Learning how to find your art style is one of the biggest pain points of any artist. Thankfully, this seemingly massive task can be broken down into parts and pieces.
Finding my own style is partially a conscious process and somewhat spontaneous. While I sometimes actively add visual elements I enjoy, other times I stumble upon techniques unintentionally. Notice how I didn’t use the past tense here – my art style is always evolving.
In a world defined by deadlines and algorithms, it’s easy to feel like you don’t have time to develop a voice. I’m here to share my personal experiences as well as give you a guide for expressing yourself more authentically.
- How Do I Find My Art Style?
- Tip #1: Gather Up Inspirations from Other Artists
- Tip #2: Gather Up Inspirations From Your Surroundings
- Tip #3: Don’t Limit Yourself to One Style Yet
- Tip #4: Don’t Be Afraid to Combine Styles Together
- Tip #5: Be Thoughtful About the Art You Want to Make
- Tip #6: Don’t Feel the Need to Learn Everything Yourself
- Tip #7: Adopt a Case-by-Case Basis Mindset Toward Feedback
- Tip #8: Don’t Be Afraid to Review Your Old Work
- Tip #9: Try a 30-Day or 60-Day Challenge
- Tip #10: Accept That Your Style Will Evolve as Much as You Do
- Finding Your Art Style is a Journey Worth Taking
How Do I Find My Art Style?
To put things bluntly: finding one’s art style isn’t as simple as a yes or no answer – complexity is the point, after all. However, certain exercises can put you on the fast track to expressing yourself in a way that’s true to you.
Below are several tips I’ve relied on to find my own artistic style. By the end of this list, I’m confident you’ll have a better idea of how to create a signature style (or two!) you’re proud of.
Tip #1: Gather Up Inspirations from Other Artists
Nobody exists in a void – all artists remix their surroundings in a unique fashion, so gathering up visual aids is an essential starting point. What art styles do you love and why?
Studying from the classical painting masters is a wonderful way to help you learn your art style. This method gives you an appreciation for art’s roots as well as a front-row seat to some of the most skilled and authentic artists in history.
Frank Brangwyn is an 1800’s Welsh painter whose work I deeply admire for his phenomenal style (pictured above is The Rajah’s Birthday). Everything from his juicy rich colors to his clustered (but not cluttered!) compositions makes my heart soar.
His style is painterly realism at its most dynamic, sprinkling in impressionistic looseness with a sharp eye for detail.
When seeking out classical painters, try and find visual quirks that resonate with you and file it away for later. These are the seeds that will bloom your own style.
Another great source of inspiration is the frenetic and expressive illustrations of comic artists. While this industry tends to favor bold shadows and thick lines, there are still quite a few styles you can encounter.
Frank Miller is a household name for a good reason – his atmospheric and haunting work is unforgettable. His signature style (showcased by one of his Marvel covers pictured above) stresses heavy shadows and expressive poses that look ready to jump out of the page.
Whether crafting book covers or designing assets for a brochure, commercial illustrators toe a fine balance between a unique style and being flexible.
Yoshitaka Amano is proof you can have one of the most unique styles on the planet and still find work doing cover art, character design, and featured gallery work. His dreamlike illustrations (including this piece for The Sandman: The Dream Hunters) and quirky fashion design have been a staple of my inspiration folder since childhood.
Tip #2: Gather Up Inspirations From Your Surroundings
Taking inspiration from your world is just as important as taking inspiration from other artists – art reflects life and life reflects art in turn. Below are a few starting points that you can study in your sketchbook and remix into new pieces.
Flora and Fauna
Mother Nature is one of the greatest artists of all time. Flora and fauna around you are bursting with inspiration for still lives or even more abstract pieces like fashion or creature design.
When was the last time you admired a bird just outside your windowsill? How about shifting colors of trees in the fall? Finding your art style means breathing in the world around you and soaking in your own sensations.
Alphonse Mucha regularly took inspiration from various flowers and plants for his stunning portraits (such as Language of Flowers). This specific artist blends flora, pastel colors, and swirling compositions to create a visual style most people can recognize at a glance.
Alleyways and Buildings
Artificial settings can be just as inspiring as nature. Your city or town is filled with fascinating settings such as crooked alleyways, long roads, and towering churches.
