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 painting style. 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 artwork 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, “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 that when you copy someone’s work, you are merely imitating the choices and decisions already 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. 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.
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