The Importance Of Evolving As An Artist

Artists Evolve Continuously
Evolution & Experimentation

Recently I was thinking about how we never stand still as artists. In my own work, I’ve traveled the territory of working in bold, chromatic colors for years to now predominantly neutral palettes. And yet, even as I begin to identify this pattern, I notice a slight stirring in my heart to revisit my old love of bright hues.

I’ve been observing evolution in the artists in Studio Journey as we’ve been exploring and experimenting with constraint, limited palettes, working large scale and working in a series. It brought to mind the notion of evolution as analogous to human development and how essential this is to being an artist.

Here’s what I wrote:


As artists and creators, we’re continually evolving our work. Not satisfied to remain static, we explore and experiment. I believe we move through developmental cycles much like the stages of human development.

In the beginning, there’s mirroring. We soak up the works of the masters and of artists we admire and reflect it back in our art much like a baby and mother..

We learn techniques and how to use various tools. At first it feels awkward but eventually we begin to create marks and paint passages with facility.

We study the vocabulary of composition and color theory. We begin to speak a new language.

We explore value patterns much as children discover their shadows.

We become increasingly facile with rendering and replicating what we see before us, whether it’s a figure, landscape, still life or the work of a masterful painter.

But one day, this isn’t enough. One day, it’s no longer gratifying. One day, like a teenager we grow bored.

One day, we decide that we want to paint the ineffable

We want to explore the mystery of who we are in our art.

We want to express our aliveness.

We want to compose our own individuality.

And so we plunge into unknown territory and begin our journey of experimentation.

And we learn that:

Painting is a mirror…it mirrors our lives

There’s no final phase. You don’t reach some evolved state and stay there
 . It’s continuous evolution.

Even as you develop mastery, there’s no endpoint.

Indeed, I believe we often come full circle and revisit earlier phases but now with new understandings.

We circle back to our foundations and see it with new eyes.

T.S. Eliot wrote in Little Gidding :

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

Much love from my studio to yours,


P.S. What’s your experience of your own evolution as an artist? Let me know below.

Originally published at Nancy Hillis.