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:
Eighteen Artists Share Their Opinions on Artistic Style
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:
10 Ways To Develop Your Own Artistic Style
I Want to Be Unique – Developing Artistic Style
3 Tips From Artists for Developing Your Personal Style
Tips for Developing a Personal Painting Style
Ask the Art Professor – How Do You Find Your Individual Style?
The Secret to Creating Your Own Style
7 Steps to Finding Your Own Style
I have asked myself this same question many times….What is my artistic style? I will check out the links you provided about to learn more. Thank you.
I hope the links are helpful, Jade. Thanks for visiting. Please feel free to share any thoughts. As a newbie on the way to becoming an artist, I appreciate all suggestions.
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What if we toss out the word “bad”?
What about if we describe instead? “Well, that line feels like it’s not needed to me.” Or… “I know the proportion is not realistic–and it wasn’t intentional–but I LIKE the effect. It captures something expressive.”
I love the idea of diving in and exploring without necessarily worrying about quality. We can bounce back and forth between doing (practice) and evaluation. For much (maybe most?) of our time as creatives, we need to engage in the doing, learning from our evaluations, but not setting them out as a measure of the worth of our endeavor. The practice itself–the endeavor–has its inherent worth. And sometimes (perhaps as with your beautiful blue portrait), we won’t be able to see the measure of the result for a long time after the creation of the work: this is because we’re still IN the process: we’re still growing, so we can’t at that moment get a true assessment of the work’s quality. It’s helpful at these times to have a true and trusted mentor who can point out to us the value of these works we’re creating while we’re in the midst of process. Without that, we need to just trust the process of practice, and have faith in endeavor.
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Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, cathytea. Everything you say is true. Creativity is always a process, and it’s difficult to be fully objective about our works. Actually, I don’t like equating creative projects with work, at least not where art is concerned. I’m still at the “playing” stage. I don’t turn out “works of art”, I turn out artistic playthings. Hmmm…I might have to write a post about that. 🙂