A few weeks back, I participated in Silicon Valley Open Studios. It was my third year participating, and I was amazed at how much more art (paintings, glass and jewelry) I had to exhibit than last year. I had to put up a second tent and still couldn’t display all my paintings. It was very exciting to see what a productive year I’d had.
But then a fellow artist stopped by. Looking around at my paintings (oils, acrylics, pastels, landscapes, still lifes, abstracts), glass art and jewelry, he commented: “Well, it looks like you haven’t found your groove yet.”
I was floored! What a rude thing to say! At first I thought he was criticizing the quality of my work, but then it became clear he was talking about my focus, or lack thereof. Turns out, he paints only one thing: flowers in watercolor. And that’s all he wants to paint. And he seems to think that all mature artists should similarly choose one subject matter – “real artists” have to specialize. Thus, my variety of work struck him as evidence of an immature artist who is still searching for that “one thing” that I’ll do for the rest of my career.
I see things differently. There are too many things I love to limit myself to just one. First of all, I’d be bored out of my mind – and art would feel like work – if I had to do the same thing day in and day out. For me, the variety keeps me fresh, engaged, and growing. A technique in one medium can inspire me to try something new in another, such as imprinting pottery with pine needles led me to try the same technique with paint in my painting “Imprint.”
Secondly, if you look at many successful artists throughout history, you’ll find that many were active in different media or different subject matters. Michelangelo was a painter and sculptor; Picasso did just about everything.
So to the gentleman who stopped by during Open Studios I want to say: I’m glad you’ve found your groove. I’ve found mine too, and it’s variety.