Why a Consistent Body of Work?
In the art world there is often talk of the desirability and necessity of a “consistent body of work.” This simply means that the output of an individual artist, regardless of the medium, be recognizable as the work of that specific artist. Thus, an art patron could easily recognize this painting as the work of Piet Mondrian even if she had never seen this particular piece.
"Composition A" Piet Mondrian
Do you know what sculptor created this piece?
"Recumbent Figure" Henry Moore
I, personally, had never seen this sculpture before, but I immediately recognized it as the work of Henry Moore, the famous English sculptor.
These two examples highlight what is meant by a consistent body of work. Their style, color schemes, shape, form, degree of abstractionism, and additional elements are consistent with other works in the artist’s oeuvre.
Most artists create a body of work around subject matters, methods, styles, and further criteria about which they feel passion. In doing so, they give themselves the opportunity of exploring and experimenting with those artistic factors that most inspire them. They also gain the additional benefit of gaining greater technical proficiency in their chosen media.
Often students, novices, or emerging artists try on a variety of artistic “hats” as they seek to find that which most speaks to them. However, after this beginning phase, the majority of artists (and almost all professional artists) settle in to creating a consistent body of work by which they are recognized.
But is this necessary? The preponderance of gallery owners would say “yes.” These gallerists spent a lot of time promoting the artists they represent and developing relationships with clients who are drawn to the work of individual artists. If the artist were to frequently change their style, the gallerist would have to repeat the process again and again at a cost of both time and money. Thus, most galleries see a consistent body of work as a necessary criterion to carrying the work of an individual artist. In fact, I’ve heard a few gallerists state that consistency and passion are even more important than creativity or skill in making sales.
While I fully believe in the concept of a consistent body of work, I personally find it hard to be constrained to any one style. As I began sculpting, I worked on small, table-top sculptures made of acid-stained cement with a rich textural surface such as “Burning Sun” and “Burnt Offering.”
"Burning Sun" from "Artifacts from a Former World"
"Burnt Offering" from "Artifacts from a Former World"
These two pieces and others I created definitely fit the criterion of a consistent body of work. However, as time passed, I wanted to explore other styles, such as figurative work. I considered my first works a separate series that I called “Artifacts from a Former World,” and began work on a second series (or, if you will, a second body of work), “Heads and Hands.”
"Man with Hands by Face" from "Heads and Hands"
"Bearded Man" from "Heads and Hands"