The Importance of Consistency

In this post I will address the importance of creating a consistent body of work.

When I first began to paint in encaustic I painted in different styles and themes.  So, as you can see below, I tried painting abstract flowers, waterscapes, and the nonrepresentational.  I spent over three years struggling to find a theme and a style of painting that I could sustain over a period of time.  Consistency is not easy.    I love all styles of art but I do know that I have a stronger connection to abstraction and not realism.  I also like impressionism and expressionism and am drawn to textile arts. 

Slowly a seed became planted in my brain after painting many artworks in different styles and themes.    When I take walks along the paths in the woods or around the lake, or take car rides through the country side, I see plastic garbage bags on the side of the trail or an empty pop can or beer bottle in the ditch.   At stop lights I see piles of cigarette butts by the curb. Just up the road from my studio a beautiful forest has been clear cut and the earth is scorched and trampled.   The loggers left such a mess.   I asked myself what are these individuals thinking when throwing garbage out of their car window or destroying the forest?     Then I started to wonder, How could I make an artwork that would show the destruction of our ecosystem in relation to its beauty?

I also love textile arts, and  an image came to me of a woven structure being placed over the land to protect it.  S0 I painted a landscape and added a gauze curtain over the land.  This painting below was the breakthrough.   Then I just continued to make landscapes and covered them with a gauze design.   As I am painting, other ideas come so I keep those thoughts in the form of sketches or writings and will refer to them in the next work.  The more I paint then more variations on the one theme materialize.    The following is the first painting that I made with the gauze covering over a forest landscape. 

#1, AnnaWagner-Ott,Darning

After making many paintings of gauze covering the landscape, I started to see the gauze as the metaphor for notions of “covering” and then focused only on the flowing gauze.  I still have the abstracted landscape beneath the gauze.  

DSC_0025 low res

So, over the past two years I have been consistent with my theme.  The gauze covering is mesmerizing and just pulls me in.  Then, I got tired of the gauze paintings so just took a month off to do some small experiments and actually used threads and painted them after they were wrapped around a panel.  I saw the notion of suffocation appearing in the work.  Suffocation links onto my theme of covering.

It is so important that when you get stuck in your work that you take the time to just experiment with your theme.   Change surfaces, change your style, color, use only black and white, change techniques, etc.  So, after a month of completing 12 small thread encaustic works I started to ask questions.  Am I going away from my original intent of painting the gauze interlaced structures?  What does suffocation mean to me?  How can I use that concept in relation to the gauze curtains?   How can I break the curtain to reveal what is underneath?   What about the beauty of the gauze?  Am I painting pretty pictures?   Have I moved away from my original intent of using the gauze as a political statement and interpreting the destruction of the landscape?  I do ask questions while making the work, and after the work is finished.  The mind will try to play tricks on you and take you off your consistency path.   One does get bored with just doing gauze coverings.  But, after a few days, a gauze idea pops in my head and I have to try it.  Sticking with the theme “Interlaced Narratives” has enabled me to have a consistent body of work so now I can submit a proposal to a public gallery.  

After being consistent with one theme for almost three years, I can understand why curators, gallery owners and museum directors support the notion of consistency and exhibiting an artist’s work that has a thematic focus.  Flitting from one idea to another, one style of work to another, one technique and different colour scheme to another is important at the beginning of your creative journey.  But, I believe at one point you have to ask yourself, “What do I really want to say through my artworks?”  Do you want to show the beauty of the land, or say something political or social, or paint the psychological notion of the human form?  Do I want to paint realism or abstraction?  Picking a style and theme and diving into that theme for at least a year is important for developing yourself as an artist.  This dedication will make your work strong in relation to your concept, and become proficient in your techniques and style. 

Note:  There are hundreds of painting styles.  So first research painting styles and then find the one that you can relate to.     So do you like realism, abstraction, geometric, expressionism, impressionism, minimalism, pop art, etc.   It may be a mixture of many styles.  Start painting in one style then after a while your paintings will evolve into your own personal style.

 In conclusion, I am not saying, “Stick to one theme or style for the rest of your life!”  What I am saying is to dive into one theme for a length of time and to paint a body of work in relation to that theme.  Then, after you have exhausted that theme, another will materialize  and you are off on another journey.  Be passionate and don’t loose site of who you are and what you want to express through art.       




Author: Anna

I am a painter and sculptor and have a studio beside a beautiful lake. For the past 40 years, I designed and built puppets, masks and sculptures and had solo exhibitions of these works. In 2013, I went back to painting and started working in encaustic. I am interested in issues of identity in terms of weavings as coverings to protect or to hide. The intersecting lines that I create over landscapes create an internal conversation versus the external between nature vs. nurture. Or how actual or psychological barriers erected in an environment can disrupt a cherished place. My engagement with woven structures speak to complex dialogues between identity and psychological barriers. My second passion is teaching. I try to encompass more than teaching my students art techniques. I encourage students to, not only learn the language of art, but to also engage in critiquing art. Additionally, we continually explore ways to enhance one's voice through art in relation to contemporary and historical issues. Encaustic adventures is a blog where not only processes and techniques are taught, but hopefully this sites will engage in a dialogue about the making of art, notions of voice, identity, themes, and ways to establish a body of work within an historical contexts.

7 thoughts on “The Importance of Consistency”

  1. Thanks Anna for your thoughtful piece. As we have spoken about, I sometimes feel like the “Sybill” of the art world with my multiple personal disorder in terms of style. Your article shows that sticking to a theme isn’t “boring” as I fear. I think coming to art ‘later-in-life’ has an effect that makes me want to cram as much into a fewer number of painting years as I can. At the end of it all, do I want to look back and say “I was taken seriously as a artist and produced some good work,” or do I want to say “I had a blast and painted whatever I bloody-well felt like painting!”

    1. All of your directions are true to you. I always thought that I have many personalities and they all came through my work. I am not saying to stay with one theme or direction your whole life. But, I am saying that exploring one theme or idea for a longer period of time will strengthen your vision and your techniques. Your signature is already there. The color choices,and the abstraction of the landscape. You also love non-representational. So, it would be interesting to commit to saying that I will do 10 paintings relating to one topic that I love and see what happens to your thoughts and output.

  2. Very interesting ready your blog about staying with a theme for a period of time. I seem to flit around doing different things without knowing which one I like best. Will try your idea. Thanks very much. Fran ( Perth, Australia)

    1. Hi Fran, thanks for your support. It really is hard sticking to one theme, but the rewards are amazing. Keep in touch because I would love to hear about your process.

    2. Hi Fran, I know what it feels like to flit from one idea to the next because I just love many ideas. I did find it beneficial to just stay with a theme for a while. Hope it works for you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s