When you are learning how to draw and paint being able to recognise your style can be one of the biggest frustrations, but it just means learning how to paint consistently, confidently and recognisably in your own visual ‘voice’.
Learning from others
For a long time I resisted learning from tutors, I was too worried that I would end up copying their style rather than developing my own.
This was a mistake, as once I began to learn from other artists I found that I developed my skills by taking one or two ideas from each tutor to add to things I’d learned from others. I also gained confidence, and the incidental skills of being an artist like organisation, setting up, care of equipment, and views on the art world. Things the tutors didn’t necessarily know they were teaching me.
It’s always worth learning new skills and techniques, as you never know which is going to suit you until you do. If you don’t know where to start looking, here’s a post I wrote earlier about finding a tutor.
Find your subject
A big part of your style is the subjects you paint or draw. You will gravitate towards particular subjects anyway but it’s best to try a variety of different subjects while you’re learning. It’s a good idea to find something to prompt you, maybe a social media challenge or a book, or use subjects from an artist you admire.
Another idea is to write down a list of all the things that interest you or surround you in your life. For example:
- A place you love to visit
- A feeling you have frequently
- Something topical that affects you
- Colours you love
- Patterns that you enjoy
- People who surround you or inspire you
- Animals or birds
- Your surroundings
Use these prompts to see how you can paint or draw how you feel about these things, or how you see them. It doesn’t have to be a realistic representation, it can be totally abstract.
Keep trying lots of different subjects, or tackle the same subject in different ways; in sketchbooks, as drawings, paintings, prints, big pieces and small pieces.
Eventually you will find yourself being drawn back to tackle the same kinds of subject. It doesn’t have to be exactly the same, but it’s good to work on things that inspire and mean something to you so you can communicate your enthusiasm and love for your subject to your audience.
Find your medium
You might think you are definitely an acrylic painter, or you’ll always use watercolour. You love it, it’s what you’ve always done, or you have enough to learn already. But it is definitely worth trying other mediums, though they may seem expensive and difficult, it’s likely that you need far less equipment to get started than you think.
Keep an open mind and experiment, don’t give up too soon with any given medium as you may find it takes longer to conquer than you would hope, you will always learn something by trying to overcome the challenges that particular mediums present.
You will also find that the more mediums you can use, the more tools you have to represent the subjects you want to portray.
This is really important, it’s the combination of the subject you love and the medium that represents best what you want to say (and that you can use confidently) that will let your artistic style emerge.
Making your mark
Once you have a subject and a medium, you need to experiment and practice and experiment and practice until you are consistently using a range of marks and colours that make your work identifiable as yours, and reproducible by you.
That’s when you will have found your style.
It’s a lot of work, and it will take a long time. It should take a long time actually, and evolve naturally as a result of your experience and practice rather than as a gimmick that you hit on and reproduce time after time.
Be patient and keep painting and everyone will know you through your work before you know it!