Monday, 18 June 2012

A healthy change of pace

Sometimes, we artists tend to stick with same familiar materials, same size images, same subject matter.  Of course, nothing necessarily wrong with that, and I could in fact show some solid examples of painters whose work seldom varies in size or content - and arguably, could be said to be focussed and strong as a result.

However, there are some of us with slightly restless spirits, who enjoy change, and who thrive on the excitement of a new challenge.  I am one of those;  I have frequently stuck to my favourite medium and worked to a theme, particularly for exhibitions, since I find that this often strengthens my work as one image leads to another - but equally, there are times when I long to find something unfamiliar to take on, a new idea, a new challenge, something to shake me up a bit!

Even for a relative beginner, change and experimentation can be rewarding.  How else can you find out what you DON'T want to do ...unless you try it and discover you dislike it!   And how wonderful to try something new ...and discover you LOVE it!

If you feel that you are, perhaps, slightly stuck in a groove - I won't say "rut" because that is a bit disparaging - groove is a much nicer way to put it - then I want today simply to encourage you to try out making some changes, if only for the sheer fun of it, and I will give you a few ideas.  


Often, artists stick with a particular size and format for their work. Changing the scale of your work can make a huge difference to the way that you approach a piece.  If you usually work large.....try working far smaller than feels comfortable to you.  You will have to find new ways to make marks. 

 Same thing applies to working large if you usually work small.  A tiny thumbnail, blown up to a BIG canvas or sheet of paper, will show you instantly that  some areas or shapes which work fine in a tiny format , simply don't work well on a much larger scale.    You may need to rethink how you tackle those larger shapes to make them more interesting.


Most artists work within a rectangle.  If you have never tried working within a square - try it.  It feels quite different .  I will talk about the whys and wherefores in another blog devoted to working in a square, but for now, just try it - it is like putting on a garment in a style you have never worn before.  
Fishing off the Jetty, pastel on paper

Summer in St. James' park, London.  Pastel on paper
alternatively, why not try a wider rectangle, or a taller one?  I am aware that most of these suggestions sound really rather basic........but in my experience, artists seldom deviate from a format that is familiar and comfortable.
sisters in white, pastel on paper.


You may not think I did these images which follow.........but I promise I did!  The first one is an oil painting, done with a palette knife, in a semi-abstract way.  I did it on a workshop  inspired by the works of Diebenkorn, who worked with palette knives.  I have rarely worked in quite the same way since, but I came away from that workshop feeling refreshed and renewed, it made such a nice change.  I also learned things that I have since been able to bring to my more conventional work....those subtle and beautiful slight changes of colour, for example, and some of the textures I was able to find.   It felt REALLY good to try something new.

This one was done on a "mixed media" workshop - lots of collage in use here:

oops, sorry - I photographed my toes as well.  

Finally, here is a small foray into semi- abstraction, using acrylics, and done one afternoon in response to a poem I had been reading:

One of the lessons I learned, when trying all these changes of style, medium and format, is that the world truly is my oyster.  I might PREFER one medium to another, enjoy one style or approach more than another, but in fact, every new painting is part of my journey, my growth as an artist, and for the journey to be full of interest, challenge and fascination, I recognise the need to stretch myself from time to time, try out things which may or may not "work" for me -and it is actually quite wonderful to continuously fill myself up with new experiences.  I recommend you try it too.  You may be surprised by what you learn along the way.

One last thought...I do recommend a bit of research if you decide to launch into something totally and completely new.  Learn a little about your chosen style or medium - get books from the library, read about the artists' works and approach - a little learning can go a very long way.


  1. Great advice - I may need to try these out!

  2. Jackie, as always, you make me want to try whatever you are discussing. Love the abstract palette knife painting you did. It is not my style either, but I have enjoyed jumping in and doing different sometimes! Thanks for the reminder.

  3. I tend to use off-the-shelf sizes such as for ready-made frames. I am not a professional and this has been the easiest way to try things with a minimum cost but I see the learning advantage to changing it up. I really like that last picture, your semi-absraction! Nice post and helpful as usual.

  4. Sometimes I think you must crawl right inside my head woman! How did you know that this is exactly what I am up to right now - and loving it?

    I really do feel reinvigorated. I had not painted for a few months and now I can't wait to start wielding the brush each day to see what evolves with this mixed media stuff. So much fun to paint oneself into a corner and then work out ways of leaping over the obstacles one has created. To paint directly from one's imagination is so liberating when you have previously always used a reference.

    Fun! Fun! Fun!

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