For people who love art-making your comfort zone is also your happy place. Not only is it an expression of who you are but that it can be a real zen-thing too – its down time when you can relax, breathe, escape and enjoy. So it’s very easy to get into a comfort zone state of mind. 

It’s not a bad thing, its a wonderful thing – like settling down ready to watch your favourite tv show with your favourite snacks in your favourite pjs knowing you’ll never have to get off the couch until its time for bed. However, if you want to improve your skills or you have this niggling bad habit you keep defaulting too, you cant address it if you stay within your comfort zone.

Some will relish opportunities to explore new things but many are reluctant because they might be afraid of the unknown, or cant associate what they’ve always done needs improvement and for some its as though they’re being unfaithful to a long-term partner.

Why is it important?

If you keep doing the same thing you’ll never improve. It’s like if you want to be a better cook you cant if you keep making the same thing, using the same ingredients and same method all the time. You’ll become pretty decent at that one or two things but that will be the extent of your knowledge, and quite possibly there could even be a better or more “tastier” way of approaching it but you’ve never tried. All “ingredients” or  art materials are different and even just changing the technique can be revelatory – that’s where the learning process begins. 

For instance, if you’re a drawer and have always desired to be more expressive and loose with your style, play around with watercolours or inks with brushes. These materials may not be “your thing” but what you’ll learn by playing around with brushes is that it simplifies the process of creating a picture.  A large, single swoosh of paint can represent a shape or tone that you may of fussed over with a pencil, possibly overworking it. Unlike pencil which you can start lightly with or erase if you feel its wrong, the characteristics of inks and watercolour paints are fluid and kind of uncompromising because you cant remove any wayward strokes and start again. So not only do you have to work fast but you have to be confident and sure of yourself.  Its not only a new technique that you’re learning but a new way of thinking that can then be applied to the thing you love, in this case, drawing, where broad sweeping lines work very well.

How it goes

The best approach is to not go in with prejudices. No preconceived notions of how it will turn out and more importantly no comparisons to your favourite medium because you could be matching up apples to oranges. Even people who like fountain pens screw their faces up at dip pens because they don’t behave the same way as their fountain pens, the reason being is that they’re different!

When you explore a new medium its not about how it fits into your understanding of art, its about you getting to know its own unique personality and qualities then learning to appreciate them. BUT the biggest lesson learnt is when you embrace the experience, like really embrace it. Don’t give up on the first attempt or even the first hour, keep persevering. Which also brings me to my next bit of advice.

There are never any fails. There are results and they might range from “meh” to “oh my!” but the point is you may uncover something worth embracing long term. With each attempt it gets easier and easier. In fact you may even look forward to it because you’ll know that there may be opportunities to discover something new. More importantly you won’t lose your sense of self, it will instead add more depth to your art. 

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