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Old 09-23-2015, 12:27 PM
Laurelwood Laurelwood is offline
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How do YOU choose a composition or subject matter?

I've now got 6 pieces displayed in a local jewelry store owned by a friend, all for sale, and I'm very pleased. A while ago, I had considered doing this "artwork thing" as a business, but decided to just leave it as a hobby, so as not to pressure myself, but now that my pieces are hanging somewhere, I'm starting to think...why not? However, now I have to choose what to paint next...to build my "inventory," I suppose.

I'm sure it's some level of mania, but I find myself bouncing all around wanting to paint one thing one day, and something entirely different the next - never able to get a "series" going, or to land on any one style really. One day I like realism, the next I like impressionist. For a week, I wanted to paint extremely enlarged flowers a la Georgia O'Keeffe, then I wanted to do a series on guns, then the "mechanics of nature," then just plain old landscapes or still lifes, then action scenes... How can I choose when I love everything!?

For those artists who went professional or who exhibit their pieces, how did you finally land on what to paint and stick with in order to create a series? Or do you bounce around creating whatever you want, then put paintings together at different times in order to form a series?
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Old 09-23-2015, 08:54 PM
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claude j greengrass claude j greengrass is offline
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Re: How do YOU choose a composition or subject matter?

Congratulations. I hope you get some sales from your mini-exhibition.

I had a similar experience in my painting journey, but I continued to bounce around as I didn't prematurely want to settle down into a particular genre or style. I then took a long break, too long, to study visual composition and design. When I restarted painting, I decided to paint trees, or sometimes a single tree, but to paint each in this series in a different style and/or media.

When I got about 8 or so of these done, I re-read one of my old books on composition by Edward Betts. "Creative Landscape Painting" has 74 different composition layouts/styles which you can apply to a single subject. So far I tried 3 times and failed 3 times. Tomorrow I start again.
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Old 09-23-2015, 09:01 PM
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maryinasia maryinasia is offline
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Re: How do YOU choose a composition or subject matter?

Personally, I love bouncing around, painting different genre, different subject matter, different media, and different sizes. I'm not a professional artist though.

I find it very therapeutic to paint great big clouds with the palm of my hand after finishing a fiddly portrait.

I do end up with series, just not painted straight in a row.
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Old 09-24-2015, 01:18 PM
Artyczar Artyczar is offline
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Re: How do YOU choose a composition or subject matter?

I am actually a "professional" artist and maryinasia has the exact right idea, to just create what you want and different series will come over time, just probably not in a row unless maybe if you're working towards a show. But you probably will be working for a long time before that might happen and will have created many many paintings by then. You will learn to focus on one subject at a time more often, but still be able to cover all the subjects that interest you. It might be a few here, a few there, etc. You'll see.

Also, it's GREAT that you "love everything." that means you just love to paint and make art. I think that's super. And you probably will never lose your interest in art. In fact, I think you'll have an easier go at concentrating on series when you get there. You can start by doing one-offs, then add to the ones you enjoyed most and commit from there.

Last edited by Artyczar : 09-24-2015 at 01:23 PM.
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Old 09-24-2015, 01:23 PM
Laurelwood Laurelwood is offline
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Re: How do YOU choose a composition or subject matter?

Thank you, CJG...I am keeping my hopes in check and figure that, if anything, it's exposure. I just like the idea that my creations are "out there" and people might be talking about them. Money would be nice, though...if only to support my habit.

I will check out that book and see if it will help in some way. How do you figure you failed?

Hi maryinasia, this reminds me of Shahzia Sikander, who said that she likes to do miniature paintings after an enormous (scale) exhibition:

"paint great big clouds with the palm of my hand after finishing a fiddly portrait."

Good to know I'm not the only one who doesn't really want to stick to one thing exclusively - the idea almost seems anti-creative. But anyway....

Last night, I started working on a 30x20 painting of a miniature rose, and was enjoying the activity very much....my favorite painting in my collection is of my Asian lilies. So, as of right now, I think I'll stick with the flower theme and see what happens.
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Old 09-24-2015, 02:56 PM
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claude j greengrass claude j greengrass is offline
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Re: How do YOU choose a composition or subject matter?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurelwood
Thank you, CJG...I am keeping my hopes in check and figure that, if anything, it's exposure. I just like the idea that my creations are "out there" and people might be talking about them. Money would be nice, though...if only to support my habit.
You're welcome. Keep the faith and look around for a local art society. I found their shows can get you exposure and you can sell a few at reasonable comission rates.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurelwood
I will check out that book and see if it will help in some way. How do you figure you failed?
I noticed that Amazon is now asking $50 USD for a used copy. About twice what I paid a few years ago. I first read Bett's books via MEL (Michigan eLibrary) that allows me to borrow almost any book that a Michigan public library has. A great service to check out a book before buying.

