Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Different Media

I wrote recently about trying to figure out how to handle marketing different bodies of work. But now I'm facing a different problem: working in different media.

I used to paint only in acrylic, and I played around with layering colors and trying to achieve transparency. But when I discovered encaustic, it seemed to solve all my problems. I could embed objects, collage materials, write words, scrape, scratch, layer... So I've worked almost exclusively in that medium for almost four years.

But when I started on this new body of work (the Palimpsest series), I wanted to explore the ideas in different media, as I had done with the Seeking Shelter series. That particular series came out of all of the work that I did in grad school. I spent the whole time working through ideas and media, and Seeking Shelter is the culmination of all of that work, and it just happens to be created in encaustic.

I know Joanne Mattera has written about not wanting to be labeled an "encaustic artist," and I can understand and respect that. About not being defined by your medium. And it's never bothered me if someone called me an encaustic artist. [I don't care what you call me, just call me, right?]

But I'm afraid now that I've pigeon-holed myself. I've created a few new pieces in the Palimpsest series that are not encaustic. I've been experimenting with acrylic, oil, and pastel. I think all of the pieces go together as one body of work and I don't think acrylic pieces would look out of place next to encaustic pieces as long as they seem cohesive in style, subject matter, etc. But when I was talking with a gallery owner about sending work to him, he seemed hesitant about me sending the non-encaustic pieces. He said I have become "known for" encaustic.

I'm going to send them anyway and see what happens.

So I'm curious. How do you handle working in different media? Or introducing work created in a new medium? Have you had the experience of being labeled as a particular kind of artist or expected to only work in a certain medium?


Deborah Boschert said...

I have been all about fabric for years! And now I'm being drawn to paper and I feel like I'm cheating on my first love. Luckily, both of these materials fall under the category of "fiber."

Charlotte said...

I have encountered this same sort of "pigeon-holing" or prejudice as well, especially in the art festival circuit which is where I am currently trying to sell my artwork.

I worked in pastels mainly for 8 years with some watercolors and collages sprinkled in. Two years ago I started working with acrylics. At first I tried to maintain a consistent body of work in all 3 mediums but as I filled out application forms and realized that I had to apply separately for each medium. This meant I had to have enough artwork in ONE medium to fill a 10 x 10 booth. At that time, I realized I had to concentrate on one medium in order to fulfill the requirements set forth by the festivals.

It was (and still is) frustrating to me though because sometimes I still "see" compositions in my head in pastel and I know I could not achieve the same results in acrylic so I don't bother to do the artwork.

Anonymous said...

I've had a similar experience, even though I only wok in one medium. I work in photography, but my style is very un-photographic. But whenever I enter a competition, I need to check the little "photography" box, which puts my rather abstract work alongside your more conventional photographic fare (photojournalistic or landscape styles). Needless to say, my work never goes over very well because the first reaction is "one of these things is not like the others."

Christine Mercer-Vernon said...

this is a tough one. i've never been a fan of the requirement of artists to work solely in one style and medium. i originally started as a watercolor floral artist and had built quite a collector base, then i showed up at the gallery representing me with some florals in oil, they were excited. then i showed up with a new body of surrealism paintings...and the gallery was still interested, but less excited, and i completely lost my collector base. BUT, gradually, i gained a new more enthusiastic one and new more enthusiastic galleries. i would say send the pieces, if they cohesively fit into the body of work, then it may be a great way to start transitioning to a new medium versus shocking everyone with something completely different. after all, we are supposed to continue to grow and explore as artists right!?!

Anonymous said...

Isn't it all in the marketing and packaging? Your series title and subject matter are what's to be promoted. Dwell on the (insert superlative adjectives here) cohesive body of work and celebrate the Renaissance Woman who can do all these things well.

Encaustics are starting to sound like a novelty act - a fun and enduring relationship but not an exclusive one. Remind the gallery that it's all about the art, n'est pas?

Anonymous said...

I've always worked in every medium...I think the idea behind the work, and it's consistency throughout the years is what matters.
Categories are just semantics.....