I am making a new series of paintings for a solo show in June. I have started 12 new paintings. I like to work on them all at the same time. Not so long ago I would have never tried to make so many all at once. I would at the most do 2 and even then I would try to finish the first before I started the second.
Process is incredibly important in making Art. I was never shown or given any particular information about process in art school and generally speaking artists don’t write or talk so much about how they make art. We just are left to figure this out on our own. I was interested in a process that was more efficient, but still allowed my work to easily change and develop. I also wanted to reduce the mental stress I used to go through in the pursuit of stronger work. I wanted it to be more fun.
Today, the process I use makes all these things possible. The big change happened when I shifted from working on single paintings to multiples. In other words I now work on 6 -12 paintings at the same time.
I rarely let one image get further ahead than the others. I develop a group of paintings now instead of just one. This simple shift in my process has made all the difference in the world. I have tripled my productivity, I am way less stressful as the work comes easier and – most importantly – I believe it results in stronger Art.
There seems to be 3 reasons why.
Repetition increases efficiency.
Starting something from nothing can be intimidating. Beginning is, for me, always a challenge. I tend to avoid this problem by checking my email, perusing things to eat in the fridge or even cleaning. In other words it can be just hard to begin…that is till you finally do, then you realize it actually is not that hard at all. It is more the thought or the idea of starting that is hard. So this breakthrough does always happen, and whether you are starting one painting or 6, it really doesn’t matter. You get into it and then once in the groove you can start on the remaining 5 at the same time. One procrastinating event to six paintings is way better than 6 procrastinating events to six paintings. It simply saves you endless time.
Newness avoids boredom
If I become bored in my practice it often means the work will too. This can lead to wasting time creating flat, uninspired work. Of course this does happen but I have found that if I can switch to a new painting at the very onset of tiredness or boredom, I can maintain a much higher energy level. So much is happening all at once on so many paintings in your studio that it becomes next to impossible to feel bored. Change is the antidote to boredom.
More happy accidents
Most of the time I do not entirely know where a body of work is headed before I begin. I usually start a new series that is somewhat like what I have made previously. I might have 12 paintings all starting out. I will work on all of them the same amount of time and generally I will like them all equally. But then, at some point, one of them will suddenly emerge as much, much stronger than the others. It might just be a corner of one or a single mark on another, but instantly I can recognize it as something different. Something new and potent.
Then I try to adjust the other 11 paintings to get them similarly strong. I allow this single unintentional, accidental occurrence to dictate the progress of the whole group. Then when this is almost completed another painting will shift and suddenly the bar is raised again. It feels like chance is making your work, but I believe this process invites and encourages much, much more of the artists subconscious, much more soul, into the process.
Everyone has a different process. Some things work for some and not others. Really what we are all after is a process that invites and encourages our authenticity and our individuality to emerge in our art. In a way, discovering your process is actually just part of the greater process of becoming an artist. Like our work, it shifts and changes too.
How has your process changed over time? I would love to read your comments below.