As to the failure: The design/composition was ok, but the execution was a dismal failure. I didn't get the value pattern settled before I started to paint and I tried to 'repair' my watercolour with gouache. That was two mistakes in one painting. Nothing to worry about. I usually give a single composition/subject 4 attempts before I give up and move on so one more attempt before I try one of the other composition ideas. With over 70 to choose from, I know there are at least 20 that will appeal to me. YMMV
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Old 09-25-2015, 10:07 AM
Laurelwood Laurelwood is offline
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Re: How do YOU choose a composition or subject matter?

Quote:
Originally Posted by claude j greengrass
I didn't get the value pattern settled before I started to paint....

I actually just did this same thing in my current WIP... I prefer to do a grayscale to set the values, as it just makes everything so much more vivid in my opinion, but I usually forget. Still learning, I guess.
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Old 09-26-2015, 01:52 PM
BeLing BeLing is offline
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Re: How do YOU choose a composition or subject matter?

In most cases I do a sketch or drawing. I do not like "wants": rush past that and DO it, even if it's just a thumbnail. I've often found that what I wanted to do, I actually didn't (like certain types of romantic/dramatic realism) --- it was just something I admired a lot. But admiring a type of work doesn't mean it's compatible with your own expression.

I choose, finally, when a sketch or drawing "talks" to me. It suggests there is more there, if only I were to put it into paint.

This is not like the recent work I did for a conservation show, which was by direction, you could say. I needed an endemic species, and illustrated it. I consider this a completely different sort of art.
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Old 09-28-2015, 02:18 PM
dsrandall dsrandall is offline
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Re: How do YOU choose a composition or subject matter?

Series work is a project I have yet to approach. I paint what appeals to me or speaks to me (jump about some). A gallery will be likely wish to see a body of work similar in subject and style. I seem to be able to get away with just the style. Nevertheless it will always be a challenge. I have know artists very successful in a certain style that wished to change. It's another difficulty if you are known for one kind of work, have an established, buying public and want to experiment or creatively challenge yourself in another direction which can take years to recover from. Very hard on the pocketbook. Most will keep at the income stream like it or not. A few will brave it and follow the muse at the cost of having to pay a price for reinventing themselves.
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Old 11-09-2015, 03:31 PM
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WFMartin WFMartin is online now
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Re: How do YOU choose a composition or subject matter?

I've seldom gotten involved in creating paintings based upon any sort of "series approach". Granted, there are certain subjects I may enjoy painting more than others, but that is only a small portion of the enjoyment I get from painting.

I've had a great deal of success with my flower paintings, but flowers are only popular in some of the shows, and competitions that I enter. Also, "everyone" paints flowers, it seems, and to a judge in a competition, looking at dozens of flower paintings may become a bit boring.

I often paint that which may be seen as unique, or attractive, depending upon whatever art competition I may be entering. Since I enjoy painting nearly any subject, I can paint landscapes, or still-lifes with just as much enjoyment as I can flowers. I also change my style, and paint decidedly more painterly than when I create a flower painting.

In fact, I've experienced a great number of awards whenever I have seen fit to paint outside my "comfort zone", and paint more impressionistic, citiyscapes, night scenes, and landscapes.

So, I am one who has experienced some measure of success with my paintings, and I often paint all sorts of subjects, and in 2 or 3 different "styles", as well. Doing so has been working out rather well for me.

However, galleries often try to channel artists into creating paintings that are in one genre, or style, or series, for their marketing purposes.
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Old 03-08-2016, 05:03 PM
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adamBomb adamBomb is offline
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Re: How do YOU choose a composition or subject matter?

I am right there with you. I mostly have the same subject - the ocean. But they are all very different. They are always with different mediums. I have sketch book after sketch book filled with ideas. I am at the point where I think my goal is to perfect working with waves, regardless of the medium and/or style. Just to become an expert working with waves. I am mostly abstract but enjoy realistic pieces too and cant settle on one thing for very long. One thing I do know is that its better to be all over the place then have no ideas at all
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Old 04-18-2016, 12:13 PM
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virgil carter virgil carter is offline
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Re: How do YOU choose a composition or subject matter?

An older thread, but an always relevant question from the OP.

My experience is paint 100 paintings and you will have your answer.

Sling paint,
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Old 04-20-2016, 03:48 AM
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Re: How do YOU choose a composition or subject matter?

Professionally I painted many subjects until I found those which I felt an attachment to...then I focused my efforts on that.

Artist on a whole are seeing a decline in buyers here in the US...do not let this discourage you. I earned a living from my work for many many years and continue to do so. It is just more difficult currently. Things will turn around and it will be good if you have built up inventory and experience.

Wishing you the best
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