I see this question everywhere. “How to find your art style” is one of the most searched for queries for new artists. In my opinion, artists worry way too much about this in the beginning, but I understand where the question is coming from.
There are several reasons having an art style can be beneficial for an artist: it distinguishes your work, focuses your craft, and can help with finding your ideal art customers. However, most people who ask about finding their art style are asking the wrong question.
Most artists SHOULD ask: “How can I improve my artwork?” because getting better at your craft will almost always result in finding your art style. Your style will develop naturally as you learn and hone your skills.
(Comment below if you would like to see a blog post describing ways to improve your artwork.)
I don’t recommend skipping the improvement process just because it takes time and effort. However, there are a few things that you can do now to help focus your artwork and speed up the process of finding your individual style as you improve. I will go over how to find your art style in 4 steps below.
What is an art style?
But first, what is an art style? Your art style is the way you think about and produce your artwork and is your personal contribution to the art world. It distinguishes you from other artists and gives your work a unique touch that will appeal to your perfect art client.
Collectors will often search for well-established artists based on the styles we know them for. Thus, many newer artists believe that this is the key to selling more artwork. In reality, this is only a small piece of the puzzle.
Your art style will continue to develop as long as you are producing artwork. This is a good thing. It is part of growing and adapting.
How to find your art style
So, how can you begin this road of self-discovery and find the unique style that will set you apart from the rest of the art-producing world? Here are 4 things you can do to help this process.
1. Pay attention to the art that appeals to you
The art you admire is often the art that you would like to produce, so pay attention to what you like.
What artists and artworks are you most impressed by? What do you like about your favorite art pieces?
I love to use tools such as Pinterest for this step, but you could also use any search engine and save pictures to a file on your computer, or even cut out pictures from art magazines and paste them in a binder. It doesn’t matter how you accumulate them. The goal is to put together a collection of artwork that you absolutely love.
Then, when you have amassed several dozen different art pieces, take some time to look at them and think about what it is you like about them. Your journey of discovery will begin by figuring out what you like to see. No one wants to create art that they hate to look at. Your art style will start to develop in your mind when you figure out what you like most and why.
2. Decide which categories are most important to you
The next step is figuring out which elements of those artworks are most important to you and categorize them. Categories may consist of many factors, but the ones I’ve heard most referred to are tone, mood, medium, style, and structure. Though, you will probably discover more categories as you look through your gallery of favorites and figure out what they have in common. Then ask yourself questions about each category you discover to decide why they appeal to you. Here are a few examples of questions you may ask:
How important are colors and tone to you? Do you like vibrant colors or pastels? Do you prefer monotone creations or triadic color schemes? Are you drawn to one or two specific colors that appear in multiple artworks? What else do you notice about the tone of your favorites?
What about the mood of your art? How do you want people to feel when they look at your work? Thoughtful? Peaceful? Energized? Is there a mood or feeling that is consistent in the artworks you admire? Do they have a bright, hopeful feel? Or do they seem dark and pensive?
What about the materials used to produce that art? Is one type of medium more prominent than others? Is there a medium you like to work with most? Do you want to paint in only watercolors? Do you enjoy sculpting more than photography? Do you enjoy combining many different materials together?
If you find that you are drawn to a variety of mediums, you probably want your style to transcend mediums and be recognizable no matter what materials you choose to use in that moment.
What styles appeal the most to you? Do you prefer realism and admire those artists that can recreate a photograph down to the smallest detail? Or do you prefer loose watercolor sketches that elicit more emotion than detail? Or are you most drawn to fun cartoon-type characters? Do you prefer digital art to traditional?
What do you notice about the structure of the art in your collection? Are you most drawn to distant landscapes or close-up details? Do you like your pieces to tell a complete story, with background imagery and foreground detail, or do you want individual subjects to standalone on a page?
Your preferred structure may also depend on what you plan to do with your work. If you want your work to be easy to license and put on products, you may want to create more individual subjects. However, if you want people to buy your work to hang on a wall in their home, you probably want to produce a more complete picture.
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These are only a few of the categories you can choose from, and each category will also have subcategories for you to analyze if you want to go even deeper. These subcategories may include things like line thickness, message, or a specific subject (For example, I enjoy artwork with trees in it).
I recommend choosing at least 3 categories to focus on, but not more than 6. You want to hone the parts of your craft that are going to mean the most to you. However, focusing on too many categories at the beginning will leave you overwhelmed and make it more difficult to improve your artwork in each category.
3. Challenge yourself
The third step in finding your art style is to challenge yourself. Don’t discard a category just because you don’t know how to produce it yet. It’s easy to get stuck behind the barrier of “but I’m not good at that.” You may like something when a professional artist makes it, but not feel confident in creating that type of work yourself.
Believe it or not, this is actually a great place to be because now you have an opportunity to grow!!
It may feel a bit intimidating at first… in fact, it may feel intimidating forever. The things that are most important to us often do. But you are brave, and now you have the amazing chance to improve your craft exactly where you need to.
The art journey is never a static one. I have found that the greatest joy in my art practice comes from challenging myself and watching my improvement.
When you are ready to improve in your preferred categories, choose a few art pieces that do one specific category very well. Then copy them as best as you can. (Note – Do NOT claim the idea as your own. If you decide to share your copies with others, always credit the original artist and let your audience know that the piece you are working on is a study, NOT an original.)
As you copy these artworks, you will learn and refine techniques you were not confident in before. You may even learn about new supplies and tricks that will make it easier to produce art you love.
To speed up the learning process, consider following along with some of your favorite artists as they create. YouTube, Skillshare, and Patreon are all great places to start when you are looking for inexpensive learning videos. Plus, any money you spend on these channels will go towards supporting your favorite artists!
Then move on to the next category. When you are confident that you can recreate the characteristics you find most appealing, then try combining them. You will notice that certain combinations appeal to you more than others. This is your true art style starting to develop.
4. Make More Art
The last, and most important thing that you can do to find your art style is to make more art!
If you have not found your art style at this point in your journey, it’s likely because you haven’t made enough art to have a style yet. The more artwork you create, the better you will get at making the art you love. Over time, a pattern will emerge and this pattern will become your art style.
The most accomplished artists in existence created hundreds, if not thousands, of artworks before they became known for a specific style. Keep creating and your style will develop. It has to. No one else on the planet has exactly the same tastes, experiences, and abilities that you do. Your artwork will reflect the things you love and the things you enjoy working the hardest at.
Finding your art style takes time. Your style will develop naturally as you become a better artist overall. However, if you follow these four steps – Pay attention to the art you love, choose the categories that are most important to you, challenge yourself to improve in those areas, and spend the time and effort to make more art – you will find it easier to develop your art style as you learn.
But the most important thing to focus on is improving your skills as an artist. Focusing on improvement rather than style will bring you the most fulfillment on your art journey.