I learned a lot of traditional art techniques and skills throughout my art classes in high school and most certainly throughout college. I received a BFA so most -- if not all -- of my coursework focused primarily on the fine arts or the history of fine art. I cherish these skills today and draw from them a lot when working on new color palettes or brainstorming new painting ideas. However, as important as these skills are, I truly learned what it meant to be a real artist during my first job post-graduation as an in-house artist with a fine arts company. The main reason for this transformation from student to professional centered around several factors, the most important of which was the materials themselves. In school, the only tools at your disposal to express your vision were the most basic and most traditional. In my new position as an actual artist, it was an "anything goes" mentality. In other words, get the job done!! This freedom to explore new, non-traditional materials is as much in my mind the essence of being a true artist as possessing the skills themselves. We used everything from roofing tar, spray paint, white out, bleach, coffee, and resin. We painted with anything from sponges, brooms, rags, and rollers. While a lot of these material were toxic and not at all archival, they did the job. I'm not condoning the use of toxic materials -- but I decided to write about this topic because by allowing yourself to have fun and experiment with new tools can unlock a whole new side to your work. If you're feeling stuck or uninspired, instead of focusing on the subject matter itself, turn instead to the physicality of materials and how you can alter those in an effort to express the same subject. Nothing is more frustrating and suffocating to an artist or anyone for that matter than feeling tied down and caged. Find freedom and empowerment in experimentation and at the same time find your uniqueness with not only what you want to say but the way in which you say it.