Wednesday, 27 August 2008

pinned down

'St Ives' watercolour painting

We've been talking about subject matter. As an artist, is it important to stick to just one or is it ok to dabble in several?

Some artists are well known because they paint boats, or they paint nudes, or they paint still life and that is what they become recognised for. But in obtaining an audience or following, is it necessary to pin ourselves down to just one subject?

I thought about this and decided that for myself personally, the answer was 'no'.

I know that because of my inner nature, I am always seeking to create something inspirational and I know I cannot do that if my subject is becoming stale and boring...if Im bored then my audience becomes bored - how can one create a work of art that shimmers with inspired spirit if the artist in question is tired of their endless bowls of fruit or weary looking nudes?

Surely this is reflected in the spirit of the painting?

I go through seasons of painting - I enjoy landscapes, nudes and figurative work, the occasional still life has found its way into my portfolio and I am currently relishing work of a more illustrative nature.

If I limited myself to one subject I would not be allowing myself to grow as an artist, to explore new terrain and develop and polish my style.

I love working with acrylics, but I favour landscape work for this medium over the watercolour and inks I would choose for my illustrative work. Having a subject range to choose from lets me play happily with different mediums too.

But aside from all this, I must acknowledge that I know of many good artists who are out selling and exhibiting who work constantly with just one subject. Perhaps it is because they never cease to tire of the scenery that they paint, or are in a continuous love affair with the fascinating contours of the human body...whatever the reason, I think it comes down to the personal whims of the inner spirit and what keeps you feeling alive as an artist, you as well as your work.

As long as an artist is creating authentically, from the soul, and letting her own true nature show itself on the paper, on the canvas or in the clay, I dont think there are any real rules to follow as to what you should and shouldn't be creating.

I dont feel that you should limit yourself as an artist through fear of losing an audience either - where you may lose some of your original following for taking the brave steps to embrace new subject matter, you are inevitably going to pick up more supporters of your new work along the way so that would not pose a problem for me personally.

And if anyone out there is reading this with a slight ball of fear in their belly at the thought of diving into a new area of work then listen:

We only have to turn our gaze to some of the great masters themselves, to see that they successfully played with many subjects ~ Van Gogh painting landscapes, self portraits and still life with such a distinctive style, there was no way his varying subjects could ever have been mistaken for anyone elses.

Keep your art authentic, own your talent and let it shine through whatever you do.


  1. I really enjoyed reading this post. As a writer, artist, and jewelry designer I often find it difficult to juggle everything. I've read and heard a great deal about "branding" to become more marketable, and I understand the reason is because we don't want to confuse our audience, but these creative pursuits are all so much a part of me that I can't imagine setting one aside to narrow my focus. At least not yet. Best wishes to you!


  2. I have difficulty sticking to one style, one medium, one size or format, let alone one subject! For my daily paintings I paint quite a lot of fruit and veg, but that is mostly just because food is almost always available. I like your eclectic subject matter, paint from your heart and you can't go far wrong.

  3. First of all I love your paintings. I don't like to stick with one subject matter, style or medium. I think it's exciting to always be trying new things. I guess sticking to one thing makes some artists works more marketable because customers know what to expect. A lot of the time I don't even have a subject to look at. I just paint or draw out of my head. I think the fun in art is the unexpected.


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