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Using Creative Play to Help Find Your Art Niche

Are you an emerging artist who has many different art interests and finds it a challenge to decide what should be your focused art practice? If you said yes, then I totally understand and can relate!
Watercolor painted flowers


Though my artistic journey started with fabric painting and hand-dyeing, I was in search of a new artistic endeavor to pursue and develop an expertise in.  But my problem was that I had a closet full of art supplies and too many interests.  How could I just narrow it down to 1 or 2 art practices?

The answer:  creative play.

What does this mean?  It means setting aside time and allowing yourself to dabble or “play” in a few different art forms without striving for perfection.  It does not matter how the art looks once you’ve finished. Your goal is to have fun exploring. When you relax and enjoy the creative process, you’ll be inspired in new ways.  You’ll start to discover your art style and what you gravitate towards.

Watercolor roses

Now of course, I know art supplies are expensive, and so you have to decide on a budget and decide how much you want to invest in creative play.  Don’t go all out - use what you have first and invest in small quantities in only what you really need.  

For me, dabbling in alcohol inks, colored pencil, watercolor, gouache, sashiko stitching, printmaking and block printing helped me figure out my true art interest and what I want to go deeper in. 

Block printing

Because of my experimentation and creative play, I started to explore mixed media art. I joined Fodder School and most recently Collage Makers Summit. I soon learned that what I love is creating textures, prints and blending different materials and mediums which is exactly what mixed media art is all about. 

Examples of my Gelli Prints

I also learned that I still love working with textiles but I wanted more, beyond fabric painting and hand-dyeing.  A trip with Ace Camps Travel last year to Newfoundland introduced me to visible mending and the art of sashiko stitching.  You can read more about my trip in this post, Sashiko Visible Mending Art Retreat in Newfoundland, Canada

This form of stitching is a wonderful way to add texture, color and pattern and I’m excited to learn this skill further. 

Sashiko stitching

After 1+ years of creative play and art experiments, I have honed in on my focused art niche which is in mixed media and fiber art.  Having a focused art niche means I will spend more time going deeper into these art forms to learn new techniques, practice and produce final art pieces that I want to show, exhibit and sell.  

Memories of Jaipur, my latest mixed media artwork

This does not mean that I will stop with creative play - I will always continue with that as this is what keeps me inspired and helps to develop new ideas.  I will still share my “creative play” artwork in my blog and on social media, but perhaps these won’t be the pieces I submit to exhibitions and calls for entry!  

To summarize these are the steps I followed to help me discover my art niche:

  1. Research.  I discovered artists whose style I resonated with on YouTube and Instagram.
  2. Learn. I learned as much as I could about different art techniques through books, online classes and in-person workshops.
  3. Play. I picked one art form each month and allocated a few hours over the weekend to dive in, play and enjoy the creative process.
  4. Time. Give yourself time - your art niche may not jump out at you right away - it could take months or longer. And that’s ok.  Allow your art niche to find you and when it does, you’ll just know it’s the right one!

I’d love to hear from you - what steps do you take to help you define your art niche?

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