Developing an Artistic Style of Your Own

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

One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received came from a renowned artist who, after seeing several of my paintings, said that I had my own artistic style. That surprised me because, without recognizing it, I had established my own distinct painting style over the years.

Until that day, I hadn’t given much thought to even having my art 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, 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 artistic style?

Artistic style is a specific characteristic or group of characteristics that are consistently present in the artworks of an artist. It’s that extra little thing that an artist does to set himself apart from other artists.

Many artists, whether they realize it or not, have an identifiable style of painting. Their artistic style is neither good nor bad. It is simply the result of the particular choices and decisions a painter makes while composing their oil paintings. These decisions define the identity of an artist’s style and are made up of a combination of the mediums, techniques, and subject matter chosen. It’s not that an artist chooses to paint landscapes, still life, or portraits — those are only genres. Instead, 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 your own artistic style?

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

1. Developing your artistic 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 see your work to recognize it as yours 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 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 style is necessary if you want your paintings to capture the eye of art collectors. Many collectors hold to a specific 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 style is the essence of the art.

How do you develop your artistic style?

Before I can tell you how to do that, I need to tell you how NOT to develop one. You won’t develop your artistic 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 whose 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 unique artistic expression and move beyond being a mere hobbyist to a serious artist or even a professional one. Your artistic style is shaped by the decisions YOU make about the numerous elements that go into your artwork.

An artist’s unique artistic style does not develop overnight. It evolves over time due to either conscious or unconscious effort on the part of the artist, and it will most likely change many 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 art style to progress as you acquire more experience, knowledge, and skills. As you move from painting to painting, you will find that specific artistic characteristics or qualities will reoccur repeatedly. This is your unique style. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to continue with the same art style for the rest of your life. You have the ability to change it at any time, and you will be surprised to learn that it can, and frequently does, evolve.

Additional Reading

A Painting in the Making

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What Is Art Appreciation?

Art appreciation is an understanding of the qualities that identify all great art. It involves having a knowledge of art movements, art history, and art styles or techniques.

Art Movements

An art movement is a distinctive style of art typified by a collection of artists practicing or following the same artistic idea, philosophy, objective, style, or method within a specified time frame or region. Each art movement is subtly or distinctly different than another movement of art. However, other art movements have influenced some movements as they show obvious similarities while others seem to defy them. It is interesting to study the differences between the art movements and study the different periods of art.

Art History

Art history is a historical study of the development of artworks in painting, sculpture, drawing, architecture, and other visual arts. The history of art spans a time from the earliest cave paintings to today. Art history presents two primary concerns (1) to determine who made a particular work of art and when, and (2) to understand the stylistic approach or school of thought used by artists in creating the work.

Art Styles or Techniques

The style or technique of a particular artist or school, or movement. It is that ‘thing’ that makes you recognize a specific painting as being by a particular artist before you’re close enough to see a signature or to read the image label. A painting style can be how the paint is handled (such as Pollock) or the brush strokes (such as Van Gogh). It can be the way a subject is dealt with or simply the choice of subject(s). It can be the range of colors used or a particular color that’s used in every painting.

Additional Reading

What is Fine Art?

Test Your Knowledge of Art Appreciation

Related Articles

Classification Of Fine Art Paintings By Genre

Know Your Art Painting Styles: 7 Most Popular

What Are The Classifications of Art?

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UPDATED: 26 October 2020

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Know Your Art Painting Styles: 7 Most Popular

Part of the appreciation of fine art is the range of art painting styles to admire and choose from. As a fan of art, you will enjoy the experience more when you understand which particular art style you happen to be viewing at the moment. Here is an overview of the seven most popular art painting styles in no specific order.

Art Painting Styles

Art Painting Styles
Realism art

1. Realism is a style of art most people consider to be “real art.” This is because it attempts to depict the topic as it appears in real life but stops short of appearing like a photograph. Realism art is without stylization or following the rules of formal artistic theory. Instead, the artist spends a fair amount of time and effort paying attention to creating an accurate depiction of life forms and objects, perspective (creating the illusion of reality,) good composition, lights and darks, and color and tone.

photorealism art painting style
Photorealism Art

2. Photorealism (a.k.a. super-realism, sharp focus realism, hyperrealism) is an art style where the artwork looks as realistic as a photo. The illusion of reality is so minutely fine-tuned that the painting looks exactly like a large, sharply focused photograph on canvas or other paint support. It’s a look that includes meticulous attention to detail, right down to the last grain of sand on the beach or the pores and wrinkles on a person’s face. Nothing is left out, and nothing is too insignificant to be left out of the composition. That’s how realistic photorealism is.

Photorealism as a style of art became a movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s America. For more information on this art movement, click here.

painterly art painting styles
Painterly Art Style

3. Painterly art is distinguished by visible brushstrokes and texture in the paint. This style can be created using oils, acrylics, watercolors, gouache, and any other medium where a brush is used.

In the past, early painters took great pains to eliminate brushstrokes or texture from their paintings by working and blending their paint, not so with painterly artists. However, they do not attempt to hide their brushwork that has been loosely and quickly applied. The paint doesn’t have to be applied thickly either; thin layers of paint work just as well using the painterly art style.

Impressionism art painting styles
Impressionism Painting

4. Impressionism is a style of painting that has the appearance of being rough and unfinished and characterized by small, thin visible brushstrokes. The subject matter is usually of common and ordinary subjects, emphasizing the accurate depiction of light.

Impressionistic paintings are often painted outdoors to capture the natural sunlight and color of their subjects. Black is rarely used since impressionist artists prefer mixing and using dark tones and complementary colors. Impressionism is more a representation of an artist’s impression. It does not try to be accurate in its detail, but rather, it is more like an expression of the heart.

example of abstract art
Abstract Art

5. Abstract art is artwork that doesn’t resemble anything from “real life.” It’s an art style that is intentionally non-representational and seeks to achieve its point or subject using shapes, forms, colors, and textures. Every object on the canvas is represented by either colors and or shapes. For example, colors can represent emotions, and shapes can symbolize objects.

The purpose of abstract is to let the viewer interpret its meaning for themself. At its worst, abstract art looks like an accidental mess of paint. At its best, it has an impact that strikes you from the moment you see it.

example of surrealism
Surrealism art

6. Surrealism is a modern art style that juxtaposes various abstract concepts to give a startling effect. Fully recognized images are realistically painted, then reconstructed or structured within an ambiguous, contradictory, or shocking framework, removed from their usual settings and circumstances. Surrealist paintings are often illogical and express imaginative dreams with visions that emphasize the subconscious rather than rationale.

Surrealism originated in France and flourished as an art movement in the early twentieth century. For more information about the surrealist movement, click here.

example of pop art
Pop Art

7. Pop Art is a modern art style that started back in the 1950s and drew inspiration from commercial and consumer aspects of everyday life, especially in the American culture. Such imagery included advertising, mass media, comic books, celebrities, and elements of popular culture, like magazines, movies, and even bottles and cans.

Pop art paintings tend to focus on bold colors and realistic imagery. There is usually no hidden meaning in the composition either. Pop artists rarely use any of the traditional techniques of perspective to create an illusion of realism in the painting. Some pop artists use mass production techniques such as silk screening to replicate their works, mirroring the manufacturing process of consumer goods. Because of its commercial imagery, pop art is one of the most recognizable modern art styles.

Additional Reading

Classification Of Fine Art Paintings By Genre

What Are The Classifications Of Art?

Have a question?

If you have a question about this painting, please contact us, and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.

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UPDATED: 04 February 2021

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