How could that red house across the street inspire one of your future paintings? Maybe that old stone bridge could be the inspiration for one of your next fantasy illustrations. Studying everything around you is how you generate new interpretations – all you have to do is ask questions.
Claude Monet is well-known for his depictions of nature, but he also enjoyed studying buildings (such as The Church of Vetheuil) His ability to capture the sheer age of architecture regularly inspires my own art.
One of my most valuable daily habits during community college was doing quick ink drawings while on the bus or when waiting for my next class. I’d study the people around me to step out of my comfort zone and get comfortable with different poses, expressions, and outfits.
Not only was this good technical practice, it also kept my creative mind sharp. I learned how to see stories in fleeting glimpses, filling in the gaps with my own interpretations and using it to fuel my own original work.
Edgar Degas relied on many quick studies to build the foundation for his fine art career, such as Two Studies Of Dancers. Even in these simple drawings, you can get a strong grasp of his realistic style and strong technical skills.
Tip #3: Don’t Limit Yourself to One Style Yet
This tip may seem contradictory but don’t limit yourself to a specific style just yet. Growing artistically means trying new things and not limiting yourself to what you ‘should’ do or ‘have’ to do.
Rigidly sticking to one style may have you missing out on other ways to express yourself. Just like it’s a good habit to try new foods or new music genres to see what you like, it’s also important to experience new styles.
Impressionist work is loose, experimental, and a ton of fun. It relies on bold shapes and vivid colors to create illustrations that are more sensory than realistic.
Claude Monet’s Japanese Footbridge is a beautiful representation of this famous art style. This mundane setting is transformed by his rainbow colors and playful textures.
The ambiguity of painterly realism has been a favorite of mine for a long time. It hearkens to reality with its high sense of detail, then exaggerates with richer colors or more visible brushstrokes.
Frank Brangwyn gets to show up twice here with his lovely environment painting The Kentish Mill. The complex shadows and loving attention to detail is very true to life, yet the swirling lighting and rough textures make things look extra nostalgic.
Glamorous and bold, Art Deco is a fascinating and unique art form that blurs multiple lines. It combines geometric shapes with rich colors and fantastical compositions.
Gustav Klimt’s Danaë showcases some elements of Art Deco, such as the decidedly abstract composition of blobby shapes. His repeated usage of glittering patterns never fails to leave me breathless.
Do you love delicate line art, soft colors, and bouncy compositions? Shojo art is beloved in many countries for creating a dreamy and playful atmosphere.
This illustration from the famous Cardcaptor Sakura series by CLAMP is a great representation of comic art meeting classical.
Your own unique style may be more on the abstract side. This art style focuses more on sensations and suggestions, inviting the viewer to glean their own meaning.
Mountain and Sea by Helen Frankenthaler is an artist’s work that hints more than tells. The loose technique and vague shapes suggest many different subject matter at once.
Tip #4: Don’t Be Afraid to Combine Styles Together
Art styles are a cluster of different visual traits blended into something new. For example, a big favorite of mine is painterly realism mixed with abstract elements.
Art Deco and Painterly Realism
Gustav Klimt also gets to show up here twice – this man was the master of making art out of multiple styles. He regularly combined the geometric shapes of Art Deco with highly detailed painterly realism.
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I showcases the painterly realism in his subject’s facial features, then the art deco for her suggested clothes and surrounding elements. The result is something I absolutely love.
Impressionism and Realism
Another art movement you can try blending is impressionism with realism – you can depict reality accurately, and then give it a spin. Édouard Manet was never afraid to try new techniques in his art.
A Bar at the Folies-Bergère almost looks like a photo with its realistic color palette, yet provides enough impressionistic textures to inject fresh personality. It’s a painting that begs for multiple viewings.
Tip #5: Be Thoughtful About the Art You Want to Make
Society moves at a lightning-fast pace and doesn’t make it easy to slow down and think. However, finding your art style means being thoughtful about your work and why you’re making it in the first place.
- What kinds of emotions do you want your art to inspire?
- What idea or theme do you enjoy exploring? Multiple ones are good, too!
