Written By: Sandra Hutton, May 21st, 2021 @artimmersionstudio
Most artists have a niche—a particular area of interest, or a preferred medium. At times I feel a little “nicheless” because so many art forms and styles interest me. For a time I struggled with this. After all, a niche helps an artist to become known and allows one to move beyond dabbling in art forms, and to attain a high level of focus. Perhaps it helps them to further refine their craft or art form, making incremental steps towards bigger and better things.
But here’s the thing…
At this point, my desire to play, versus engage in a monogamous relationship with one art form, is greater than my desire to have one niche. The pull to go in different directions, choosing to select my art materials or my subject depending on my level of interest or my curiosity at a given point in time is part of my make-up. It always has been. When I look in the mirror, I still see my five year old self—the one who wanted to play. At times, I like to think of my art creation process as “themed” rather than defined by niche because I think that is a better way to describe it. Themes that I see as constants in my work are connections to nature, the Canadian landscape, and optimism. And I know I’m more than a dabbler. I prefer to think of myself as an explorer!
As for art materials…well, I am fairly non-committal at this point although I do lean towards painting. I love the tactile experience of holding a paintbrush in my hand and the poetic feeling of applying paint to a surface. But I have also pursued and engaged in other mediums and art forms: pastel, printmaking, photography, paper collage, digital art, embossing, resin art, and set design. And within the area of painting, I have yet to really determine which paint medium I prefer. I like to use a lot of art materials (sometimes simultaneously) and explore a variety of subjects.
I feel like this mixed media, playful approach has served me well. As an art educator, I have often told my students, “An artist selects the best tools for their purpose” and I truly believe this. When trying to get a desired effect, or convey a particular emotion or feeling within a work, the tool used will greatly impact the outcome. And sometimes, artists must engage in problem-solving to get to the point of determining what that tool is. It is this problem-solving process, in which creative play and design intertwine, that I enjoy the most.
The problem with being without a niche is of course that the lack of definition of a specific style or art form makes it hard to become recognized. I’m okay with that–at least for now. Maybe, as I look to the future, I will narrow my focus but I’m content to be where I am right now because I feel free to explore and experiment without making a clear determination of what I am or who I must be. I am an evolving, ever-changing artist, and I like it that way. I’m not in a committed relationship to any one art form or style and this lack of commitment allows me to feel unrestricted–as though I’m on Tinder for artists and going on a lot of dates with different materials and a lot of different subjects, sometimes all at once! There is a sense of creative stimulation in this.
So I find myself questioning, “Is niche a necessity?” If you do any sort of search on the Internet on artistic niche most will say with certainty that, in order to be a successful artist, you MUST carve out a niche of some kind. And maybe I will land there eventually. But, right now I feel successful even without a clearly defined niche and I am basing my definition of success on happiness. I’m a happy, optimistic artist and there is something to be said for that.