6 Reasons to Try a New Medium

Posted May 12 2016

Even with a strong watercolor influence in the family, I fell in love almost immediately with acrylic. I love acrylic paint’s opacity, versatility and quick drying times. But when I reviewed Sterling Edwards DVDs for Creative Catalyst, I admit I got the watercolor itch. And the timing was perfect. I was feeling like I was in a bit of an acrylic rut. Trying a new medium was a great chance to work through some of my art frustrations while trying something fun.

1. A new medium can shake you out of a creative rut.

Let’s face it, trying something new can be really fun and invigorating. Sick of the daily jog, try a little yoga. Sometimes we can get stuck in a rut when it comes to our art and pulling out some unfamiliar mixed media or the watercolor can help dislodge  the creative clog.  

2. It makes you appreciate how far you’ve come.

While fun, a new medium can also be frustrating, but that frustration is a good reminder of the skills you’ve already acquired in your medium of choice. I’ve been working in acrylics both casually and focused for about four years. And because I work in them day in and day out, I don’t realize how a large part of using acrylics now comes naturally. Because watercolor is a new skill, very little of it comes naturally. After a day spent stumbling through watercolors, I feel like an acrylics pro by comparison. That is a good reminder for how the hard work has paid off.  Try your hand at a new medium and you’ll be reminded just how far you’ve come.

3. You’ll look at your current medium in a new light.

Watercolor is all about water and pigment control. I’ve watched dozens of instructional videos on mixed media and acrylic paint and none of them have mentioned either of those things. Watching Sterling Edwards demonstrate both again and again in his DVD workshops, made me think about some of the trouble I have with acrylic paint. Some of those troubles come directly from water and pigment control. I would have never thought about acrylics in that way if I hadn’t taken a break and spent some time in watercolor.

4. It allows you to play.

The longer we work in a single medium, the higher demands we place on ourselves. For the most part that’s good. We want to challenge ourselves. But when starting something totally new, you understand that you’ll make bad art. That permission to play can unlock artistic discoveries that translate into your medium of choice. You’ll discover things you’d never discover with higher demands on your finished piece.

5. A new medium makes you look at art and the world you paint, differently.

Art is about seeing but we can get into habits where we stop looking. It’s like driving a car. We take many things for granted because driving a car is habit. But if you travel to a country where they drive on the opposite side of the road, suddenly your brain is going to process everything. You’re watching out for other cars, analyzing how left turns work, and figuring out what the rules are for four-way stops. How great to be able to bring that kind of thought burst into your art. Imagine what you’ll learn with that new found perspective.

6. You might develop new habits.

Acrylic can be tough to travel with so I rarely do art when I’m not at home. Watercolors on the other hand travel easily and because of this, I paint more often when I’m on the road.

With acrylics, if I don’t have at least an hour to paint, I have trouble getting started. It’s because acrylics take just a bit of clean up. Not a lot but enough that I hesitate to really get into something. But because it’s is so easy to clean up, I now work in watercolor if I have only a short block of time. So, that 30 minutes I have before I need to leave for the dentist, I use it to paint with watercolor in sketchbook instead of checking email or getting lost on the internet. The overall result is that I’m doing more art.

Trying a new medium isn’t for everyone and timing and cost considerations are  important. But the next time you’re feeling stuck in a rut or aren’t eager to paint, maybe it’s time to dust off that unopened pack of oils, acrylics or watercolor set, and play around. You’ll be amazed at what you discover.




How has trying a new medium given your artistic practice a jolt? Tell us below!


Kelly Anne Powers is a lover of acrylics and watercolor dabbler. You can see what she's into today at her blog, KellyAnnePowers.com/blog