Discovering Your Unique Artistic Style

Let’s talk style. Artistic “style” is a bit of a buzz word that floats around the art world but is a little bit ambiguous especially when you are evaluating your own artwork. But in order to move forward in an art career you need to be able to describe your style to potential agents, licensors, galleries and in all your promotions. 

Do you have a hard time defining your style? It took me a really long time to figure out my style but I think I finally have a handle on what I would call my style. 

I am a surface pattern designer who creates artwork for fabric, stationary and wallpaper using a combination of both physical art techniques and digital art. My art is feminine with a focus on line versus shape. I tend to navigate towards jewel tone colours paired with very soft muted pinks as a contrast. I am inspired by the female figure and florals.

I have been an artist for over 20 years and it has taken me that long to put words to my style. The reason it has take so long is because I love creating. Period. When I discover a new art technique, I want to give it a go. But this past year, I have really dived into surface designing as it incorporates so many of those creation techniques I love.

Over the past year, I have really begun to understand how to find an artistic style. It really boils down to this formula…

Let me explain.

ABILITY 

I have been reading Austin Kleon’s book “Steal Like An Artist” and his concepts really resonate with me. He states that there is no complete originality in art. Every artwork is inspired by something. With any piece of artwork that seems original, the origin of the inspiration is simply unknown. 

We, as humans, are very poor copyist. An artist may go to copy a piece of work that they admire, only to produce something that seems close but will not be an exact copy. Unless you are a photocopier, creating the exact same line or brushstroke is simply not humanly possible. 

By adding your own flourish, the artwork morphs into your own hand. Without the exact training or experience or using the exact same materials, your piece will look slightly different than the piece your were trying to emulate. Sometimes it takes a really keen eye to see the difference for a really great forgery. 

But this all means your ABILITY is unique to your hand. You can train your hand at many different creative techniques and one day you will become a master of that technique. But this alone, is not your style. You need to add your individual TASTE.

TASTE

As humans, we thrive in a world of choice. What is your favourite colour? What is your favourite food? What is your favourite music? The combination is going to be completely unique to only you. No other person will like the exact same combination of preference as you do which makes you completely unique and also makes the world so interesting and complicated. 

As artists, we prefer using certain colours to others. We prefer utilizing different art techniques to others. 

But taste on its own is not enough to define your style. We are drawn to other people’s creations but it doesn’t mean we have the ability or the desire to duplicate it exactly.

DESIRE

You will also need the third component of DESIRE to define your style. Even if you do have both, ability plus taste, there could still be a missing piece that is needed to define your style. 

For instance, I have learnt from my own experience that I can love landscape paintings. I can train my hand at painting landscapes. But I did not have the desire to painting landscape paintings over and over again. Painting landscapes, for me, eventually lost its appeal and became boring the more I did it. 

Building a sustainable art career requires hard work and repetitive creating. And, you need to be clear on your style in order to convey that to others. 

The only way to figure out if you have DESIRE is to create, create, create. It takes time to figure out if your desire for that particular creative process will last or if it is fleeting. 

When you have discovered you have all 3 components of ABILITY + TASTE + DESIRE, your style will finally emerge from the fog. You will be able to recognize it and your intuition will exclaim “There you are! That’s it! That was the thing I was searching for. That was the thing I was needing to create.”

Remember, just because you are capable of doing something doesn’t mean it will make you happy to do that thing. Things you “should be doing” have a tendency to drain your energy. You have to want it. 

The other thing to remember is that your style will evolve over time as your tastes change. This is why defining your style can be so difficult and ambiguous but once achieved, you will be on your way to professionalism.