Developing an Art Style of Your Own

vincent van gogh self portrait
Vincent Van Gogh – Self-Portrait 1886

One of the greatest compliments I ever received was from a renown artist who, after having viewed several of my paintings, pointed out that I had my own art style. I was surprised to hear that, because without realizing it, through the years, I had actually developed my own unique style of painting. Up until that day I hadn’t given much thought to even having my own style much less trying to develop one. What’s more, I barely even knew what an art style was. I knew all the Old Masters had it, or so I was told, and that it was something good to have. So I set out to find out more about artistic style, what it is and where it comes from.

What exactly is art style?

Artistic style is a specific characteristic or group of characteristics that is consistently present in the artworks of an artist. It’s that extra little thing, referred to as “identifiable style,” that an artist does to distinguish his/her work from the work of other artists.

Many artists, whether they realize it or not, have an identifiable style of painting. Their personal style is neither good or bad. It is simply the result of the particular choices and decisions a painter makes in the course of composing their oil paintings. These decisions are what defines the identity of an artist’s style and is made up of a combination of the mediums, technique and subject matter chosen. It’s not that an artist chooses to paint landscapes, still life or portraits — those are only genres. Rather, it is HOW the artist handles each of the various art elements (line, form, texture, value, color and shape) that make up the composition. Click for more information about the basic art elements.

Should you develop an art style of your own?

If you ever hope to be taken seriously as an artist, then I would definitely say “YES,” for the following reasons:

(1) Developing your own original style will help to define you and set you apart from other artists. It’s your individuality and uniqueness as an artist.

(2) It’s what allows others who view your work and know that it is a work painted by you without having to look at the signature on the canvas.

(3) It offers you a way to have personal satisfaction from your works by expressing your own ideas and inner vision.

(4) If you plan to display your paintings in art galleries, then a distinct art style is something a gallery owner or curator will want to see in your work.

(5) Finally, developing your own style is a necessary thing if you want your paintings to capture the eye of art collectors. Many collectors hold to a certain opinion of, “if it looks just like the real thing, then I’ll just take a photograph and hang it on the wall.” For many art connoisseurs, an artist’s personal style is the essence of the art.

How do you develop your personal painting style?

Before I can tell you how to do that, I first need to tell you how to absolutely NOT develop one. You won’t develop your own style by copying the works of other artists. Let me repeat that. If you copy the works of another artist, you will never develop a unique art style of your own. The reason for this is when you copy someone’s work, you are merely imitating the choices and decisions that have already been made by the artist who’s work you are copying. Novice painters often do this. They copy the works of other artists they like and this is a disservice to the world of art. As long as they continue to do this, they will never develop their own form of unique artistic expression and move beyond being a mere hobbyist to a serious artist or even a professional one. Your style is developed by the decisions and choices YOU make about the different elements that go into your painting.

An artist’s unique style does not develop over night. It evolves over time as a result of either conscious or unconscious effort on the part of the artist and it will most likely change a number of times as the painter grows as an artist. The best way to develop a style is to do a lot of painting. In doing so, you can expect your style to progress as you acquire more experience, knowledge and skills. As you move from painting to painting, you will find that certain artistic characteristics or qualities will keep reoccurring. This is your unique style. One thing to keep in mind about style is that you do not have to stick with the same one all your life. You can change it at any time and you will be surprised to find that it can and often does evolve.


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