Working in a series means deciding which doors to open and which ones to close. In researching this class, somewhere I ran across a comment from Lisa about “deciding which doors to close.” The number of ideas and the different techniques and options and possibilities are limitless and overwhelming. If you never at least temporarily close some doors, you will end up randomly bouncing from one idea to the next never getting good at anything and never fully exploring anything. I learned in architecture school that the most common rookie mistake is trying to cram every idea you’ve ever had into the first building you design. The most successful buildings and art works are successful, in my opinion, because they have been pared down to the essence of the idea.
Working in a series does not mean locking all the other doors and throwing away the key, it just means learning to FOCUS on one aspect at a time. I looked at Lisa’s Structures series which has been underway for about ten years, I think. I noticed that there are some groups of pieces that are very similar to each other, but very different from other groups. Assuming the numbers are assigned in chronological order, she explores one idea, then maybe tries another, then goes back to the first one, having been informed about some other aspect of the concept in the second work.
I’m going to have a very hard time deciding which of my two series ideas I want to explore in this class. I guess we will work on that next week. In general (outside of a class structure) I don’t think it is a problem, and probably it’s a good thing, to have a couple different series going at once. Just as one work in a series can inform the next, one series could also inform the other.
Something else I learned both from school, and from looking at quilt artist’s websites is that the successful artists have a “voice.” This voice runs through all their work, although it sometimes may be a scream, other times a soft melody. Artists who constantly bounce around, creating one-off works seldom are published, or chosen for exhibits. The whole idea of having a “body of work,” is one of the things that presents who you are to the world. Of course the body of work evolves over time, and might become something totally different. Picasso started with cubism, and later did the blue series, totally unrelated, but still from the same hand.
One of the first art quilter’s books I read (don’t even remember her name) described the quilters story and her having received many judges comments about not having a voice, wondering what that meant, then finally learning it for herself.
At this point, I’ve spent way more time looking at other art quilters than I have doing my own art. (It’s easier to browse the web on your lunch hour, than run home to piece for 30 minutes… though both are possible. Having studied many, it’s clear to me that you cannot develop a good body of work without following one thread to see where it takes you. The first part of this class for me will be all about deciding which doors to close, and which to open. I hope in a year or so to have a good start on maybe both of the series I am considering, and to NOT tinker too much with other options and directions right away. One of my favorite quotes is one by Goethe that I unearthed from my Bartletts Quotations way before there ever was an internet: Art is long, life is short, judgment difficult, opportunity transient.
What is the best way to make use of this short life?