At what point does an artist begin to develop a unique, personal style? I’ve often wondered about this, and lately the question has been on my mind a lot. When I look at colored pencil sketches or paintings I’ve done, I see lots of bright colors. I see bold strokes. I see a tendency to make things slightly out of proportion, like my Fat Bananas. My apples are often a little too fat. So are a lot of my birds. Could these be indications of personal expression?
In an interesting coincidence, a fellow blogger commented recently about possibly seeing the beginnings of a style in my drawings and paintings.
Her words were so kind and so encouraging, I have to share them here:
I really love the cat. I see a particular style in a lot of your original work, and it’s got a life to it that I find endearing and moving. The cat and the trees–and the elbow in the sleeve–they’ve got something unique and individual that they express which I find very appealing.
Another interesting coincidence was that on the same day, I’d picked up my rather dog-eared copy of The Artist’s Magazine for March and come across this in the “Ask the Experts” column:
How can I distinguish between a truly developed artistic style that departs from conventions and just plain bad painting?
A little amusing, yet also a thought-provoking question. It is, in fact, a bit like that question in my head. Are my misshapen bananas and birds reflecting my artistic style? Or are they just plain bad?
At this point in my artistic journey, it’s easy to answer that question. My drawings and paintings are bad. They certainly don’t reflect any “truly developed artistic style”. I’ve been drawing for nine months and painting for a few weeks, so I haven’t had enough experience to develop a style. Actually, I’m not even sure what “artistic style” really means.
In hopes of defining the term, I did a bit of browsing and found that I am not alone in my confusion, nor in my desire to understand more about artistic style and how it can be developed. A quick search turned up dozens of articles, including a series of interviews in which artists share their thoughts and their stories:
From these interviews I learned that style can refer to an artist’s use of a particular theme. It can refer to the media used or the specific method employed by the artist. A style can be based on many different elements of art: line, form, value, colors. Style develops, too, from our interests and our influences.
For me, the true question, I think, involves the sort of style I’d like to develop. What do I want others to see or feel from my art? What artists have most inspired me? What experiences in my life might I express in my artistic voice? Good questions.
As I read through different art magazines, I see so many beautiful works. Some “speak” to me; others leave me shrugging and turning the page. I try to look at the paintings I most admire and ask what it is that draws me. Is this something I want to learn to incorporate in my art as I progress in my studies?
Is “style” a conscious choice? Or is it something that simply evolves in a natural, organic way as an aspiring artist gains new skills and learns new techniques?
Finding answers to these many questions will be, I believe, one of the most exciting aspects of this journey I’m on. It’s a bit like a treasure hunt, or maybe an Easter egg hunt since that holiday is fast approaching. I see myself as an explorer, poking around in my subconscious, searching for clues, snatching up little inklings of ideas about who I want to be as an artist.
- I know I like simplicity in art. Too much clutter distracts me.
- I love nature, especially forests, rivers, and birds.
- I enjoy working with colored pencil and with watercolor.
- As mentioned before, I don’t care for cluttered drawings with too many things going on.
- I’m not a fan of highly-realistic drawings that actually look like photographs.
- I don’t care for dark, somber colors.
From time to time, I’ll add to these lists, and maybe I’ll see a real sense of style emerging. For now, I’ll keep on reading and asking questions. This adventure is only beginning.
For those who would like to learn more about the concept of style in art, here are a few of the links I found: