Finding Your Style: A Guide to Discovering Your Artistic Voice
Artistic style is learned, developed, and evolves over time. It ties your art together, helps your work stand out against other artists, and is an expression of yourself.
It’s easy to look at other work, see what you like, and then decide you want to also create that style. But for some reason, when you try to replicate it, it turns out ugly. This could be because your work lacks the years of practice with that style, but mostly it's because it isn’t a reflection of yourself and therefore, lacks the meaning that makes art become art.
Finding your own artistic voice means creating something that is truly yours. Here are some key tips:
Learn the fundamentals.
It’s crucial to develop your art fundamentals so that you can begin to veer off into being more creative without self-doubt. Hone into your strengths, enhance your weaknesses, and find the medium and style that you connect with. Copy different artists so you can learn new techniques (just remember not to sell works that are exact replicas!) and study style, light, form, color, and shape. I personally have taken many different art classes, read art books, and observed the artists I admire. I have painted in the style of Van Gough and drawn in the style of M.C. Escher. All of these practices have allowed me to find what works for me and similar practices will help introduce you to new styles and help you to discover what you connect with most.
Practice doesn’t make you perfect (there is no such thing as perfect) but it does help you improve. Try to create as much as you can. I spent my whole childhood drawing and once I discovered resin, I learned through trial and error and a full year of practice.
And keep in mind, every piece you create doesn’t need to be a masterpiece so don’t be so hard on yourself! Sometimes I feel so much pressure that if my painting doesn’t turn out just right, it was a waste, when really it is never a waste because you are always learning and growing. Also, learn not to compare yourself with other artists but rather with yourself. Keep track of your progress and watch how your skills develop over time. I’m always amazed at how far I’ve grown over the years!
Inspiration can come from anywhere...nature, architecture, music, colors, textures, elements, other artwork. Soak it all in and reflect on it. Then express those views, thoughts, and feelings in your artwork. Growing up in Atlanta, I was inspired to draw detailed portraits and architecture, but once I came to Hawaii, I felt so inspired to paint the ocean. I balance my time at the beach and painting so that I can pour those moments into my work.
Keep in mind, no artist is ever completely original - we all soak in inspiration from the world around us. Although I had never seen another artist work with resin before me, I’m sure people were. And it’s not like I’m the only artist to be inspired by the ocean. But if it’s unique to yourself, that’s what matters.
Don’t be afraid to get messy and step out of your comfort zone. That’s the fun of being an artist, isn’t it? I learned how to work with resin, such a new medium at the time, all by playing with it. It was challenging since I was used to having such control over my detailed pencil drawings but working with resin forced me to let go of some control. Everyday I discovered new techniques and that just made it so much more exciting and personal. Work big, work small, work fast, work slow, mix it up and discover what works for you.
Don’t try to force your style to create a brand, but rather let your art be your visual voice. I never created a brand, but rather my art did. If your artwork is an expression of yourself and your brand is a reflection of your work, it should all be cohesive. I rarely paint from photographs, but more so the way the beach makes me feel. I want to share the aloha spirit and the beauty of Hawai’i with the world through my art. What is it that you want to communicate with the world, and how does that look?
Overall, as you become inspired and master your skills, you can begin to play more, so that you can work both intentionally and intuitively. And the more you create, the more easily it will flow. When you are creating and it simply feels right - that’s when you’ve discovered your style. Keep in mind that it takes time and your style might evolve and change. My style continues to evolve and I always wonder what I will create 10 years from now. What’s important is to enjoy the process and simply create the art that is unique to yourself and speaks from your soul.