A lot of artists spend months or even years trying to chase that elusive signature style, the one that defines them as an artist. It’s something that some artists can get really hung up about, and struggle to move forward with their journey until they have it all figured out.
First of all, I’m going to start by saying what having a style isn’t because I think this can be confusing for some people (it certainly confused me in the beginning!). I thought that having your own well defined, easily identifiable style was about painting the same subject in similar mediums for ever. For example if you’re a seascape artist and you worked in acrylic, that’s what you did and that was your style. If you were a watercolour artist, and you painted florals, that’s what you did for ever and that was your style as an artist.
Now I don’t know about you, but that just makes me want to yawn because it doesn’t inspire me. It doesn’t pique curiosity. I think most of us, as creatives, adjust. We adapt and evolve. We love the exploration; we love trying new things; we like the uncertainty of happy accidents, and experimenting. The idea of having to just do the same thing forever is just not appealing.
The good news is you don’t have to do that, because defining your style as an artist isn’t about that. It is more about having a common thread that ties your work together.
Now, that might be your use of unusual colour combinations and that’s what you become known for. It might be the way you make marks, it may be the way you approach your subject and your viewpoint on it. It may also be your process and the process is heavily involved in your style, because we all have a way of working and that way of working influences the end results.
Now on top of this, your style is influenced by the way you view the world as an artist and what you’re passionate about. Using the example of seascapes, if an artist (let’s call them Artist A) is all about shapes and graphic forms, their seascape is going to look very different to Artist B who is all about energy and movement. Artist A would have more of a block, graphic quality to their work whereas Artist B’s seascape would be very expressive and full of movement.
They’re still painting the same topic and subject matter, seascapes, but because they come at it from their point of passion they’re very different pieces of work. The same goes for whether you paint seascapes, or the human form, or a still life.
When we are thinking about style don’t get hung up on the medium and don’t get hung up on the subject. Just have a look at what is that common thread that pulls all of your work together.
A great exercise to try and help you define your style as an artist is to get a lot of your work out and have a look at it. Place it all out on the floor or in the studio, wherever you are. Have a look see if you can identify any common threads running through your work.
One of the main things that will influence your style or the way you work is your process. It’s the way you look at the world. What are you passionate about? What’s your why? What impact do you want to have on what you want to make people feel? What inspires you?
Also, have a look at other artists and just make a note of what you like about their work. What is it you’re drawn to? Is it how organic they are in terms of their mark making? Is it the fact that they use bold shapes and minimalist design? Get really clear about what pulls you in. This will give you an indication of your style and the way you like to work as well, but your process is a big part of it too.
So spend a little bit of time looking into that. Step back and look with a really fresh set of eyes on your work. That will help you identify what makes you unique and define your style as an artist.
Don’t feel like you have to have it all figured out and all boxed off in order to progress. Progression happens from just showing up in the studio and doing the work, and it evolves naturally. It can change as well, over time. There’s nothing to say that if you have a particularly defined style it’s going to stay like that for the next 30 years! You’re going to try new skills, and you’re going to be influenced by things around you and you’re going to grow as an artist, so your style will morph into slightly different things.
But if you’re always true to your why and what it is that deep down that inspires you and what you’re fascinated by, it is generally always going to have that coherent look. It’s that commonality that ties our work together.
Now I’m going to create a little guide soon on how to identify and develop your style as an artist. Connect with me and I’ll let you know when it’s ready!
If this blog post on how to define your style as an artist was useful for you, and you’d like to know more, I have a free masterclass on the Four Key Ingredients to a Successful Art Business during which we do touch on the subject of finding your style as an artist as well. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram where I share lots of helpful tips to help you grow as an artist, and make a living from your art.