On not being great at picking "a lane" in art making

I've never been good at picking one single thing that hits the spot and then sticking with it. Never wanted to be boxed in. Never quite fit any single category. My career is proof. My personality is proof. My taste in music and books is proof. There's always a huge variety that I NEED. The chaos. I need it. I crave it. I thrive there.

And no I'm not special....we're all multifaceted human beings!!! You might be like this too. If you are...then this post might speak to you.

I'm an artist to the core...but I'm also an Electrical Engineer. I am also a web developer. I like painting the walls and doing intricate things with my hands with a razor sharp focus...whether its with wires through which electricity is passing or an art medium. Someday I hope to have a business of my own painting peoples walls or doing handywoman like work for them. Or sell cake.

You could say I have some commitment issues. Lol. It hasn't quite been the straightest career path. You know? 

Similarly in my creative journey, I've felt somewhat guilty about making too many types of art. Don't get me wrong...it is fun. I enjoy jumping into different things. It's exciting. Fulfilling. But not just that, it is also work to switch gears mentally and get into another way of making because your mind has to shift from thinking in one way to a different one. But, I find that the switching of gears sustains me. It helps my brain think better if I jump around like that and bring ideas from one style to another. Mix it all up into a beautiful big mess. 

But, as much as I enjoy all this variety and what not...I do wonder if I confuse people by making too many different types of artwork at the same time. It's harder to explain your line of thinking and what you do this way. And...what worries me the most is whether that comes off as me being unprofessional. How can one go from all this....to appearing professional? Intentional? Appearances matter. First impressions matter. A LOT. 

Here's the styles I use so far and they all feel like me:

1) Ink lines on watercolour - I started with this and the level of planning somewhat depends on the watercolour underneath

Abstract Art By local Madison WI Artist Sneha Mahajan

2) Ink lines on plain paper - More random and scribbly than 1. Much more intuitive and spontaneous. This one is with pencil but you get the point.

Pencil line work on paper

3) Watercolour lines - Way more organized than 1 or 2 but still some element of randomness. I don't mix colours beforehand and I believe thats what adds beauty to this style. 

Watercolour lines on paper

4) Paper collages - Quite a bit organized. Most amount of thought and work (also materials... so this style costs me the most) goes into this style. Into the planning and finally putting it together. Overall my collages feel quite organic...but they take the most work. 

Collage by local Madison WI artist Sneha Mahajan

Sometimes, I mix all of these styles and the final outcome feels completely different. Sometimes I leave the individual styles alone and that works for me too. It is all me. All of the styles feel very much like me. But, it makes me wonder how I come off as an artist. Do I come off as someone unfocussed? Someone not serious about one thing? Noncommittal? Undecided? Unsure? Someone who doesn't know what the fuck they want to do? Or what they like?

When I read books about other artists/creatives that figured this part out...they say that as an artist its important to try different things (especially) early on so that 'that one thing' that feels like you emerges...which becomes your thing and then you stick with it...for a while. You know? And of course our styles evolve with us as we evolve as artists over time but at any given point there is typically one thing that comes up "more often" that is "more interesting than the rest" and then that is what you take as a cue to follow as a path...for a while. I understand this but I find it quite hard to live this thought.

And, what I don't get is this: Am I still figuring "it" out? Or whether this is what "it" feels like the whole time? Can someone just tell me? 

For a long time I felt I had to stick only with style 1 above to be "authentic" and be taken seriously. That would be me.. that would be my style....and that would be it. I would do that and that alone and that would identify me. But, over time it started to feel very limiting. My mind was craving the variability of other styles & media. I wanted to experiment and was ready for more. From that developed style 3.....after that came style 2....and then style 4.

I eventually started mixed them all and this is where I am now. Lol. Wanting to drink from all 4 of the tasty cups of tea I've brewed up over time. I can't seem to let any of them fall away. A big beautiful mess. 


Where should we go from here? I say....we go towards the next painting. I'm just going to let that next painting be what it wants to be. My weird brain will figure it all out over time. The little detours are what make the journey most fun...don't they? Maybe this is good....I don't know. I know I'll work it out.

Hopeful & amused,


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1 comment

I totally relate to this! My mind is always wandering… But I’ve learned to just follow it wherever it wants to go. Social media has convinced us we need a cohesive aesthetic or to just do 1 thing really well and nothing else. But you’re an artist!!! and artists get bored (and excited, and inspired) so easily 🤣


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