In a watercolor class about four years ago the instructor was demonstrating working in a series. If I had heard this idea before, the concept and reasoning had not lodged in my brain. She explained that if you worked on three paintings at a time they would likely have some similar colors and perhaps some similar content, which would look good, grouped together in an exhibit.
Since then, I keep hearing the word “series” from all sorts of artists, in reviews, in workshops, and technique books. Thinking back, I did some limited series when I was weaving chenille fabric and draping it around driftwood, and when I was weaving baskets out of kelp.
If you are working with specific materials using requisite tools, it makes sense to make several items at a time using those materials and tools.
One of my goals for rainy weather this last winter was to work with the palm bark that comes off my neighbor’s two towering palm trees. This is the stuff that is flexible like a fabric, but also sheds little scraps all over when you handle it.
One day I picked up so much of this in my yard that I spread it across my drawing board to dry out. I never put it away, and one week I finally sat down with some colored cord called gimp, a needle, some beads, and a stack of handmade paper.
I started shaping the bark and adding a sheet of the paper, stitching them together, making a loop on the backside for hanging. Once the two surfaces were attached, I left hanging threads for adding beads.
I made seven of these over two or three days. To some I added a feather or two. I find a lot of feathers in my yard from the jays, doves, and other birds. And then they sat on my drawing board waiting for . . .? I didn’t know what else to do with them. They needed something to be a focal point.
The leader of my local art group was all enthused about making “inchies” at that time. An inchie is a one inch square painting on paper, usually abstract and colorful, which can be used in a mosaic of some sort, or to cover an ugly box.
Ah- ha! I had some inchies left from the last time we did this. I rummaged through them and selected a few to complement the colors of my bark and paper constructions. Those tiny bits of color made all difference.
Now we are headed for summer, I hope, and my bark and paper series is hanging next to my drawing board, or still laying on it, waiting for me to decide what to do with these somewhat fragile creations.
I’ve learned the hard way that this type of hanging does not survive well for a show if it has to be packed up, moved from place to place, and handled by others. I need to find a place in my house where I can hang them for awhile, until I gift them to my friends.
Working in a series is fun, generates new ideas, and may produce a volume of work more quickly than doing one piece at a time.