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.


Know Your Art Painting Styles: 7 Most Popular

Part of the appreciation of fine art is the range of art 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 seven popular painting styles in no particular order.


bonnie and clyde car painting“Forgotten Roads of Bygone Days”
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
24″ x 18″
Oils on gallery wrap stretched canvas

>> More info


example of realism art
Realism art

1. Realism (a.k.a. naturalism) is a style of art regarded by most as “real art”. This is because it attempts to portray the subject as it actually 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.

example of photorealism art
Photorealism Art

2. Photorealism (a.k.a. super realism, sharp focus realism, hyper realism) 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 is a style where careful detail down to the last grain of sand on the seashore or the pores and wrinkles on a person’s face has been included. Nothing is left out or too insignificant or unimportant to not be included in the composition. Photorealism is that realistic.

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

example of painterly art style
Painterly Art Style

3. Painterly is an art style characterized by visible brushstrokes and texture left in the paint medium. Artworks featuring this art style can be created using oils, acrylics, watercolors, gouache, or any 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. They make no attempt to hide their brushwork that has been loosely and quickly applied. The paint doesn’t have to be applied in a thick manner either, thin layers of paint work just as well using the painterly art style.

example of Impressionism painting
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, with an emphasis on 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, is more like an expression of the heart.

example of abstract art
Abstract Art

5. Abstract art (also called modern or contemporary art) is art 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 him/herself. 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 of painting that juxtaposes, various abstract concepts together to give a startling effect. It is characterized by fully recognizable images which are realistically painted, taken out of their normal setting and contexts then reassembled or organized within an ambiguous, paradoxical, or shocking framework.  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 draws 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 and 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 use of commercial imagery, pop art is one of the most recognizable styles of modern art.