Recently, an artist friend posed the question with regard to traditional art media, wondering whether, with the end of the Modernist era as marked by Minimalist art in the early 1970s, "(We) aren't ...just repeating ourselves...?" She questioned the hackneyed, illustrative quality of most Postmodern art, essentially asking whether there was, indeed, as they say, "anything new under the sun." It's an interesting point, and worth pondering. Of course each artist puts a slightly different personal "spin" on their work (or should TRY to anyway). But is that enough? One might come to the conclusion in reading recent headlines that the effort to impose any novelty on present day art has reached such a difficult point that only the most radical, off-color, shock schlock has any hope of making an impact on a truly creative level. Many see this as a sad state of affairs. What it really amounts to is the death throes (in terms of creativity) of traditional art media--painting, drawing, and sculpture in particular.
Therefore, if I might tread on some slippery thin ice, I think with regard to traditional painting, allowing for some minor exceptions, we are all basically reinventing the wheel, and not just once but again and again. Now, having said that, if we think of art, literally in the broadest sense of the term, then by no means am I ready to close the patent office (as was proposed in 1885 because the director believed everything of any importance had already been invented). Art in terms of mixed media, in terms of the cinema, the computer, and most definitely virtual reality, has LOTS of room to explore and grow. I'm not sure how many Star Trek (The Next Generation) fans there are out there, but the ingenious, computer-driven "holodeck" employing holograms so advanced they could be taken for real-life adventures--that, to my way of thinking, would be the ultimate artform--3-D, virtual reality on a scale and with a realism (or surrealism as the user so desired) that would rival real life.
Now, assuming most of us aren't technical geniuses with holographic art or even virtual reality as it's now practiced, what does this rather dismal state of affairs with regard to the creative potential of traditional art media mean to the common, everyday, paint dauber? Well, it depends. If you're willing to accept the role of assistant interior decorator, then very little (at least until digital art receivers begin to replace paintings on the walls of the rich and famous). If not, then perhaps you might try lining up a dependable source for elephant dung. Okay, that's been done, maybe something more domestic. Beyond that, if you really insist upon being creative and at the same time maintaining a certain level of traditional good taste, then you've definitely got your work cut out for you. Here's a suggestion: Look about you for subject matter that you've never (or very seldom) seen done before, then playing upon your own perceived strengths as an artist, experiment with it, rendering it into art in a manner in which you've never (or rarely) seen done before. Expect to cross back and forth repeatedly between media. Think outside the lines. Be daring. Dare to fail. Move right up to the edge of your own technical prowess then take a deep breath, hold your nose, and leap beyond that in blind faith that you'll land on your feet, stumble upon something that works and/or rise to the occasion. "Bravely go where no one has gone before."