How to Develop a Professional Series of Artwork | Art Business Advice

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When making the leap from novice to professional artist you must be deft at developing a professional series of artwork. You will need to know what you are going to paint, why and how.

Keep in mind, it’s important for artists to develop a recognizable, signature style, especially when starting out. This way, collectors can recognize your work when you’re ready to sell your art. It’s fine to branch out once you’re more established.

Art business tips with Lori McNee |
My recent encaustic bird series was pulled together by similar subject matter, palette, framing, and formats. (Pin this!)

The following steps can be applied toward any painting genre or subject. Depending upon how you work, the order of these steps might even interchange with each other.

Art Business: Working a Series to Help Sell Your Art

The first step is to decide upon a theme. For example: A still life artist might choose an Asian inspired theme for a series of paintings. Or a landscape painter’s theme could be inspired by a regional location, or a season. You may choose to focus on abstraction, the application of paint or even color as a theme. The possibilities are endless.

Next, it’s important to plan the format of your supports, in other words, the shape and sizes of your paintings. There is actually a sub-conscience connotation related to the different formats. Knowledge of this can help you strike an emotional response within the viewer of your art.

• Horizontal = peaceful
• Vertical = majestic, active
• Square = risky, contemporary
• Standard = traditional

Subject Matter
Sometimes subject matter will help dictate what shape or format you select for your painting. The theme of your show will also help you decide upon the subject for each individual piece of artwork.

A series of work can range from subjects such as rivers, birds on vases, brightly colored umbrellas, still lifes, or inner emotions. Whatever you choose, it’s best to have continuity so the subjects within your series relate to each other.

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Have the end in mind before you begin. Generally speaking, a concept is the visual representation of your idea. It’s like a roadmap that helps guide you. Of course, artists allow for spontaneity, but keeping to the concept will help pull the body of work together in the end.

A concept begins with reference material. This can range from a still life arrangement, sketchbook drawings, photographs, or even Pinterest or Instagram! When choosing subject matter from images, be sure they ‘speak’ to you.

Art business advice with Lori McNee |
I often work out the concept for a still life right there on the table in front of me.

The next step is to take the concept and refine it into a composition. It’s helpful to create value thumbnail sketches. Try simplifying the composition into 4-5 values, paying special attention to patterns and spatial relationships.

Think about how a viewer enters a painting. What message are you trying to convey to the viewer? What is your focal point? Remember, all other elements will be subordinate to this focal point.

Art business tips with Lori McNee |
When painting still life, I often workout my composition right on the canvas. However, I always use a sketchbook when out in the field painting en plein air.

Once the composition is chosen, it’s time to choose the palette combination. When 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.

Fresh Eyes
Once each painting is completed, put it away. Turn it to the wall for a few days. Then, reevaluate the painting. Try looking at it backwards in a mirror or turn it upside down. Tweak it, and make the necessary changes before the next step.

Framing is next. The frame is a continuation of the painting and the message. It’s important to compliment the painting without distracting from it. The whole series of paintings should be framed consistently with small variations.

Tips on how to frame your art, with Lori McNee |
In this series I chose to display these drawings on floating panels. It gave a contemporary flair to the work.

The last step to creating a successful body of artwork is to evaluate the group as a whole. Set up the art and look at it with a discerning eye. Are you happy with the group? Does one stand out, or clash with the rest? A professional must be willing to delete something from the group for the betterment of the whole.

Good luck!

Art business tips with Lori McNee |
Note how although the subject matter is different, the palette and framing is the same, which pulls the show together.

* Lori McNee is a professional artist who specializes in still life, landscape in oil and encaustic. You can find more fine art tips, business and social media advice for the aspiring and professional artist on her popular blog, Check out her new North Light Book – Fine Art Tips with Lori McNee and her newest ebook Online Marketing & Branding Secrets OR Join Lori and Fine Art Tips in France for painting and social media lessons!

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