How Can I Make My Art Cohesive?

You can do it! You are ready now! It might take some time and loads of practice and hard work, but in this post, I will go over a few things you can do to make your art cohesive. Making art cohesive is not as necessary as it used to be. Like the old music industry that went bankrupt, the internet has made it possible for you to show and reach others with your work cost-effectively, eliminating many of the gatekeepers that used to have a grip on where and how work was conducted. So here is a no bull sh*t approach to cohesively creating art.  There might be grammar and spelling errors, but I am an artist and not a teacher, so give me a pass, maybe for all the free information here for you.  If you do not get anything out of this, I’ll be sure to send you a refund at the end.

This article will cover creating cohesive art for those looking to submit work to galleries, shows, venues, platforms, or collectors that require a cohesive body of artwork to gain access to their buying community. However, know that if you can buy cars and 52-inch flat screens online and have them delivered to your home, you can also market your art similarly. There is no such thing as talent: just practice and hard work to build skill.


Build Skills In The Basics

Just like riding a bike, there is no way that you would hop on and Lance Armstong it out and get big wins on day one. Creating cohesive art takes time to build and learn skills, techniques, and processes. I have no idea what lousy art might be and only a little about what it is not. But I know that poorly done work without attention to construction, detail, composition, shape, color, size, materials, texture, line, research, and others can give you a bad time. I would suggest making a lot of what you make and then making a lot more of what you make better. Repeat all of that a bunch of times.

It may take fifty, one-hundred, or maybe a thousand or two to get the basics ironed out, but creating a cohesive body of artwork is essential if you wish. The start to making art cohesive is simply making a lot of bad work as practice, finding and pushing boundaries, finding what might work best, taking chances, putting yourself on the hook, being brave, and working to eliminate any resistance that always crops up. But you can do it! You are ready now! Start by making your first pieces right now! Give yourself permission to mess it up badly and go to it. Just do something! And do it a lot! Once you start things, they will begin to work out, and you will feel great creating the work. Even the terrible stuff. It’s all practice.


What To Say To Whom

The next step I would say in making your art cohesive is after creating a bunch of work, and building the skills in the basics, to find out who you would like your art to be for and why. Take some of your strongest work and have a look at it all from way back. Also, think about what you wish to say and why. Answering all these whys is very important as it will assist you in whom to show the work to and create work that matters for the folks who care.

No need to do work for everyone but the minimum viable audience. You only need maybe ten people who care to start. If you are successful in communicating and what you create speaks to that community, and they enjoy what you did, they might tell another ten folks, and before long, you have a few raging fans or collectors. It sure makes it easier to sell work or submit pieces to art shows, galleries, art shops, and online platforms if you have some idea what your work might say or how it is read and knowing your “why.” A great book on the topic is “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.” by Simon Sinek, listed below.

.All of this might take a while to work out, and you may ask others how it is read. I would suggest not asking friends and family, as they will lie to you to make you feel better and not enjoy being honest if they believe what they think might cause you to have a bad time. So I would have some folks you might not know, who might be the ideal person the work is for, to give you feedback. Social media groups are really helpful in this area at times. Then, take what those folks say and go back and rework things and show them again. At this point, it might be acceptable to start submitting work to a few shows, and galleries, as their feedback can be helpful in knowing what they believe you need to improve on and how well your work is communicating.

After looking at some of your strongest work from way back, you might now be able to see some themes throughout them all. A cohesive body of art will start to filter out, and you will be able to see similarities between pieces in a few different ways. At this time it might be good to emphasize those similarities a bit more while simultaneously keeping what you wish to say to who in view. Now go make a bunch more work with your discovery of the themes in mind and repeat the process, and then show that finished work that matters to those people who care. You may not get it correct every time, and you may need to rework things and not feel good about it, but do not stop! Creating work and finishing things no matter how poorly they turn out is far better than all those who simply thought about making work but never did! You’re doing great!!!

 

Layer Up Like An Onion

After practicing your techniques and skills and messing up a lot real bad and taking the least bad that is now good and finding the commonalities, it is time to build creating art and a cohesive body of work that is designed for a specific reason, with a particular goal, that might say a specific thing to a specific group, to the least viable audience. Since there are a million ways and combinations, this may feel overwhelming at first, but after you work it out a few times, you will become much better at it. For, me personally I enjoy layering the work up with technique and meaning so that I can communicate with the audience I am trying to reach.

Others may simply have one or two layers to enjoy communicating simplicity. I find it easier to make a list with columns on paper with things what you might like to say to thoseyou found common in your work. Then list out the thing you might want to say to who using the many techniques, subject manner, lighting, line, sound, symbols, texture, patterns, planes, shape, depth, height, weight, size, history, research, and many other ways to communicate. To me, good art is simply a form that communicates clearly and in some interesting way. Next, layer things up in a way that communicates best based on the goals you are trying to achieve.

It is possible to become cluttered and have too much going on in work to where it is a distraction. But if you chart out the project first, you can begin to add or subtract even before you start taking the time to construct the actual body of work. At this point, it might be good to make up a few small samples, test piece , or studies to work out a cost analysis, decide how many to make in the collection on the particular topic, and begin to help visualize what it might look like.

Can you see the collection in your mind? Visualize how it might be if you walked through a room at a gallery or shop filled with your work. How would you want it to feel to the viewer? What can be done to make an impact or to communicate what you might like to say? Once you can visualize it in your mind, then you might be able to have a better feel for how to set up the collection and the way it communicates. Also, think how it can communicate on other platforms, like when on a website, for example. How will you shoot photos? What feeling do you want the online viewer to have as they click through the gallery?


