Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Which Art-Path to take?

The age-old question:
Should artists stick to one, recognizable style/subject, or should artists do what they want and let their muse lead them?

Depends on what the artist wants and/or needs as an end result I suppose. But since a life in art isn't easy, I believe that knowing oneself--what is a fit for one's personality and disposition--is crucial if any contentment is to be had.

If an artist enjoys limits, or wants/needs recognition and financial reward, it may be that sticking to one recognizable style/subject/medium is the right answer. Certain personality-types thrive and create best under these circumstances, and it's a faster way to a brand and quick recognition.

If an artist wants/needs freedom to create, it may be that listening to the muse and exploring the possibilities is the answer to creating a body of work (and a life-in-art) that is rewarding.

I've worked as an artist, illustrator, and teacher for my whole career. All three are exciting, and together they pay the bills. Because of that combination, I've mostly been able to follow my muse wherever she's led. 
I want to feel the art surge in me whenever and however it chooses, at any given time--be it drawing from imagination, from life, painting in watercolor, or acrylic; working indoors or outdoors, at the museum or in my studio. If a character is prying apart the folds of my brain in its attempt to get onto the paper, I need to help it then and there.

I'm positive that my chosen path has somewhat limited my income and my notoriety, but the big pay-off has been in my ability to answer my muse's call; my contentment is dependent upon my ability to experiment, explore, and change things up as often as she demands.

As a result, different people have different ideas of my work, depending on what they've seen most, or to which subject or style they are personally drawn.

My first love is that of drawing characters like those above, and I'm fortunate that they resonate with many people. Sketching goofy creatures gives me great joy, and provides the main vault of ideas for finished gallery works and illustrations.

Some of my most loyal patrons have responded to my landscapes, and lately, plein air work has lead me outdoors again--and in new directions. Being reluctant to cage myself into a single landscape medium has probably slowed my growth, but I've never been in much of a hurry. 
The good thing--trying different media has given me the opportunity to explore. Feeling the variety of brush-drag on paper or canvas is only part of the fascination. Watching how watercolors bloom or the way oil paint lifts into peaks is akin to studying the different water patterns in a river while fishing. It's mesmerizing, relaxing, and gratifying.
I've done my share of spiritual art as well, but have managed to avoid the temptation to paint one of these pieces only for the monetary reward. If I love the saint or concept however, I'm all over it. Above are some preliminary sketches for a commissioned work that's coming together in the studio right now.

And I just finished a new piece for an upcoming invitational called  
Monkey Business at Valkarie Gallery .
It features a whole crop of amazing interpretations on the Year of the Monkey! I'll post more about the show (and my piece) next time.

The eclectic path I've followed is not for every artist; I love many who have dedicated themselves to a single style or medium, and I admire and learn from their works. I'm pretty sure there are more than two road-options, too.
Am I always contented--with my life or the art-road I'm on? Not always. But I'm pretty sure I took the best fork in the road--for me.

Thanks for stopping by!

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