The Artistic Pendulum

Jean Pederson has had several discussions with workshop students and colleagues about style and consistency in one’s artwork. Inspired by these discussions, she writes about “the artistic pendulum.”

The Artistic Pendulum by Jean Pederson

Have you arrived at that magical “C” spot of creativity for artists? Does your arrival mean that you have found your voice? That your voice has matured? Does consistency mean that you have solid footing, or does it mean that you may be stuck? This is an interesting topic as there are pros and cons to each side of the consistency coin!

Portrait by Jean Pederson

Through His Eyes (mixed media, 16×20) by Jean Pederson was created on commission.

I think you have to go back to a basic question: what are your intentions?

Painting with a consistent style can demonstrate a certain level of skill and knowledge of materials. A consistent style will provide galleries with easy marketing and establish a trademark for clients to recognize. It’s a way of branding your work. Many artists with an established style experience commercial success. The commercial success reinforces the desire to continue on the path of sameness and security. There may even be a fear of trying something new, after all, the phrase “if it ain’t broken don’t fix it” exists for a reason. Consistency can be a means to financial security if the style is one popular to clients and galleries.

Consider this: Will you resist the option to explore in order to manage the expectations of your audience? To create means to produce something through thought or imagination. If an artist is painting with a formula, then the amount of exploration is reduced in order to fit the style.

by Jean Pederson. She created this painting for her own artistic expression.

Jean created this painting for her own artistic expression; although she paints in a slightly different style for work that is intended to be shown in a gallery and available for sale to the general public.

For some artists, commercial success is their measure for artistic success. Let’s face it, buying bread and butter and putting kids through school is a good thing. Other artists will find production art wearisome and stifling to their creative process. The desire to move beyond where you are today is exciting to artists who thrive on the process of exploration. Is one path filled with boredom and monotony while the other with engaging self-exploration? Is it the difference between production art and exploratory expression?

Where is the balance between consistency and exploration? Does there need to be balance? Picasso, Gustav Klimpt, Jasper Johns ,and Gerhard Richter are a few artists who have followed their own muse, painting in several different directions.

Motivation to commission produces different results than for those motivated to please themselves. It is too bad that the galleries and the clients don’t embrace the artist’s journey unconditionally by accepting either side of the coin. What are your thoughts about this? Use the comments section below to get the conversation going!


Learn more from Mixed Media Artist Jean Pederson
Mixed Media Painting Workshop: Explore Mediums, Techniques, and the Personal Artistic Journey (book or download)
• Expressive Portraits: Watercolor and Mixed Media Techniques (paperback)
Wet Glazing Watercolor Portrait (DVD)
Watercolor Artist, August 2011: Create the illusion of depth in your paintings with these simple tips and helpful illustrations of linear and aerial perspective. (article)
• See her work at

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