Are you repeating yourself?

Are you worried that you may be repeating yourself in your art and not moving forward? A creativity coaching client recently said to me, “I just painted something I really like. But it looks an awful lot like something I painted years ago. Is that a problem? Does that mean that I’m repeating myself or maybe not making progress?” Do you ask yourself these same questions?

There can’t be a one-size-fits-all answer to a question like this. An artist may repeat imagery because he or she continues to be interested in that imagery or he or she may repeat imagery because he or she is a little fearful of heading out into new territories that might come with mistakes and messes. Indeed, both can be true at once: you may still like certain of your images and you may also wish that you were doing new, different work. Both can be true at once.

As with so much in life and art, the answer is: be honest. If you honestly love tackling the same tree, the same mountain, the same circle, the same inner landscape, and you honestly don’t need to do anything else just for the sake of novelty or because you think you should, then don’t pester yourself with worry. If, on the other hand, you honestly crave some new imagery or want to explore in some new direction, try not to be afraid. Find the courage and the willingness to satisfy that desire, without abandoning your other imagery.

Repeat, if repeating is your truth; explore, if exploring is your truth. There is no principle to apply that repeating is good or that repeating is evil. What is true for you is true for you. It may take some courage to look that truth in the eye, whatever that truth is, but that is your core work: to be brave.