Curly's Crayon Cartoons I
This is a pretty neat series of faces. edenpictures / / CC BY

In my day job I hire artists and art instructors and see a lot of portfolios come across my desk.

There is nothing that screams amateur more than a portfolio filled with a variety of media, subject matter and technique without any sense of series or cohesion.

It’s just a bunch of pictures – all of which may or may not be fantastic, but without a sense of unity the offering lacks the power that a strong series conveys.

I’ve talked about this on social media in the past and I know there are artists who feel hampered by the idea of a series – they want to be able to explore freely whatever medium or ideas come to mind.

You can do that.

No one’s saying you can’t.

What I am saying is that it’s not as strong a collection of work as would be a united series.


All Fingers and Thumb
“Thumbnails” – hahaha!!canonsnapper / / CC BY-NC-ND

A series dedicated to the exploration of a theme or subject (or some other unifying layer), demonstrates a commitment to your process and investigation as an artist.

Remember when your art instructors made you do a million thumbnails before allowing you to begin your piece?

Focusing on a series has the same effect; you are exploring colour, composition, application… to find the BEST ways to produce the desired effect.

A series shows that you can commit to an exploration and have the patience to see it to it’s fruition.

A series gives you the opportunity to experiment – within the confines of a framework.

Boundaries & Limitations

The framework of a series works as a container – it holds your experimentation within a prescribed foundation, so that you can build a body of work vertically as opposed to diluting your efforts horizontally.

You must first create a strong foundation to support a house that will protect against the elements.

You can’t carry water in your hand to quench your family’s thirst.

You can prescribe whatever limitations you’d like to contain your exploration – but it must be recognizable as a series. The boundaries of your series will hold your efforts together and create a stronger body of work as a result.

For the Merchandise Artisan

The Design Trust has a great article for those of you who are more “merch” inclined which also includes a 3 part step by step to create your own collection.

The Design Trust says a good collection includes:

  • Ideally your collection include up to 10 items that are aimed at the same target market, and are linked through a visual theme (e.g. colour, material, function). Think about it as ‘belonging to the same family’. For example ceramic mugs, cups & saucers, cake stand and small plates.
  • All the pieces in the collection are aimed at the same client group who like your particular style and products. For example: colourful gardening products for children; functional but beautifully designed notebooks and stationery for paper lovers.
  • A good collection often mix different product types e.g. a hat with scarf and gloves, or a necklace with earrings and three different rings.
  • They have different price levels from lower to middle and possibly higher price range. Think for example about the same ring in silver, gold and platinum. This will help you to sell more as there are products in your range that are affordable for different clients, and if people love your work they will often come back for more of the same!
  • More than one product can be bought, either at the same time or they can purchase them later e.g. earrings with a necklace, or baby hat and mittens.
  • Check out The Design Trust for more info.


Some Series Ideas

©Anne-Marie Harvey ~ Explores "Painting a Series" on

©Anne-Marie Harvey ~ Explores “Painting a Series” on

Anne-Marie Harvey offers an intensive look at creating a series tightly focused around composition, while experimenting fully with colour and values.

You can read the full article at

Screen Shot 2013-04-05 at 11.29.13 AM  Screen Shot 2013-04-05 at 11.33.24 AM

Lori McNee from and Shanna Kunz offer a 10 step process to Develop a Series of Exhibition Paintings.

“Shanna and I love to talk ‘shop’ when we are together. Today, we have been discussing the importance of producing a cohesive body of paintings for each of our upcoming winter exhibitions.”

Here are a couple ideas to begin developing art series of your own and build a body of signature work that will have the pow factor of an artist seriously investigating their craft.

Share your series thoughts and ideas in the comments – I’d love to hear what’s working for you or what you’re thinking about over making a series.

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Discussion (8) ¬

    If you'd like to create a stronger portfolio start by creating in series.

    Some artists find it limiting – but it will give your work a stronger unified message and presence.

    I could understand why some find it limiting afterall series can take a long time to complete but I agree that its much better in the end.

    So true… I thought I could squeeze out enough in a series to start showing this month.


    I’ll be looking at 2014 before I show.

    Artzi18 says:

    I really like doing series. Currently doing rock formations that are recognizable in my geographic area. I did a mountain series many years ago, too. Some one asked if it was boring to paint the same thing over & over. I replied that not to me, & not to Monet who painted his garden many,many times. I highly recommend series for all the reasons you stated!

    Lezley says:

    True! It’s up to each artist to maintain energy for their series… and there’s so many different ways it can be approached.

    Thanks for your comment!

    Hi Lezley. Thanks for that article and yes, I am doing a series on kind of aerial impressions of outback Australia. The first one turned out really well but was an experiment. Now Im halfway finished the third and am learning as I go. I find it liberating to feel free to stuff up one as I know there’s another already in my head and itching to get on to the next canvas.
    The process of doing the series, is teaching me as I go- re composition, colours, textural qualities, shadows – the lot. I’m finding it a wonderful exercise. Dunno how many will happen with this series as I just love exploring- its just as good as being there!

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