What makes for a better artist? Is it someone who finds their style early on and studies and explores one area in considerable depth throughout their career or is it someone who experiments, reinvents, diversifies, moves, travels and tries different things?
Does the former construct an intellectual type of art and the latter a superficial, temporary, art? Perhaps the former breeds boredom, staidness, and the latter creativity and originality. I wonder if the latter would eventually lead to the former, or even, if they follow each other in waves throughout a lifetime.
I don’t know the answer, if there is even a black-and-white answer.
Artists prior to the current and last two centuries at least tended to stick to what they knew they were good at. Painters prior to the 19th century generally were painters and sculptures were sculptures. When I was the in-house editor for the Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance (those words on Amazon describing this book, are mine), I was tasked the job of constructing a thematic index of entries. I found it quite easy to place people in the various categories of ‘painters’, ‘writers’, ‘sculptures’, and ‘philosophers’. There was some degree of overlap but not a huge amount. In fact, the Renaissance was probably the era when the creative and the intellectual started to diversify. Nowadays, many artists would be much harder to classify. But is that necessarily a good thing? Isn’t it perhaps better to find your niche and specialise and delve and dive into the pool of What You Know?
It would be arrogant of me to suppose that I have found my pool already. I don’t think I have, but will I get to such a stage? Perhaps after I graduate. What if I continue to study? Will I then find my niche after I put my pen down for the last time? Or will that never happen? I was stuck in a well of exclusive oil painting for many years from A levels to more recently when I started at college. I put that inertia down to my lack of inclination to diversify and experiment and the lack of encouragement to do so (something that comes from learning). I think I am a believer in the wave theory.
I’ve just started a mini-project: paint a portrait. I haven’t changed my style from my last project. Even the subject matter isn’t vastly different (First World War objects to the objects that define a personality).
However, I’m happy with the result. It isn’t a conventional way to do a portrait and that is my aim. But I feel the need for some further thought about how to improve on this style platform I have reached. I want to travel further, to boldly go and all that.