When I saw this slogan on a T-shirt recently, I loved it. Truer words have never been spoken, or printed as the case may be. Yes, for me — and for a few others artists I know — it’s a very silly question.
Now that I’ve discovered the joys of oil painting, it’s all I want to do. I wake up each morning excited about the new techniques I’ll try at my easel. I look around the house at all the paintings sitting about in various stages of drying, and new ideas race through my head.
I want to paint more skies, I want to paint rivers, and wouldn’t it be exciting to try seascapes? Whenever we go out, my eyes are drawn to scenes of natural beauty, looking at groves of trees, streams running through the countryside, glorious clouds overhead. I want to paint it all…and I want to paint it all in oil.
It’s good, of course, to be so enthusiastic about a particular medium, but it’s also occurred to me that maybe there’s a downside to having finally “found my niche” in the art world.
What happens now to everything else?
I want to keep sketching. I want to do more charcoal drawings and pastels. Of course, I want to continue studying anatomy and work on figure drawings, too. Lately, though, there doesn’t seem to be time enough for everything. I’m too busy painting. Or reading about painting. Or shopping for oil painting supplies.
For so long, I wondered what sort of artist I would become. Would I choose watercolor? Would I literally make my mark on the art world doing charcoal portraits? Would soft pastels become my preferred medium? As a beginning artist who was trying so many different things each day, the choices were unlimited.
Whenever I read about artists in the art magazines I have, I envied them for knowing who they were, for having found where they fit. How nice it would be, I thought, to have one little slice of the art life to call one’s own, to be known not just as an artist, but as a watercolor artist, a wildlife artist, a portraitist, an impressionist. I wanted to “tag” myself, put a label on my work, and feel that I’d achieved an understanding of who I was as an artist.
Yes, I love seeing myself as “a landscape painter working in oils”, but I realize now that this isn’t all of who or what I want to be.
So, in a sense, maybe “To paint or not to paint” isn’t such a silly question after all. As with all things, it’s a matter of finding the right balance. Yes, I will paint landscapes, but it’s important for me to also find time for other artistic pursuits. I’m itching to get back to my figure drawings — and someday I’d love to do the human figure in oil. I’d love to dig out my soft pastels again and my oil pastels, too. I mustn’t forget about those lovely sets of colored pencils I have tucked away in the drawer now, and it would surely be fun to do a little watercolor painting again.
But when? I’m working on it. I’m wondering though how other artists feel about labels and tags and niches. Are you happy working with only a single medium, or does it suit you better to play with many different ones? Do you seek out a variety of subjects, or are you content to stay within a certain area of expertise?
Let’s talk about this. Please share your thoughts. I’d love to hear what you have to say.