Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Just One Thing?

I want to talk about how it feels when you're drawn to exploring different ways of expressing yourself through art, and when you cannot commit to just the one.

The months prior to my Summer hiatus had seen me moving from illustrative art to a colourful exploration of abstract art.  I have no idea even now what pulled me to go into the studio that first day and use the paint in this way, only that it was something I had to do.  I needed to feel what it was like to create energy and stories through shape and colour but I was also deeply aware that it was completely different to my illustrative work, the work that I was recognised for.

After my break, I began to slowly start working in my sketchbook, this time pulled back to the gentle art of watercolours, dip pen and ink.  I felt that I reached for these things almost intuitively.  I picked up what felt right, and started to draw and make small paintings which became the bare bones of my new collection.

Last week I was talking to a friend about it.  I asked her, "will people start saying things like 'what's she doing now?' because I can't settle with just one thing?  It feels as if I ought to have just one thing, but I haven't".

There are plenty of wonderful artists who commit to working in one medium, and a certain subject matter (like landscapes for example) for many years, and gain a reputation in that field.  People know what to expect, it's reliable and solid.

Is it detrimental to our progress to not have just one thing?  Is it necessary for our progress to focus on one genre, and hone our talents using one medium?

I listened to a Podcast recently over on Let's Highlight Real with Meera Lee Patel.  She was talking about her own experience as an artist and writer, and touched on this subject.  She spoke about how she felt that one of the most important parts of the art for her is the story, whether that is told via a greetings card, a print or an essay, and how while she admired the artists who stick solely to one medium, and one way of creating, she often felt as if she didn't have a choice in the way her story was told.

This really resonates with me, some days I want to tell my story with watercolour and ink, other days I want to tell it through the vibrant and colourful medium of acrylics.  Other days, I'll turn to my blog and write.

So is this amateurish and confusing? Or does it instead show curiosity, ability and strength?

Meera said that it can be hard not to try and look like, or do things like other people.  But being an artist is about being true to yourself, and following your intuition.  I don't think I could choose just one type of paint and stick to it for the next 30 years, and I can't imagine not sharing through my writing either.  I also think that if you choose to work authentically, and commit to your own style, you are absolutely able to work with different mediums and genres to create a body of work that is 100% identifiable as yours, whether it's watercolour or linocut printing.

I'm currently working with watercolour and ink right now to create a beautiful new body of work which is inspired by the coast.  I felt compelled to work with words that are embroidered through the art (you can see more of this style over at Whistlefish here), using beautiful inks and a dip pen.

Do you prefer to see artists working with just 'one thing'?  Or, do you like seeing an artist sharing  their work through different styles and mediums?

Chat to me in the comments about your thoughts on this, I'd love to hear from you!


Before you go...


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  1. Dear Julia,
    I read this with interest as, like you, I like to vary my work and use different mediums to express myself, but do wonder whether presenting a single, clear identity in one medium would be better. But I simply couldn't do it! I shall listen to the podcast and love your new work in watercolour with the beautiful lettering. with best wishes, Deborah

  2. Dear Ms. Julia,
    I think, an artist should 'provoke' feelings and thoughts in the beholder and the way he/she expresses his/her art shouldn't matter.Of course , I am only a humble amateur art admirer.I loved your new work; I felt hopeful, optimistic and happy.
    Best wishes,