Friday, March 27, 2009

Why Don't I Choose One Medium and Stay With It?

I have been painting for over 35 years now, and I have still not settled on the medium that I love the most. I first began with oil paints, that is until I watched a watercolor demo at the local art league. I went out immediately and purchased a small set of watercolors. I think it might have even been a child's set at that time. Later of course I learned you must have good materials to paint good paintings.

For years I bounced from oil to watercolor depending on what workshop or demo I attended. I begin with dark shapes and work toward lights. This is probably most naturally suited for oil painting. I struggled for years with wet into wet watercolors. However, I never could seem to save the lights, as the traditional water colorist.

At some point in all this bouncing from oil to watercolor, I also must have seen a pastel demo. Because I found myself picking up the pastel sticks and painting portraits. I quickly found that pastel was a great medium for me. I could begin with the dark shapes and build up to the lights and push and pull the surface with a play of cool and warm colors. I like the very direct application in pastel . I paint with small pieces and broad swipes with the side of a pastel stick, almost as if drawing and painting at the same time. I like the feeling of color flowing from my fingers. A love of drawing was quickly developed as I studied contour and gesture drawings.

This brings me up to a time of my life when I suffered a serious artist block. I continued to try to paint, but the spirit wasn't with me. When I slowly began to just allow myself to play with paint and color, I picked up watercolor again. I believe this was a way to deal with my emotions and the changes in my life that had devastated me so intensely. The work I have been producing the past five or six years is the result of this spirit freeing play with colors and design. I am proud of the work and I think it shows a real metamorphosis as I re-emerged from that horrid artist block.

Here we are in the present. And I have been studying sculpting the figure and portrait in clay for a year or two now. Bringing back to the surface that love of drawing and the desire to explore again those mediums I have loved in the past.
So tell me, why don't I choose one medium and stay with it?


  1. Judy, I'm certainly glad that you're painting -your paintings are beautiful and you're such an inspiration. I understand those artistic blocks and how horrid they can be. You've done the right thing by just playing and enjoying yourself.

    On the other hand, I know it's hard when you have several different mediums because it seems the world wants an artist to focus on doing one thing only. I've heard it said that an artist should be a "one eyed Jack" and do one thing only and do it until they are they best at it. Plus there's always that little nagging voice of "Where's this going to get me?" as you look toward the future hoping and praying for success. Art becomes painful work rather than freeing play.

    After much agonizing about this myself, I've come to believe that making myself happy is more important. If I'm not happy, then it shows in my art (or lack of my doing it). I have to be the first audience for my art. That being the case, the art has to speak to me first. So what's it saying? Though I have gotten back to writing and I want to draw graphic novels and tell stories as well as paint, I've realized that it's my voice that has to carry though all of it. My style is still developing (and hopefully it never stops growing), but it's what I'm saying with my voice that's important.

    Does this make sense? By not choosing a medium, you are expanding your style. You're learning and you should never stop growing as an artist. It's your voice that matters. It's your voice that will unite your work. What are you trying to say to the world with your art? If you know this, then does it really matter to the viewer? If you're trying to show the viewer that the world is a beautiful place, does it matter whether it's done with oils or pastels? As long as your style of doing it is your own and your voice is strong, you will be successful.

    Don't limit yourself. Let yourself play and be happy in creating that which comes from you.

  2. Dawn, I am so happy to have your comment here. I know there are many artist that are drawn to various mediums and talents,and as you said, expand their style by doing so.
    To me, art is more about the exploration of self than making a statement. If there is a message in my art, it comes forward naturally.
    I tend to take a more zen approach to art than having a voice.

  3. Judy, you are very talented in all the mediums that you have chosen to work in including sculpting. I say you don't worry about WHY, but just do. Your inner guide will nudge you day by day as to which medium and subject, for that matter, you should share with the world that particular day. You are so gifted and talented, stop questioning it and just paint, no dissecting allowed. I love all that your creative intuitive self produces . . just go with it and be proud that you can change mediums and skillfully master any of them to the point that they captivate the viewer with such feeling. What I'm trying to say is "skill" is one thing but to use that skill and develop a painting with emotion and feeling to it is something God given. Keep it up - paint everything. Don't listen to anyone trying to tell you - - "to be good you have to specialize in only one medium". I don't personally believe that. We are curious creatures by nature (spirit). Let you curiosity flow as you expand in your mediums. WOW! that was good - -now I need to take my own advice too.....yes? Wonder where all those words came from.........hummmm....

  4. Thanks Madalyn.
    Branding (specializing) yourself might be the best way to market your work, but art is so much more than selling.

  5. Hi Judy, There's a little surprise waiting for you over at my blog. When you get a chance come on over and take a look. Joan

  6. Hi Judy! I'm with you, watercolor, pen and ink, pastel, oil pastels, color pencils, oil paints, acrylic paints...oh my just too much to choose from and too much fun to be had. For me, it's like the joy of shopping and getting something new, changing media seems to spice things up a bit.