One of the most satisfying and productive periods I have had in recent years of creating art was when I worked on my body of work We all Cast Shadows. This was a theme and a collection of work that I had had bubbling around in my thoughts for a long time before I even started working on it. I have written about the development and creation of it many times and you can read some of those posts here (most recent at the top). I also used this work as an example of working in a series in my e-course Unearth Gather Create where I talked about the process of this work and encouraged students to spend some time narrowing their focus and to think about working a series of work that had meaning for them.
Taking the essence of an idea and expanding on it – researching, reading, writing, sketching, working on studies and finally the paintings was such a rich experience for me and is a very different experience from creating art on a day to basis. Of course many artists work exclusively on work that is hinged together in a series but I guess when I say ‘day to day pieces’ I mean pieces that stand on their own and are perhaps created as a one-off idea. These can of course be finished works of art and be connected to each other through the very fact that you, the artist is creating them with a certain narrative or aesthetic in mind but they might not be intended to work together as a collective. I work like that all the time! I go through phases with my artwork where I might use certain colours, or work with certain themes, or subject matters or a particular atmosphere. But there is no specific thought or intention behind it – it just is. The pieces just emerge as if by accident.
On my easel
When creating We all Cast Shadows there was a specific intention. There was a narrative and a story that held together in my thoughts. It was inspired by history, by a certain kind of community, by a certain kind of experience and emotion. I waded in up to my knees and focused on it almost exclusively for around a year. As a result, that work is deeply ingrained in me and is a theme I shall always return to. I still have sketches and ideas that did not make it to fully realised drawings and paintings and there is still work to be done. The work was shown in a solo exhibition in October 2014 (gosh that seems a long time ago!) and again in another gallery in 2015 and as a result I only have three pieces remaining from that body of work. Eighteen pieces were included in the exhibition but there were many more sketches, drawings and works in progress that were part of the series.
Work in progress
Some time last year I felt my brain bubbling away again with new ideas for something different and so the thoughts turned to immersing myself in a new body of work in much the same way as I had worked on We all Cast Shadows. I am a slow worker and things take a while to percolate and even longer to come to fruition. So whilst I began working away on it last year it was still in the very early stages of development before we moved to Northumberland. It has only been in the last few weeks that I have felt the energy and drive returning to create something more than practice drawings, studies and the odd painting. Also there are always other things holding my interest – always portraits and also landscapes – particularly where I live now!
So as I venture into this new series I thought it might be interesting to document the process I go through, from initial idea to fully realised work. I will begin next week with writing a little bit more about what working in a series means to me and how I feel it helps me grow as an artist and where I began with this new work. I am not sure how often these posts will be as they will be written alongside me creating the work in real-time and that time will always be interspersed with other work but I am looking forward to documenting the progress as I go. I am guessing it will be a bit up and down and windy as there are always highs and lows in anything I do but it will also be interesting to look back on as the series develops.
Above are just a few images from my recent weeks in the studio showing the development the painting currently on my easel. I hope you will enjoy following along!