Recently, I was speaking with an artist-educator-colleague-mentor about my creative practice. I mentioned that reflecting on my varied bodies of work led me to conclude that I was a circular artist as opposed to a linear artist. Having never heard of the comparison between a circular or linear artist before, he asked for a description, but not before he interjected that he knew he was a circular artist. I loosely described a linear artist as, “the artist everyone can easily identify because we know their work by a general description of a recognizable style,” and a circular artist as, “an artist who hops from one idea, material, and/or style, to the next, yet establishes a pattern of returning to similar investigations –  moving forward the same way a circular tire moves forward.” 

About half way through my loose description, my colleague raised his hand while nodding in agreement to self-identify as a circular artist. For a while, the conversation digressed to commiseration about the difficulties of recognition, branding, and marketing for the circular artist. We ended on an up note as we chuckled in agreement that circular artists have more fun because the world is our playground.

This conversation reminded me how ‘full circle’ my comprehension of both linear and circular artists has evolved over time.


When I was an art student, I had the primitive notion that in order to have success as an artist, I had to become a linear artist: paint similar paintings, sculpt similar sculptures, or throw similar pots for the rest of my life. This caused boredom anxiety, imagining my life limited to one medium and style. Beyond thinking that I had to repeat myself over and over in order to qualify as successful, I created a hierarchy between the two approaches and determined that the beginner artist was a circular artist, sampling form and content until eventually maturing into a linear artist. I dreaded the idea of making the same thing every day for the rest of my life. Wasn't there a more creative way to be an artist?!