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10 Steps to Creating a Series of Paintings. Why you SHOULD plan a collection of related artwork.

Art Blog how to improve your painting how to paint painting advice personal art journey

I will walk you through the 10 steps you need to consider when planning painting a series or collection of related artwork. Why should you make a series?

10 steps to planning a painting series, Art Blog by Goldstarwork, Artist Laura Wilson

Sunset at the beach series

If you create a collection of pieces of art that have a common theme. This is working in a series. 

I have written before on this subject and would like to add some more tips to help you create your own series. I would also like to give you some other compelling reasons, because that's how important I think doing this is.

In my other blog I showed you a practical demonstration on how I did it and my thoughts as I was working through it and and how this will improve your painting.This time I would like to give you some more general tips on how to get started and plan out a series. And include 10 steps to follow to do this.

Sometimes figuring out how to get started is the hardest part. Planning can inspire you, but it can also get boring or just be a way to procrastinate from actually doing. I want to give you some clear steps to keep you moving forward.

To tell you the truth, I find writing these blogs really helps me to put my thoughts down in a very clear and practical way so I can follow my own steps. Sometimes I am of the camp of, lets plan things as a way to procrastinate actually doing. I don't know why, because I really enjoy the doing and like to see my own progress. But some days I just need a very clear to-do list so I can get on with it.

Galaxy girl series. How to plan a series of paintings and why you should in ten easy steps. Art Blog by Goldstarwork, Artist Laura Wilson

Galaxy Girl Series

Why would you do a series anyway? Why does it matter? If you are an amateur or working on becoming a professional artist, working in a series will help you. Apart from improving your art skills, which I have already written about.

The most obvious being that a collection of artworks goes over well for showing in galleries or shows, even online. People know what you are about and what to expect from you. This can help with getting shown and known. 

You get to really explore a subject and think deeply about it. Just think, if you paint one painting here and another different painting there, then maybe go back and do another like the first. Then change again after that. You never really get to go in-depth on a subject. You will never get to really develop you ideas fully and see just how far you can push those ideas. Being able to Explore, investigate and address ideas, themes, concepts or topics in a progressively deeper and more meaningful way will improve your work. Thinking deeply on a subject makes for better art. 

Looking and thinking about something deeply as opposed to just giving it a passing glance. The closer you look the more fascinating your explorations get. The deeper you go the more involved and committed you get.

Art is about seeing and showing something in a different way than normal. If you only ever scratch the surface you will miss out on creating something truly unique. 

10 Steps to creating a series of paintings.

1. Find a Theme.

This theme could be based on anything that inspires you.

Colour and texture

Political agendas

Particular subject

A person

A technique

Particular set of materials

Com-positional format

The important thing here is that you choose a theme that inspires and interests you. Try to find something that you feel a lot of emotion about. Those things that set you apart as a person are what will make your art interesting and appealing.

Pukeora Shed Series. 10 easy steps to create an Art series and why you should Art Blog by Goldstarwork, Artist Laura Wilson

Pukeora shed series 


Do you have a good understanding of colour theory? Coming up with colour schemes and palettes for a series is an important part of this process. If you need some help with colour then this book could be a useful addition to your art library. I couldn't find the exact match for mine at home, but it is really old. This one looks pretty close and has some great reviews as well.

  The book is called Colour Theory, 

colour theory book for painting

Says it has everything an artist might need to know about colour, including colour psychology, pigment characteristics and terms, colour schemes, colour mixing, shadows, highlights, and much more. Regardless of medium, it gives a solid understanding of colour and its applications. With a fresh, contemporary take on the subject of colour, with step-by-step projects and practical tips and techniques to put colour knowledge to effective use.

This sounds like the book I have, just a much younger venison. I have included an affiliate link above. Just click on the book title if you need some help with this subject.

2. Do Some Research 

No matter how much you know about a subject already, the fact that you need to create a series of artwork from this one idea means you will need to understand your subject from every possible angle.

Do some brain storming and write down everything you can think of about that theme. No matter how wacky it is at this stage, still write it down. Now go into research mode. Fill in the gaps in your brain storming season or explore more on the things that you are most interested in.

When doing your research the goal here is to get enough photo's, sketches and com-positional ideas to create at least 10 paintings. 

Keep in mind that the quality of your reference material will effect the quality of the finial artwork. You will want to collect way more material than you need to use. Don't just collect 10 reference ideas. You need to be able to mix and match. Combine ideas and throw some out that don't work for how your series is developing. 

Try out different ways to crop, rotate and compose, sketching ideas from here. These photos will help guide your vision for the series.

Don't just stick to picture reference material either. Read about your theme. Your never know where that inspiration for a really unique artwork will come from.

The idea here is to have lots of ideas to pick and choose from.This can be a fun part of the process. Don't forget about your own reference photo's and thoughts and feelings on your theme.

Write these down so you have a clear thought process about them. 

3. Setting the "Rules" or goals for the series

Now what I find the tricky part of this process. 

Setting the "rules" for your series. This means figuring out exactly how you want these artworks to look, to fit into a cohesive series.

You do want to paint the same subject with many variations, but you also want to have the paintings looking like they belong together. How you do that is up to you and will reflect your personal style. 

Your theme will definitely influence this. Do you want your paintings to all have a dark and moody feel or would you like them to be happy colourful pieces.

