Mastering a skill tends to involve years of practice and effort. So it’s no surprise that many artists find a favourite medium, and specialize in it. I’m certainly one of those — now that I’m very comfortable with coloured pencils, that’s my go-to medium, and I rarely work in anything else. And there’s nothing wrong with finding a medium you like and sticking to it.
That being said, I do think it’s important to try new things and experiment. Not only is there a possibility that you’ll discover a new medium that you really like, but it helps keep things fresh and spark creativity. At least, that’s my experience.
I typically work in three different media: coloured pencil, pastel pencil, and ink pen. But I’ve tried a whole host of different media, including graphite, acrylic paint, oil pastels, and markers. Some I liked more than others (not a huge fan of acrylics, and oil pastels are terrible), and some I’d like to keep playing around with — when I have time.
That, of course is the big challenge with experimenting. When you work full time as an artist and have a full commission book, it’s hard to find extra time to try new things. Especially when you aren’t getting paid to experiment, because although trying new things is fun, it doesn’t always pay the bills.
My strategy for this is to set aside some time every week which is ‘free art’ time, where I’m not working on commissions but can draw whatever I feel like drawing. Sometimes it might be a wildlife piece in coloured pencil, or experimenting with new paper. Or it might be a fun little drawing in a medium I haven’t used in a while. I don’t have a lot of time for this, but I make sure to have at least one hour a week of free art time.
Having ‘fun art’ time is really important for me, because when I’m working on commissioned pieces all week, I can sometimes get bogged down and forget that creating art is something I really love to do. Trying new things and playing around with tools I don’t normally use keeps things fresh and exciting, and reminds me that one of my favourite things is to learn and grow as an artist.
The challenge, of course, is that when you’re just starting out in a medium, you probably won’t be very good at it. So although I’m used to being able to produce a certain level of work with coloured pencils and pastels, I have to remind myself that I’m not necessarily going to be able to do that when I work with graphite, or markers, and that’s okay. If I keep experimenting and find a medium I like, I’ll do more of that and then get better at it.
So experiment, try new things, and remember that you do art because it’s fun! It’s okay to try and fail, and if it’s truly a horrible experiment you can just burn it and no one will ever know…