Saturday, November 01, 2008

MaM Poll: working in a series - final results

Making A Mark Survey: What's your main reason for working in a series?
70 respondents in October 2008 (survey now closed)

I'm pleased to say that the number of people responding to the Making A Mark Poll is increasing each month. In October 70 people voted on the Making A Mark Poll to identify the main reason for working in a series.

You'll find the main conclusions and my commentary below. I'll be announcing the new Making A Mark Poll for November on Monday.

The main conclusions are:
  • two thirds of you create work in a series in order to explore and investigate
    • very nearly 40% of you create art in a series so you can explore an idea
    • over a quarter of you (27%) work in a series to explore your subject
  • some 20% of you work in a series for reasons often associated with art marketing
    • 10% are creating an identity for their work
    • 9% are working towards an exhibition
    • just 1% are intentionally creating a collectible
  • less frequent responses included working in a series to:
    • feed an obsession - to paint specific subjects or to work in a specific way
    • explore a technique
    • because you have to - that's the only way you know how to work!
    • tell a story

The pattern of responses was established very early on but it needed the full month to pull out the minor reasons more clearly.

This survey certainly confirms that artists are people who like to explore and investigate! Two thirds of you use a series to explore an idea or subject.

For me these responses also strongly reinforce the idea about preparation and the reality of a process which means that we often don't get to the final result we want with our first attempt. I think one of the main parts of the artistic process that people really miss out on when learning about art on their own or from art instruction books is just how much the process of producing an artwork is actually about iteration. Lots of times it simply doesn't work out on the first attempt. Artists often work through stages - and series - to produce their art.

I want to explore an idea was the top reason for working in a series - nearly 40% of the people responding voted for this one.

I guess we can all pretty much identify with this notion. We start with an idea - either as a concept we want to convey or a particular way we want to try and portray out subject - and then we try and reproduce the idea in our heads in media. Then we try again - and again! We develop, we refine, we edit. We repeat - in different media, different colours, in different sizes, from different perspectives.

I need to explore my subject came second - with over a quarter of you voting for this option. Again, this is about iteration and learning. Again it's about a process which doesn't produce instant results. Again it's about process as well as results.

When I see an artist working through a series of perspectives on a subject in a gallery I know that this artist has really worked at trying to understand their subject and the art that I am seeing tells me about the journey as much as it tells me about the end result.

For this reason I love seeing sketchbooks and preliminary drawings included as part of exhibitions - it gives a clear insight into the artistic process. That's why blogs are so brilliant for sharing how that happens! :)

Series paintings are also very useful for revealing a subject which is less obvious but becomes more apparent when we see a series as a whole.

For example, Monet's series were essentially about Monet endeavouring to paint the atmosphere rather than the particular objects he portrayed in his series paintings. One of the things I found fascinating about Monet's series paintings - stacks of wheat was that Monet started with an exploration of how his subject looked at different times of day and in different seasons. However, as he worked, he realised that the body of work he created was actually a series which portrayed atmosphere. He came to the view that his series paintings had a value in their own right when shown together. He very much connected with the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Art Marketing

Creating an identity for your work or working towards an exhibition may have been less frequent responses but they are important reasons and were certainly ones I was expecting to see.

In effect, this follows on from Monet's notion that the connections between the works and the impact they have when seen together are as important, if not more, as the works in their own right.

More importantly, a body of work or a series of paintings for an exhibition creates an identity for the artist and demonstrates an artist's ability to produce consistent good quality work around a theme and/or in a style.

The Making A Mark Poll - Resources for Artists

I've decided that the best way to maintain a record of these polls but avoid the side column from extending down too much is to keep them on a separate site

So I've created The Making A Mark Poll - Resources for Artists. This will maintain a record of all polls and has
  • big pictures of the charts of final results for each poll survey
  • a summary of the headline conclusions from each poll
  • a link back to the detailed commentary in the final results post on this blog for each poll.
I'll be updating this each month as the polls come to an end and after I post the final results.

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