Is Dabbling Dangerous?

Close-up photograph of a hellebore flower
Should I be concentrating solely on my photography?

I’ve recently been enjoying the blog of the artist Danny Gregory. Reading through some of his older posts, I came across one from 2015 that seemed especially relevant to this blog and to my own creative process.

In the piece, entitled, ”The Dangers of Dabbling”, Danny Gregory says that although he admits to being ”a dabbler in all sorts of things”, we ought to avoid it. He tells us that we should concentrate on the work that we feel called to do, and not let ourselves be distracted by dabbling in other areas.

I do agree that if you want to be good at something, then you’ll need to focus and work hard. But does that mean that also trying out other things is necessarily bad? Can time spent on other interests bring something to your principal work? Is it possible for ”dabbling” to be a good thing?

As far as art is concerned, I believe it can be. Because it seems to me that, for mixed-media artists, experimenting and challenging yourself with new materials and methods is part of your artistic growth.

Several artists have particularly inspired me with their exciting combinations of techniques and materials.

Dorothy Simpson Krause wrote about bringing together collage, printmaking, photography and painting to create beautiful artists’ books in ”Book + Art”. (I love this book. It makes me want to try making my own artists’ books.)

Patti Roberts-Pizzuto creates delicate artworks by combining her drawings with stitching on paper, which is then dipped in beeswax. Wen Redmond also uses stitch in her work. To this she may add digital imagery, mono-printing, paint, or more, to create pieces which are wonderfully unique and expressive.

While none of these artists could be called a ”dabbler”, they do show that different techniques can be brought together in new and adventurous ways to create successful artworks.

So what about dabbling, then? Well, for me (as very much a learner) it gives the opportunity to find out what creative processes appeal to me and whether I can find a way to combine them with my photography. For artists, dabbling may provide a way to travel beyond the confines of the core work. It allows new ideas to form and new combinations to be made, which can lead to unexpected and exciting results.

There’s no doubt, if I was to stick to purely photography, then I would be that much better at it. But trying out other art forms and finding ways to use them alongside my photography may give me something that is truly ‘mine’ and expresses my own unique voice.

I’m not afraid to dabble…are you?

You can see the work of the artists I’ve mentioned here:

And Danny Gregory’s blog is here. I can thoroughly recommend it!