- What are visual elements you find pleasing, such as rich colors or heavy shadows?
- What are visual elements you don’t like, like certain types of line art or color palettes?
- When was the last time an illustration made you stop in your tracks? Why?
Reading artist interviews is incredibly helpful for finding your art style, shedding light on the ever-important why behind a piece. For example, this interview with the late Kim Jung Gi is a fascinating glimpse into how this artist developed his unique approach.
Tip #6: Don’t Feel the Need to Learn Everything Yourself
You don’t have to create art all by yourself. There are plenty of resources around you to help you grow as an artist – while I’m mostly self-taught, I’ve still taken a few art classes in college (and enjoy watching how-to videos online to learn new tips).
A few resources that will help you both create art and develop new art styles are:
- Facebook Character Design Challenge encourages different mediums and art styles based on different prompts
- Proko’s YouTube channel explains the fundamentals in bite-sized shorts and in-depth videos
- Evolve Artist is an online art resource that can help you develop your skills further to reach professional levels
Tip #7: Adopt a Case-by-Case Basis Mindset Toward Feedback
It’s important not to internalize all constructive criticism immediately, but don’t automatically reject everything, either. Having a strong vision for your work, yet being open to new ideas, is crucial to developing a style that’s both unique and personally rewarding.
For example, I once got practical feedback on a figure drawing study that told me my proportions were off. It was a helpful second pair of eyes that helped me spot errors in my figure’s feet and hands.
However, I’ve also gotten feedback where the viewer simply wasn’t interested in my art style. Rather than internalize their tastes as a flaw in my vision, I accepted they simply had different tastes than mine.
Tip #8: Don’t Be Afraid to Review Your Old Work
Even an experienced artist can cringe when seeing old work, but it’s reviewing old work vs new work that helps you track your progress. I regularly analyze my own work from a few years ago – sometimes a decade ago – to enjoy how I’ve grown.
Maybe you’ve hit an “art block” and feel like you have stopped growing as an artist. If so, this article can help you get going again!
Whether you want to improve your line work or refine a particular medium, this mindset shift will:
- Help you track small improvements such as more realistic anatomy, looser sketching, or bolder colors
- Generate a sense of pride from seeing your improvement in real-time
- Encourage you to compare yourself to yourself, not other artists
Claudia Riveros is an artist who recently tackled the complex subject of anatomy and saw significant improvement over the course of 100 hours. If she had avoided looking at her own work, she would have missed out on all the ways she improved.
Tip #9: Try a 30-Day or 60-Day Challenge
30-day or 60-day art challenges are fun for both beginner and experienced artists. They provide a timeline you can easily follow as well as a community of like-minded people doing the same thing.
Not only can you learn from your favorite artists doing the same art challenge, you’ll also enjoy the ability to:
- Track your progress day-by-day to see improvement gradually
- Craft simpler sketches or speed paintings so you don’t get overly attached to any one piece (another is on the way!)
- Enjoy a freeform art experience that stresses playfulness and creativity over perfection (which doesn’t exist, anyway)
Tip #10: Accept That Your Style Will Evolve as Much as You Do
This last art style tip involves radical acceptance that your art will still change as you do – it’s a reflection of who you are. Today’s society emphasizes consistent branding and iconography, which flies in the face of the natural growth of an artist.
Van Gogh is well-known for his ability to create an abstract still life, but he also experimented with a different color palette or subject matter from time to time.
When I was a little girl, I often drew stylized, chunky cartoons and tried to replicate shounen anime styles. As a teenager, I veered more into a classical approach with heavy detail and more moody atmospheres. Today I enjoy a style that blends painterly realism with abstract, surrealist, and fantasy elements.
See how every step of my journey contributed to where I am today? When looking back on the work I used to create, I’m amazed by how similar and how different everything is.
Finding Your Art Style is a Journey Worth Taking
No one can recreate you. Your art style simply reflects the journey of your life and it’s one worth taking.
Finding your art style means gathering inspiration from other creators as well as people and items around you. You can then sharpen your focus by asking pointed questions, experimenting, and using resources.
Check out Evolve Artist if you want to add well-rounded feedback and useful online lessons to your art style journey.
Featured Image: Source