When does working in a series become working to a formula?
I’ve certainly see this happen time and again with those so-called best sellers of the NY times variety!! (by the way, I’ve read that they’re only “best” sellers because when the publishers ship masses of them off to airports and the like, that’s considered a “sale” – the fact that they are then pulped (or turn their readers brains to pulp, one or the other!) is irrelevant!)
It’s definitely good to work in a series - for many reasons: to develop your own voice, a signature style, to really plumb the depths – and the heights (one would hope!) of your subject, to become excellent at that particular technique (compositional or technical) and to reach the point where the ideas are fresh and different and therefore much more engaging.
But if you go on and on and on and on, I really do think that often the work gets very stale and formulaic. How many times have you flipped through a catalog, seen a quilt and said “oh it’s a so and so, seen that a million times before, why on earth does she not do something different?”!
If you’re going to work to the same parameters, it’s still important (perhaps even more so) to come up with new ideas all the time. The viewer is important, I think few would deny that. And those that do are probably either kidding themselves, not very self-aware or like Narcissus ( for whom gazing at his own reflection in the pond was enough for his whole life). We want people to see our work, we want to convey a message however simple. We want them to stop and look and listen. We don’t want to hear that hackneyed phrase which I loathe: “been there done that” . A phrase nearly as bad as “stepping up to the plate”; actually since I’m not a sports fan and had never heard of baseball growing up, the plate stepping exercise to me was something that maybe Alice did after swallowing the Drink Me potion! – so it was a bit more interesting the first 2 or 3 times I heard it.
You’re not going to stop people in their tracks, you’re not going to develop your own vision further, if you keep on making the same thing. Okay you changed from a cool beige to a warm one – not enough!! You added a line here a line there, or flipped the design upside down….so? You gave us the 50th tired old chapter in the series – remember it’s only the few that feel that 49 verses of On Top of old Smokey are 49 times as good as one verse.
People are still queuing up to buy your work? Well maybe that’s because you are using the same marketing tools as those NY Times publishers! Good luck, but you’re now singing flat.
No more old tired hens boiling in the quilting pot, please!
If you have been, thanks for reading!! And all comments (except those using phrases about stepping upto plates, saucers or anything else) SO very welcome!! Elizabeth
Hilarious! Good thing I'm boiling a chicken for soup right now instead of wasting cloth in the studio. This is a perfect example of why artist's block can be a good thing.
yes. how many construction fence stencils can one see with out saying oh, they used construction fencing. yawn.
if you must, cut wavy lines on edges of some of the 'holes'. cut out some of the 'struts' to make bigger holes here and there.
Make your own more artistic 'construction fence' and stencil through that!
anyway, as always, I wish alot more people read your blog and took it to heart.
Sandy in the UK
Strenuously nodding in agreement! Most puzzling to me is how these clone works keep getting accepted into the same shows over and over.
What Terry said! I am so bored with some if the work that gets accepted over and over.
You've touched on the reason why I try to steer clear of working in a series. I refuse even to think that way.
I made a lot of quilts. Then, when I looked back over their photos, I realized that the quilts could be grouped, arranged by design features or properties they shared in common. I had no intention of working in a series, but the series appeared out of the work itself.
Every time I get a new concept in mind, I begin working on that idea, but I may very well still be making quilts from other concepts, thus working on multiple series at once.
I cannot imagine anything more stifling than saying to myself "Oh, I must make a dozen quilts in this series." Read that as "Oh, I must crank them out; never mind the content and forget about passion; I simply have to fill a gallery with similar imagery so everyone will know it's my work."
Great post, Elizabeth!!
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