Do The Work

With all the planning and testing completed, it is now time to do the hard work. Actually, doing the work can be the most challenging part as many things start to crop up on why we should not do the work. A lot of resistance and issues will arise that will give us excuses not to complete the project. Self-doubt, imposter syndrome, material issues, issues with technique, and other setbacks will stop by every day for coffee but keep going!

After some time, when you reach the amount of work you planned for, make a few extra pieces so you can choose what to use to fill out a showing. It is also at this point of doing the work you might want to show others who care about what you are doing and what you are working on to build interest and excitement about the project. It might even benefit you to post updates to your email list or do social media posts and live streams of the process to get those who care invested in what you are creating and trying to communicate. I believe that the totalreal work is the planning, the construction, the showing, and the buyer enjoying it.

Doing the work might take days, months or years but be sure at this stage to have good project management as no collection is complete if it is only partially done. And remember, at times done is better than perfect. While it is essential to pay attention to details, fine craftsmanship,, and technique do not let waiting to release the work until it is perfect become an excuse. Keep working through the dips, both good and bad, and wrangle it out.

Doing the work is the most intense part and can be a struggle but keep climbing the mountain. While doing the work, take small breaks at certain planned stages along the way to review what you are doing and that you are staying on message and reaching your goals. Reward yourself at certain stages and be kind to yourself. Creating a cohesive body of work is no easy task, and sharing work that matters with people who care can feel like you are exposing yourself to the world but push on you are almost ready to put on the finishing touches and show your work as a collection!


Show The Work

Great job! You did it! Now you have some work sitting around your studio, basement , or storage. Now it is time to show your work to people who care if you have not started the process already. Take all that work someplace and set it up and look at the collection altogether if you can and begin to decide which work should be shown together, separate, or not at all. Some pieces will be stronger than others so take note of those things and why to remember for next time. It might be beneficial to create an artist statement about the work for promoting the work and explaining the project, technique, and ideas and also some background about yourself.

Depending on the platform, you might be able to get help with these types of statements based on what the gallery or selling platform requires. Seeing how other artists have gone about this process might be beneficial. Planning this all out now will help later and make things run more smoothly if your work should be accepted into a gallery or on a platform for a show. There is a verity of ways to show a collection of work to people who care, and one way would be to find a gallery or selling platform that might be a good fit for you and can help you show your collection to people who care. Like writers, you should ready yourself for rejections; these rejections can be beneficial as they can provide feedback on what you might need to think about when creating. On the other hand, the work and message you are trying to tell may not simply be for them, or a good fit, so keep going and try not to feel down about things. You have created a cohesive body of work that is far better than all those who just sat and thought about it but did nothing.

Some may disagree, but you may need to separate yourself from your work in your mind so that you can sell it better. Your work is not you but simply an extension. Just because others might misunderstand, misinterpret, or dislike the body of work does not mean they dislike you personally. I try not to take anything personally, and if others reject the work, it simply was into for them. However, if your goal was to agitate or upset and you caused a ruckus then congratulations, your cohesive body of artwork is working!


Ways Around Gatekeepers

Think of different ways around gatekeepers. Many might say they enjoy the work you do but have no room, or you may not get into shows due to other reasons due to a jury rejection. I have heard some artists being rejected for how their booth looked or their set up or display was done. If needed, work on what they suggest if you need to but also work to break through the gatekeepers. One way to work around gatekeepers is to build your community of people who care for and collect your work.

If a ten-year-old girl in Tennessee can gain one million subscribers on social media doing a milkcrate challenge, then you as an artist, should be able to muster up a few hundred or thousand people who care. Like the old music industry that refused to change and went bankrupt, or the book industry, you can also, like the songwriters, producers, singers, and writers; have opportunities to put your work into the world in many different ways on different platforms to reach those people who care.

There are some challenges you will need to work through, but once overcome can give you leverage in promoting your work and speaking what you wish to say. While they are helpful, you no longer need galleries, art shows, shops, or the old ways to show your work to the world. You can do all of that with your website or online shop. Size does not matter. A person can buy a car and have it brought to their house and a 52-inch tv shipped to their doorstep. So times have changed, and your thinking as an artist may need to also take advantage of these great opportunities you now have available to show your work.


What Are You Waiting For?

Time is short, and the only thing we never get back, and you are the only one who can best tell your message and story to the world through your work!  At the time of writing this, if I live to be 86, I only have 14,104 days left. If you do not tell your story, someone else will, and it might not be the story you want said in the way they mean it. I hope you found some of this helpful and can better  plan to create your art in a more cohesive way that you can feel great about and work your buyers enjoy! Below is a reading list of books that I found helpful. I receive no payments or kickbacks from posting this material. I write these articles because I enjoy helping folks like you at no cost. If you enjoyed this post and got something out of it, feel free to check out my gallery and shop or say hello at creekroadpottery@gmail.com.

 

Here are some outstanding books I have read!

Seth Godin:

The Practice: Shipping Creative Work. 
This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See.
Purple Cow.

Stephen Pressfield:

The War of Art
Do The Work

Simon Sinek:

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

Steve Blank:

The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company
The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win

Free Class:

How to Build a Startup

Donald Miller:

Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen
Hero on a Mission: A Path to a Meaningful Life
Business Made Simple: 60 Days to Master Leadership, Sales, Marketing, Execution, Management, Personal Productivity and More

Joseph Campbell:

The Power of Myth

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Victor Frankl:

Man’s Search for Meaning.

 

Written By,

Al Wayman

Artist/Owner

Creek Road Pottery L.L.C.

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