How to develop your style as an artist or illustrator
I talked to some friends on Instagram who were wondering if I had any tips with regards to finding or developing your style as an artist. This is a topic I am really passionate about because it is nice and kinda vague. A personal style very much about you as a person and people are totally weird, right? So needless to say, finding a style is also a pretty weird and non linear process. A style is more than a series of aesthetic choices. As in life, you need to be honest and apply introspection to really get to the good stuff.
For me this is an ongoing process. I’d like to offer a point of critisism to my own article and let you know that it’s not so much about a style, but more about a voice.
We are especially going into this topic: Why you need to look inside – more than on instagram or to other artists to truly develop your work. Are you ready?
Find patterns: What does ‘my work’ look like?
What I like to do is: look for patterns. Things you almost always use or do. Write down at least 8 – if you can’t come up with that number, search on. It isn’t just a few things that really make your style your style.
Subjects: figure out the ‘what’.
Do you draw people? Do you pick certain topics? What do you talk about?
What is behind your work?
This part is pretty hard.. but in order to find out what your style is and what drives you, you need to get behind your motivations and drives and the core of that is usually pretty latent.. To figure this out, see if you can learn to answer these questions:
-what is my personality?
-what makes me insanely happy?
-what gets me super frustrated and riled up?
-what makes time fly by? what gets me into the flow state?
-what do I geek out on – big time?
-what do i talk about most?
-what are bad things about me?
-what are good things about me?
It might be good to ask for input from people you respect and are somewhat close to you at least. Please do keep in mind that this is a very personal process and its easy to get swept away by what other people think of you or think you should do.
To summarize in short, your style is a little bit like this: 1. What i draw, 2. How i draw it and 3. What I want to convey with my art. That also means: when you can’t put your finger on what your art is after doing this exercise, that probably means you haven’t been around the block too many times. That is not a bad thing! But allow yourself time to find your style by experimenting a bunch. Keep that in mind while you’re making your work and feeling impatient.
That brings me to my next point. Personal style isnt set in stone. Its just a point in time. A blip in the timeline. A GLITCH IN THE MATRIX. If you’re not happy with or proud of, just ask yourself: what kind of work do I love to do and would i still love to do in a half year? Imagine you set out to use one style your clients loved and admired you for but you’d get sick of doing it in a month’s time. That would be a sad thing!
A style isn’t necessarily about color palette, texture and line work, its more about the drives and motivations and the PERSON behind it. that is why copying is so empty and to be frank – quite useless. Skills and techniques can be derived from this but not the motivations that ended up deciding what that style looked like. The question isn’t so much about the skill, but more what to do with the skill.
“But what if I can do a lot of things?”
Don’t be afraid to show that. I like working with both paint and my ipad and I show both of those in my work. This is why you need introspection first – otherwise you would have just skipped over that.
When I just started I felt like i was stuck in my style and overwhelmed with all the directions I could take. As such I began to draw solely with materials that would make me so happy when I was working with them. From there I experimented and took everything out I didn’t like. Versatility is a strength because you can be flexible and work with the clients you like.
Wrapping up + some advice
Here are some little tippy tips that work really well for me. I’ll update this continuously so whenever I discover something that works, I will let you know!
-copying others can work to experiment and get ideas, but don’t share this work publicly and kindly ask them first about how they feel about it. It really depends per artists if they are cool with it. A good idea is to search the hashtag #drawthisinyourstyle and work from those references!
-keeping a sketchbook: a sketchbook you don’t share with anyone yet, that is. I keep a sketchbook where I am totally free in trying my style and its the best decision for my artistic process!
-taking classes and course: look in your city on facebook, in art centers or on meetup.com and try and find an art gang. I also love using skillshare to learn new skills and try out new media.
-join a challenge. Check out my blog post on art prompts or Google “Art challenges” and you can find something that suits your needs and goals!
Last but not least.. Some advice from me on how to be successful in this.
-being consistent: trust your gut and stick with your goals to develop your style. Rome isn’t built in a day.
-enjoy the PROCESS! Learning is amazing and being mindful of the new things you are learning about will help you appreciate the process.
-different ways of working: switch up your media. From paint to digital or scrapbooking or making drawings out of confetti: keep the media flexible!
-don’t be afraid to deep dive + get advice. Find me on instagram and send me a DM or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org- I’m here to chat with you!
-trust your gut (but not too much – the fact that you feel nervous could mean you’re on the verge of doing something amazing)
The truth is already inside you.
I hope this blog post was useful to you as an artist. Finding your style and developing it is so personal and difficult – but you are the only person that can do it. The truth is, it’s already inside you and that is the most magical thing about art!