A lot of thought and exploration goes into developing a series of paintings for an art exhibition.
Today, this has been a topic of conversation between my good friend and fellow artist, Shanna Kunz and me. Shanna and I are exhibited together in an all women art show, Broad Brush Stokes.
Shanna and I love to talk ‘shop’ when we are together. Today, we have been discussing the importance of producing a cohesive body of paintings for each of our upcoming winter exhibitions.
I was really impressed with Shanna’s clear 10 step approach to developing a series of exhibition paintings. Shanna is a landscape painter, but these steps could be applied toward any painting subject.
The first step is to decided upon a theme.
For example: For a landscape painter, the theme might be a regional location, or a season, or you might choose to focus on abstraction, or paint quality.
Next, it is important to plan the shape and sizes of your paintings. There is an emotional connotation attached to different formats.
Horizontal = peaceful
Vertical = majestic, active
Square = risky, contemporary
Standard = traditional
Choose subject matter from images and/or sketches that ‘speak’ to you. Shanna likes to use her computer to set-up miniature thumbnail landscape images to help her choose her reference material.
The next step is to create value thumbnail sketches. Simplify the composition into 4-5 values, paying special attention to patterns and spatial relationships. Be aware how the view enters a painting.
Once the composition is chosen, it is time to choose the palette combination.
Now that the palette of colors is chosen, the next step is to decide upon how to ‘key’ the painting. Will the painting be a high-key painting that is primarily lighter values, or mid range, or low-key with darker values? These are important decisions to consider.
What message are you trying to convey to the viewer? What is your focal point? It might be a single tree, a shape, or even a color. But, everything else will be subordinate to this focal point.
Once the painting is completed, put it away. Turn it to the wall for a few days. Then, reevaluate the painting, tweak it and make the necessary changes.
Framing is next. The frame is a continuation of the painting and the message. It is important to compliment the painting without distracting from it. The whole series of paintings should be framed consistently with small variations.
Lastly, once the whole series of paintings is framed, double-check and look at the series of paintings as a whole. Make sure you are happy with the group before your exhibition!
Lori's 10 steps are indeed simple and straightforward. They parallel most advice about preparing exhibit or gallery paintings. What I have yet to see (and fondly wish for) is advice for the found-object artist. With found objects the object itself usually suggests, if not outright controls, the theme,size, palette, framing and most every basic aspect of the work. That is not to suggest that the artist has no role, far from it. But the very nature of such art precludes anticipatory planning and likelihood of uniformity. Such artists (well, I) treasure the surprise and variability of this approach. Any suggestions out there on how to present such work in a way to get the gallery or exhibitor to sit up and take notice?