september FEATURED artist

Christopher Volpe

Why You Should Be Working in Series

by Christopher Volpe

My work used to be all over the place. It bothered me; my processes felt unmoored, the work scattershot. I now know I needed this stage for developing the technical skills for the more satisfying bodies of work that followed, such as I’m making now. In my case, making paintings in series provided the catalyst for “finding my voice” in my art.

Working in series means “making multiples” – not just repetitively recreating a single work, but creatively exploring, through multiple related works, a single idea, theme, or motif. You might start a series of 12” x 12” sky-scapes for example, or a series based on the theme of gardening, let’s say, or anything that addresses a particular aspect of yourself or your world.

Why do this? In a word, focus. Exploring a theme in multiple forms offers an opportunity to concentrate your creative activity. It helps fight procrastination (no more “what to paint” excuses!). And it’s also a tremendous opportunity to explore your motivations and find out who you are as a creative individual.

The key is starting small and working fast. Don’t wait for the muse – pick a theme and go. Sometimes a line from literature touches off an idea that gets my brush moving. If that’s not you, start working by just mixing up some paint. Diffuse the pressure by working on small pieces of paper, say 6” x 6,” and giving yourself 30 minutes to complete three different “rough draft” painted sketches in rapid succession. Start a second session by choosing the most promising from the first session and make another series of three using that one as a starting point. Repeat. Now you’re off and running. You might not be making masterpieces, but you are generating ideas for original work. On a practical level, you will get better just by making more paintings and, more importantly, you’ll be refining the specific skills you need to do the work that is truly yours. Do this long enough and you can’t help creating a consistent, personally meaningful body of work that is honest, authentic, and passionately pursued.

Painting is about finding your own vision. The key is to evolve, through the practice of making art, a theory of what art could be, or is “supposed” to be – and then to devote your life to trying (and failing, gloriously!) to make art that fits that definition.

Style and finish, tightness or looseness, abstract or realistic, medium, etc. – they are all secondary to there being something in it. That’s what’s important. I am still learning how to be myself in the work or, more accurately, how to "put something (of myself) in it” in an honest, authentic way. I trust that work that’s authentic and meaningful will eventually find its audience. But I know what really matters is my relationship to the work, which to me means working in series, and my passion for offering something with meaning to the world.

Visit Christopher's website:  www.christophervolpe.com

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