“Switching tasks helps reduce something called cognitive fixation, the tendency to get stuck in one particular approach to a problem. Turning to another task gets us out of this rut, seeing different possibilities.”Russell Davies, “Do Interesting“, page 87
Applying this idea to painting, don’t change the task (making a painting) but change what you’re using to do the task (the medium you’re using). With oil paint you could use oil sticks or oil pastels. With acrylic paint, you could use ink or acrylic marker pens. With watercolour you could use pencil. With pencil you could add in a wash, or collage. The list goes on and is limited only by what you have to hand (and the fundamental rules about what sticks to what).
The first time I encountered the suggestion of changing medium but to keep working on the same spot in order to solve a problem was in a still life workshop in 2017 in Edinburgh at the Leith Art School led by Kittie Jones. I don’t recall her exact words, but it was along the lines of if you’re struggling to make something work, don’t shift your focus to another part of the painting but change mediums and keep working on that spot.
It’s like changing gears, a fresh start whilst still moving the whole painting forward. It’s become something that’s part of the way I paint, sometimes switching what I’m using to apply paint rather than the medium.
The other thing I remember well from this workshop was tearing a hole in my sheet of paper and solving this by simply sticking another piece behind it and keeping going. What we learn from a workshop often isn’t what we expected!