It’s no secret that a lot of up-and-coming artists have a difficult time discovering or developing their voice. It makes sense. We see other artists who have found success and appear to have some idea of genuine artistic understanding. We can think, “if only I had thought of that.” We often feel like we need to plan our style, pre-loading our mental approach before we even begin painting or drawing something. We look at other artists and think that they have an inherently determined style.
What we don’t see are the countless hours of work that brought those artists from where they were (something we don’t know) to where they are (something we envy). I’ve noticed this on Instagram. I’ll find an artist who has an incredibly cohesive profile and tens of thousands of followers. Each post is getting thousands of likes and hundreds of comments. Then I’ll start scrolling their profile. I want to see where they came from. The further back I go, the fewer likes and comments I see. I see work that is a little bit less cohesive. I see different styles. I see their earliest posts, nowhere near as professional, confident, or congruent as they are now. What a revelation!
This illustrates to me a wonderful lesson. Time and experience, work and experimentation, consistency and intention – these are what feed a style. These are what amount to progress. As an artist creates, they start to do things that make sense to them. Mistakes are made. Fixes are enacted. Influences come. Study leads to more knowledge. Practice leads to more wisdom. Things start to emerge organically that never would have been imagined before, with planning.
When I’m asked by a student how they should determine their style, I honestly think they are asking the wrong question, of me and of themselves. Our style is born through work. It is born out of ourselves, from things that we like, things that we’ve learned, and our own level of ability and understanding of our medium, with variables in the realms of creativity and experimentation. It will change, it will bloom, it will grow.
My advice, then, is to focus on a few things.
Experience art. Go to galleries. Go to museums. Go to Google Images. If you look at and experience art, you will find things that resonate with you, a good sign that you may be feeling inspired by something that can influence your own artwork. You’ll also be able to look at the way the artists created their work – their colors, compositions, strokes, and methods.
Study art. If you hope to be a good cook, you would want to know the things that will help you get the basics down faster. You’ll probably buy some cookbooks. You might watch some tutorials. Soon, you’ll understand the fundamentals of how certain dishes are made and then you’ll see how those fundamentals carry over into other dishes and styles of cooking. You’ll also find yourself inspired by the reward loop of enjoying serving and eating food. Same goes with art.
Make art. Put into practice those things you’ve discovered. Discover new things. You will have times where you don’t reach your hopes. You will have times where you exceed them. Staying consistent and intentional is going to bring the reward you desire. Style will come without even thinking about it. You’ll be developing your tastes all throughout.
Hopefully that puts things into a bit more perspective. Obviously this is a blog meant to give you the baseline procedure, as I understand it. These thoughts are merely my own. Yet I think they make sense. I’ve seen these lessons play themselves out in my own life and I’ve observed them in the lives of others. I hope I’ve helped give you a bit of a direction for your own journey in art.