Monday, April 13, 2020

It's Time to Jump out of Your Comfort Zone! (A Post for Artists in Need of Inspo)

by Sandi Parker


Sunflower Field, oil by Sandi Parker
Most of us as artists have themes and mediums we can create in our sleep. Often this is our bread and butter work – the sculptor known for her classical nudes; the painter popular for her scenes of the Italian countryside; the ceramicist who sells pots with a particular blue hue; the photographer who beautifully captures urban scenes. We all go back to what we know, what we’re good at, and what sells. 

But does the axiom “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” apply to artists?

When it comes to themes, personally, I’m really into cityscapes – and by into, I mean when I see a good one by an artist, I quite often purchase it because I’m in awe. And the reason I’m in awe is because I know how challenging they can be in any medium. When I attempt to do one myself, the work doesn’t flow easily the way it does if I’m doing a landscape or a seascape. Landscapes and seascapes to me – a beautiful field of flowers, sand and ocean  – are generally stress-free. But, I’ll admit – not so challenging.
Crossing Delancey, oil by Sandi Parker
A cityscape, on the other hand, involves things that make me break out in a cold sweat: buildings at odd angles with hundreds of windows (which can be nerve-wracking to pull off without looking – well – wonky); cars (which if not done just right, can look cartoony); and crowds of people (see: cars). And cityscapes often have ALL of these elements. It’s enough to make me want to run screaming from the easel. But inevitably, whenever I force myself to attempt one (quite frankly I sometimes get bullied into them via a commission), as stressful as it can be…I’m usually happy with the result and even better – proud of myself. And then have to knock myself upside the head and say, ok it was hard but you DID it so why are you always shying away from trying something new and difficult??

The same applies to trying a new medium. Nothing is scarier to an artist than having to buy a bunch of new and strange materials and signing up for a class where you’re convinced every other student has been practicing this medium for decades. That probably won’t be the case, and even if it is – so, you’ll learn from them.
Summer Swimmers, Gouache by Sandi Parker

You may end up deciding, as I did, that a certain medium may work well for working en plein air. I have been struggling for ages trying to come up with a medium that is more portable than lugging oil painting materials into fields and towns. After being introduced to gouache, a water medium that lugs like watercolor but looks like oil? I now am less likely to shy away from plein air painting opportunities. It won’t ever take the place of oil for me, but I love the idea that I can do a little painting on the beach with minimal cleanup, and materials that tuck into my beach bag.


If you jump out of your comfort zone now and then, you’ll have an amazing sense of accomplishment after getting a handle on a completely different subject matter, medium or technique . And being able to add these to your website and business card?  Icing on the cake. 

Sandi Parker is Director of Gallery Underground and an artist who works in oil, acrylic - and now - pastel and gouache.

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