Changing Mediums for Inspiration


Armand Cabrera
 We as artists can fall into painting things the same way all the time if we are not careful. Artistic scrutiny gets traded in for symbols. We do this when we start painting unconsciously but we can also do it for expedience after years of working. Instead of observing what we see and trying to honestly record that experience, we use shorthand; it’s the symbol we’ve made for water or for trees or for the sky or clouds. These symbols get repeated too often and they are used without thoughtfulness because we know they work.
opposite bank watercolor
 Professional artists have deadlines and client expectations that can work against growing as an artist. It’s hard to turn down jobs to continue to do exactly what we’ve always done in favor of risking the quality of our work in the short term for becoming a better artist in the long term. As hard as it seems I think it is essential for an artist to force those changes over the course of their careers to avoid burnout and stagnation.


red roses watercolor
One of the best ways to break this habit is to switch mediums. When I am learning to control another medium the change forces a more thoughtful approach to painting. Switching to transparent watercolor, acrylics or digital painting help me take a break from oil painting and they always force me to slow down and see more carefully. The new medium makes things that have become unconscious patterns to be dissected and thought about in a more purposeful way because those oil painting symbols won’t work. Ultimately this reprogramming helps me to be more thoughtful in a way I couldn’t have without the change.

3 thoughts on “Changing Mediums for Inspiration

  1. I absolutly agree with the premise of this post. Every year, about this time, I start to feel a bit 'jaded' with my usual medium – which is Coloured Pencils. Projects start to feel "too easy", with less challenge and more 'automatic' working. So I switch to something else for awhile … last year I jumped back into Oils for awhile, this time it's Pastels which have caught my fancy for a time. After mucking about in 'something else' for a bit, then I'm ready to plunge back into the CP work again, but with renewed vigour and certain new insights gleaned from the 'other' medium.

  2. An interesting comment….

    This is kind of a 'confirmation' of my experience of switching between additive sculpture materials (clay, wax, plaster, metals, etc.) and subtractive materials ( stone, wood, ice, etc.). I have enjoyed how carving marble makes the next clay sculpture so positive and strong, and fast. Each medium inspires/helps the other.

    That also applies to alternating from 3D to 2D and back, which perhaps is most valuable for me, in terms of stretching one's vision, experimentation and resolve. To be 'ultra-aware' of the possibilities and qualities of the material is always inspirational. The alternation forces the brain to open to a different circumstance, which can be very inspiring.

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