Have you ever felt in a rut with your art? Maybe you feel that there is a certain sameness to all your work. It may be the same subject over and over. Maybe it's the same time of day, or the same compositional ideas or the same color palette. But you are known for this style or subject and have sold well.
Maybe you aren't in a rut. Maybe you still find enjoyment with your subject, but you want to continue to explore and try new things to keep your creativity fresh and alive.
While there are several ways to address both of these scenarios, may I suggest a simple routine that works for me. Regardless of whether I feel in a rut or simply want to explore, the routine is the same.
Paint 1/3 safe paintings, paint 1/3 new, paint 1/3 risky. This works for any medium, not just painting.
(I have done this for years. Although I admit that I don't keep the ratios to exactly 1/3 each. I also never really gave these categories names until recently. I am borrowing the names of these categories from a friend who got them from his mentor.)
You feel fairly confident that these will succeed and that they will be accepted by your collectors. You are comfortable with the subject, composition, vantage point, color scheme, technique, etc. These works are in line with what you are known for. While it is true that there is no guarantee that any work of art will succeed, these are the ones that you have a pretty good track record with.
This category includes ideas that you have wanted to do for a while, but haven't gotten around to doing yet. Maybe out of fear, maybe because you think you are too busy to experiment. These may include new subjects or new lighting situations (which result in a new color scheme). Perhaps it is a new approach or new vantage point. Whatever the newness, it's a step or two removed from what you currently do. If you do a few of these, they will soon easily fit into your repertoire. As a result, your safe pool will have grown.
These works are 5 or 6 steps away (or more) from what you are currently doing. Maybe they are much more complex compositions of your current subject matter. Maybe it's a new subject or different color palette. You might want to try different techniques or size/scale. Perhaps you want to try something in a completely different direction.
There is no guarantee that these will work. Likely they will fail. With these you really feel outside of your comfort zone. But these make great exercises. They free you up to explore and experiment. You push yourself in ways that you otherwise never could. You may never show these to anyone. You may never include them into your repertoire. But you just might.
Either way, much of what you learn will directly influence your approach to your safe works. You will have broadened your view of the world, your view of art, and your abilities.
In closing, as I look back at my career, specific paintings stand out in both the new and the risky categories. Those paintings were milestones. They opened up new doors (both interior and exterior). I can also identify many that failed. But that is okay, too. There were many that I considered safe that also failed. But all of them added to my knowledge pool. And my safe pool is much, much larger today than it was years ago.
Mix things up, create new and risky work. But don't neglect the safe work, too. Safe works help boost your confidence with consistent successes.