year we were building a house, and we were living in a rental, and I was very preoccupied and my work was terrible. In my, like it just.
[00:22:28] Marijanel: In your opinion, not in the rest of the world's opinion.
[00:22:31] Charla: Yeah. And then it kind of goes back to this new evolution of what was happening after we settled in our new house. And so my, it it kind of, for myself, I have like this, this story that it tells is almost nostalgic to watch, but my own evolution as an artist. So my entire and complete body of work shows a story and an evolution, but then within them, I have these little series that I was like really focused on for a while and some are still evolving.
And then there's a point where I added thread into my work. So the thread is a very, is a, is a separate body of work from the pieces that don't have thread. And then within the thread pieces there's little bodies of work and little series and little stories. So there's a lot of places that you can go with it and it's just kind of important to recognize everything you create is, is telling a story of some kind and it, it does have a cohesiveness because it's from you. And when you intentionally start to use that, you can create some really incredible bodies of work. And, and pieces that tell a story, and that's what the world wants to see. That's what galleries are gonna wanna see.
They want, you wanna have a solo show, you've gotta have a body of work for that, to fill that gallery. And it has to be cohesive and it has to tell a story. And there's, I don't think a gallery owner out there or a curator that would ever say anything different than that.
[00:23:58] Marijanel: One of our past podcast guests said that her first few shows, she called them garage sales because, that was her way of saying that everything was disjointed, and it was just like throwing together a sale.
[00:24:10] Charla: Yeah.
[00:24:11] Marijanel: And, and that what happened at her quote unquote garage sale was that someone picked up a painting and said, could you paint me another one like this? And she saw the one that really shined outshined the others, and it became the catalyst piece that built her bodies of work. And so I guess, Keeping that story in mind, if you ever have a show that's a garage sale quote, that quote unquote garage sale, or if you ever throw something together, and you feel that your work is all over the place, it doesn't mean it can't be used to show you what pieces are shining.
[00:24:50] Charla: Yeah.
[00:24:50] Marijanel: And then if the pieces that are shining actually resonate a message with you, grab ahold of that piece and that message, and develop a body of work from that point. And that's how you can get started. So.
[00:25:05] Charla: Yeah, that's an excellent starting point.
[00:25:08] Marijanel: So in, if you are frustrated in any way getting a series or body of work of art out, I hope that this podcast has enlightened you, inspired, and encourage you to take those steps because I wanna challenge you that if you haven't already made a series or a body of work out of your art, that you would begin to move that direction because it's a really big stepping stone milestone for artists to develop a body of work.
[00:25:35] Charla: And it can be like, don't get overwhelmed with the idea that it has to be like 10 or 20 pieces. You can start. If you've never done, um, a series of any kind or a theme, you've never seen a theme throughout your work, you can start with just creating a series of three pieces. It's something that would look really cute hanging on your wall together as a series of three.
You can start with that, and they can be small. You don't have to be overwhelming. It doesn't have to have a, a, a goal or a gallery to put, put your pieces in. You can start small, and just have fun with it and experiment. This isn't anything that's meant to have pressure, it's just meant to give you an idea of when you decide to present your work and when you decide you wanna step out into the world and do more, um, this is the direction that you really want your work to be able to go in and just to be cohesive.
[00:26:25] Marijanel: Yeah, and as Charla mentioned, you can have certain color palettes be the inspiration behind your series. It could be, like, based on color palette or a certain message, certain subject matter. But I have also challenged myself to make series based on words that inspire me. And it's that simple.
Like I might pick the word peace and you know, paint. I challenge myself. Marijanel, paint, or illustrate, three pieces that represent peace to you. And in that, they ,might not even always look cohesive, but the continuity of me painting what I interpret as peace will often become the springboard from maybe out of those pieces, something else can evolve like another body of work.
So you can give yourself challenges on anything. It can be subject matter or just simply a word that inspires you.
[00:27:19] Charla: Yeah, yeah. There's a lot of places you can go with, with the actual series. The sky's the limit to that. Mm-hmm. So that, that's where you get to be creative and, and do whatever you feel like you wanna do. You don't have to stick in a box.
[00:27:33] Marijanel: I remember years and years ago, this would've been even before I considered myself any form of professional artist, I was exploring acrylic painting and I made a series that I called, this sounds almost funny to say, I called it my apple seed art, 'cuz I would paint and somewhere in the painting I would hide an apple seed. And I would tell everyone, like, I would challenge them to find the apple seed. And the apple seed at that point was really significant to me. So it just showed me so much. Life starts out of a tiny little seed. And so I still, they're out there, they're hanging in people's houses, I am sure. Back then I gave them away as quick as I painted them 'cuz I was just practicing, practicing. But somewhere in the paintings there would be hidden in apple seed, and that was my series.
[00:28:20] Charla: There you go. That's, that's exactly all that needs to be.
[00:28:24] Marijanel: Yeah. Well, I, I hope that, that people can just take that as like an example that you don't, you know?
[00:28:30] Charla: Yeah.
[00:28:30] Marijanel: It's just an example for you of where, how playful you can be to start a series.
[00:28:35] Charla: Yeah.
[00:28:35] Marijanel: And just be playful of wherever you're at right now.
[00:28:37] Charla: Yeah. Yeah. Definitely.
[00:28:40] Marijanel: Yeah. Thanks for tuning into the Bold Artist Podcast. We are so glad to have you here listening and watching our show. Please make sure you're on our newsletter list for all the upcoming events and community news of Bold School. Our classes and community are vibrant, and so readily available right at your fingertips to learn online, bold color painting. We hope that you find us on Instagram @boldschoolinc. And right here on the YouTube channel. We look forward to seeing you next time. Until then, keep creating.