Do you want to explore a certain colour palette? 

Do you want to just do one area of a subject? 

How you interpret a subject is more important than the subject itself.

Are you getting confused here? Let me give you an example.

Going back to my first blog on this subject I used the example of wanting to improve my flower painting. I didn't want to just paint all flowers in lots of different styles. I wanted to narrow down just what I was trying to achieve.

My "rules" for this series were.

Theme:  Wild flower fields

Showing the joy of these through colour

Creating depth and variation in the backgrounds.

Exploring different compositions within these guidelines.

These guidelines helped me to stay on track with what I was trying to do. If I had ideas that didn't fit into these "rules" and they wouldn't fit into this series. I wrote them down for ideas for another series to be explored later.

So think about what you want to explore in this series of paintings. Have some very clear guide lines. Think about Shape, Colour, Size. The materials you will use. Anything that will help you create both conceptual and visual cohesion for the overall series.

It may be that as you work on this series you find it going in a different direction than you planned. Then you need to decide if you bring your ideas back to your original " rules" or start over with a new set. 

Whichever way you go, don't be changing your mind to often, as that way you are never going to get that series done. It will just end in lots of paintings that still don't go together.

4. Making time

Take a moment to decide how much time you can devote to painting each day. Try to set up a consistent schedule.

Consistency is the corner stone to improving your painting and getting that series done.

Do you want to see that series through? Then you have to make a sincere commitment to yourself to get it done.

 5. Doing the preliminary sketches

This part will help you keep on track because you will have a good idea of each painting you want to do for the series.

Take all your work so far. Research and rules and sit down and do thumb nail sketches of at least 10 paintings you want to do for this series. 

Don't know what a thumb nail sketch is? It is just a small quick sketch that will give you ideas for composition, tonal value and subject. Pay special attention to patterns and spacial relationships.

Don't spend hours on this.They should be quick, not detailed drawings.You can do several for one painting, picking out the best idea for each artwork. Do some colour sketches as well if you need to or just write notes on what your thoughts are for each piece. What message are you trying to say? What is your focal point?

If you have trouble with this stage you may find this book a useful resource.

Painting from sketches, photographs and the imagination. by Don Rankin

Painting from sketches, photographs and the imagination. by Don Rankin

He is a watercolour artist but the information on planning a painting would apply to any medium.This book shows you how to plan for and create a painting that has strong emotional impact rather than one that simply illustrates. This is done in lessons showing how to use photo's and sketches to develop a painting. Exploring negative and positive shapes, looking for a strong composition, working with available light, making the transition from value to colour, planning whites in your work, balancing light, colour, and texture as well as using your imagination.
If you click on the book title, it will take you to an affiliate link. 

You now have a clear plan on how to move forward.

6. Buy all materials

Now you know the size and style of paintings and also what materials you will be using. Go out and make that commitment to buy all the materials needed. 

This way you will not run out in the middle of your work and you can guilt yourself into getting on with those paintings. If all the stuff is sitting there staring at you, you are more likely to get that Painting done.

7. Start painting

Oh yes, we have got all the way to step seven and only just started painting!

All that planning is going to help us get those paintings done in a cohesive and consistent way. 

Do more than one painting at a time. Have two or three paintings on the go at a time. As you finish one, start a new one. That way you keep the momentum going. This I find really helps to keep me on track. I then don't have long times between paintings, while I get into the next one, because I am already into it.

You can also group similar techniques together for efficiency's sake. e.g As I did when painting the flower fields. When doing the backgrounds I would do several at the same time. As then I had all the materials out and ready to go and the backgrounds took time to dry. So it was good to have them done in advance.   

Bubble series, ten easy step to create a painting series. Art Blog on how to improve your art by Goldstarwork, Artist Laura Wilson

Bubble series

 8. Evaluate and tweak

Once a painting is finished put it away for a few days. Then get it out and see if it needs tweaking. 

Also evaluate how the series is going. If you have planned well this shouldn't have to many changes in the overall plan. But sometimes you might find a weakness in your paintings you want to address in the next painting. You can then add that to your plan. Just don't stray to far from your theme and goals for the series.

You want to keep that consistent feel to the series.

9. Finial thoughts.

Once you have finished the series of paintings put them all together. Do they look like they belong together. Did some stray to far from your original concept? 

Take those ones out.

Do you still have ten paintings? If not do you need to do some more? Go back to the research phase and come up with some more ideas and thumb nail sketches if necessary. 

Ask yourself how you want to display this series. How you will hang them, Framing or no framing. What will look best for the concept or message you want to get across.

10. Admire your work. 

Okay you have done it! You put the hard hours in and finished a whole series. 

Take a moment to congratulate yourself. It is a big job and you should be proud. 

Now think back on how far you have come. What you have learnt? What would you do differently next time? How can you expand on the series at a future date if you want to?

What are you going to do with this series?

Can you enter that art show with them?

What about your own exhibition?

Maybe you just want to hang them together on your own wall! 

I truly believe if you work in series of paintings you will see a big pay off on how your art will grow.

I encourage you all to give it a go.

I hope these 10 steps help you to achieve that. 

Some other blog posts you might like are:

Improve your painting by working in a series

How to significantly Improve your Painting Skills. Understanding Value and Tone for better painting.

 How To Apply New Techniques To Your Painting.

Happy Painting To You All.

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