What does it mean for an artist to present “a coherent body of work?” The phrase usually comes up in a traditional gallery setting, where people expect an artist’s work to fill a room, and be clearly recognizable as the work of one person.
How do you know if your work is coherent? The whole idea might seem like a narrow straightjacket, where you are condemned to keep on doing what you’ve been doing, forever. In fact, coherence is a larger and more generative concept. It means that the parts of your work fit together in a natural way, unified by a consistent vision, style, or subject matter.
If you’re an emerging artist, don’t think of coherence as a goal. Trust in your own creativity, and let yourself experiment and grow. Play with new ideas and new materials.
After you have a substantial body of work, step back and try to see it as a whole, from a distance. Your work might be about a larger subject, like the natural world or personal identity or immigration. Your work’s coherence might be provided though a consistent technique: how you use color and composition, or the play of light and shadow. Coherence may come in the form of a political or social theme, or an aesthetic idea, or even the use of an unusual material.
When looking at your art, ask yourself: how did my new work grow out of the old? Is it a departure or a reaction to what went before? Even if you reject some older works as failures, consider the possibility that they were early versions of current successes.
As you look for your own fingerprints you will begin to see how your work has grown, and how it all fits together.
Mary Edwards, Ph.D
Career & Life Coach for Artists
“Left Brain Skills for Right Brained People”
As an artist coach, I bring a unique combination of business knowledge, art world experience, and professional coaching skill to my practice.