Experiment or Focus on a Style?

Let’s dive deep into the world of art-making and explore that ever-elusive sweet spot between trying new things and sticking with what we know best. Finding a balance between experimentation and consistency can be confusing, but . It’s a journey I’ve been on for three decades as a painter and I’m excited to share some insights.

To Experiment or Not to Experiment: That is the Question

During our coveted studio time, there can be two forces pulling us in opposite directions. On one end, we’ve got the world of experimentation, where we artists unleash our inner mavericks. It’s like a creative playground with no boundaries—new techniques, unique materials, and thinking outside the box.

On the flip side, we’ve got the realm of consistency, the land of dedication and practice. It’s where artists commit to a chosen medium and subject, fine-tune our skills, and develop or refine our unique style. Consistency brings mastery, and it’s like building a beautiful artistic home.

So which of these should we focus on? Let’s explore!

Benefits of Experimentation

  1. Breaking Boundaries: Experimentation is all about pushing boundaries. It’s about daring to step outside our comfort zones, trying unexpected materials, and embracing the unknown. We’re talking about discovering new techniques, playing with random tools, and cooking up fresh ideas. Breaking boundaries in your art is like purposeful play. We ask ourselves, “what would happen if?” and then we do it. I love to pretend I’m a scientist concocting new formulas when I am in the Breaking Boundaries/Play mode.
  2. Fostering Growth: When you experiment, you’re basically saying, “Challenge accepted!” It forces you to confront your limitations, adapt to change, and grow as an artist. It’s like a creative boot camp that makes you discover new facets of your own artistry. If play and experimentations is good enough for Einstein (who said “Play is the highest form of research”), then it should be good enough for us.
  3. Inspiration and Discovery: The beauty of experimentation is that it keeps that artistic flame burning. You’re on a quest, an adventure, and you never know what you’ll stumble upon. Unexpected treasures, fresh perspectives, and novel ideas often pop up when you least expect them. Sometimes “happy accidents” happen, and we are amazed at the results. Being open in this way can bring in vastly more creative ideas than if we stay in a box.

The Power of Consistency

Now, consistency might not sound as thrilling, but it’s the backbone of artistic mastery. Here are some benefits for artists when we focus on a specific style or technique:

  1. Crafting a Unique Style: Consistency is like the magic potion that helps artists develop and refine your unique style. It’s about doing something repeatedly until it becomes distinctly yours. For example, you will gain a much deeper understanding of a specific medium, technique or approach when you do it over and over again. In time, this focus helps to create your artistic signature.
  2. Artistic Evolution: Consistency doesn’t mean stagnation. It’s about gradual, deliberate growth. Over time, you refine your techniques, deepen your understanding, and create work that reflects your journey as a seasoned artist. This deep dive into being consistent matures you as an artist, and is often apparent in the quality of your work.
  3. Series Development: Consistency in style, themes, or techniques makes it easier for artists to develop and expand upon a series of paintings. This allows for a deeper exploration of ideas and concepts, resulting in a more compelling and meaningful body of work. If you want to approach a gallery with your work, they will want to see that you have a series or two under your belt, and a consistent body of work.
  4. Building a Cohesive Portfolio: Showing a consistent body of work is important to demonstrate your seriousness as an artist. Your portfolio is a testament to your dedication to your craft. It shows that you’re on a journey, that there’s a rhythm to your art, and that each piece contributes to a beautiful symphony. Anyone aspiring to be a serious artist needs to seriously consider having a cohesive body of work.

Here is the big question: How do we balance these two creative forces? Check out these tips:

Recognize the Phases of Creation

Know that your creative journey isn’t a straight line. There are times when you’ll crave experimentation. Embrace it. Let your creative spirit roam free without worrying about making everything match. Generally, I find that the experimentation phase is useful for me when I’m not sure about the next series or what I want to focus on. It’s good for generating new ideas, and helps me to figure out what the next series will be.

After you discover an exciting technique or style you want to stick with, create multiple pieces with that focus in mind. Use these moments to hone your skills and dive deep into your chosen medium or technique. It’s only after these periods of focus and dedication that you can create a strong series, and eventually, a cohesive body of work. If your goal is to exhibit your work in a more professional setting, then you will have to spend time in the focus period.

Suggestions for Striking the Balance Between Experimentation and Focus

Set Intentions

Understand why you’re creating a particular piece. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What’s my goal with this artwork?
  • Am I experimenting or working on something that could be part of a larger series?
  • How does this piece fit into my bigger artistic journey?

By setting clear intentions, you can choose whether to lean towards experimentation or consistency in that studio session.

Embrace Fluidity

The balance between experimentation and consistency isn’t set in stone. It’s fluid and adaptable. What works for you today might not work tomorrow, and that’s perfectly okay.

Study the Masters

Learn from those who’ve walked this creative path before you. Study the works of artists you admire. You’ll notice their creative journeys are full of twists and turns, experimentation, and consistency.

Practical Strategies

Let’s get practical:

  1. Artist Journal: Keep a journal or sketchbook for experiments. It’s your creative playground. Try out new ideas, materials, and techniques here. Take ideas you love to the canvas or paper and expand on them.
  2. Series and Projects: Organize your work into series or projects. This allows you to explore a theme while leaving room for experimentation within each project.
  3. Schedule Creative Phases: Dedicate specific timeframes for experimentation and consistency. For example, spend a month experimenting followed by a month of focused practice.
  4. Critique and Feedback: Seek feedback from fellow artists. They can offer fresh perspectives on how you’re balancing experimentation and consistency.

Your Artistic Journey

Your journey as an artist is like an odyssey—a continuous exploration of self through the ever-shifting landscape of creativity. Balancing experimentation and consistency isn’t about finding a fixed formula; it’s about dancing to your own creative rhythm. Embrace the spectrum, adapt, and watch your artistry flourish.

Are You Ready to Elevate Your Art?

If you have a passion for art, want to concentrate on a series and craft a unified body of work, I invite you to explore my online group coaching programs.

Art Evolve caters to artists aspiring to elevate their practice and construct a compelling series of artworks. Meanwhile, Art Ignite is tailored for those who are prepared to share their creations with the world. In this program, you’ll delve deep into the intricacies of pricing, titling, framing your artwork, pursuing gallery representation and exhibitions, crafting artist statements and bios, and more.

Both programs offer an intimate setting, accommodating a maximum of 10 participants, and feature weekly live online sessions to facilitate your artistic journey. To delve further into these programs and discover how they can enhance your artistic endeavors, please visit the program details here.


I am an artist out of Santa Fe, New Mexico who has been painting for almost 30 years. I love to teach first-timers as well as experienced painters who need a creative reboot. My work has been displayed in several galleries around the country, and I have a Bachelor’s in Art History, a Master’s in Art Education, and had my work in a show juried by Judy Chicago. The idea of getting more people painting makes me light up as I want to inspire more people to express their creative selves and tap into a place of joy and calm.


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