Dear Wonderful, Creative You:
Here’s what I most want you to know about how to develop your artistic style: you can’t force it. When coaching clients and students tell me they want to develop a style, I suggest that what they need is not a style, but a consistent art practice.
When you make art consistently, and with permission to experiment and indulge your curiosities, over time you accrue a body of work around some common themes. These themes are what help make an artist’s work recognizable. I can see my themes across mediums, which is pretty exciting. Art lets us dive deeply into the things we feel passionate about. I want to help you get there too, so here’s a few secrets to get you started.
Secrets of How to Develop Your Artistic Style
How to Develop Your Artistic Style, Secret #1: Make a Lot of Junk
There are a few things many people don’t realize about being an artist. First, even incredibly talented artists make terrible art. A lot of what artists make is total junk. You never see it, but it’s there in the studio. Of course, few artists will exhibit their test pieces, or works that went to the cutting room floor. All this junk is necessary though. You have to make a ton of junky art in order to open space for the magic. So experiment freely, and give yourself permission to make a bunch of mistakes.
Just before an important rehearsal, an acting coach once told me to make as many mistakes as I possibly could. It was the most freeing advice ever. With permission to make mistakes, I was able to focus purely on feeling the part, because I wasn’t nervous. I take his advice often. So please, make as many mistakes as you can, right now. If you really struggle with this, you might love my class, Freeing the Muse.
How to Develop Your Artistic Style, Secret #2: Push the Boundaries
The second secret to developing your artistic style is that you need to produce a lot of art in order to find your own way. Whatever your art form – writing, singing, dancing, or paper cutting, you begin acquiring skills by copying, imitating, and testing. When you only make 1 or 2 of something, there’s too much pressure to get it “right.” Also, over time, as you gain mastery, you put your own twist on things, and the art process becomes more adventurous, and your work reflects the freshness of your unique expression. Your work evolves from imitation, to something new that pulls influences from various resources. This post about working small can help.
How to Develop Your Artistic Style, Secret #3: Let Your Interests Evolve
The third “secret” about developing your own style is that it changes over time. Think about some of the great artists – Picasso worked in drawings, watercolors, prints, sculpture, and oil paintings. He allowed his interests and curiosities to lead the way. Even within his works on canvas, he shifted from realism, to the blue period, to Cubism, and of course there were other phases as well. Picasso allowed himself to explore life through art as it presented itself to him and to dive deeply into it. He was willing to go in new directions that weren’t easily recognizable as his “style.” Good art demands that you create a lot, and take a lot of risks. Why not give yourself this permission to play? This is a fun art journaling technique.
How to Develop YOUR Artistic Style:
Here’s my question to you: What would happen if you pretended that you had permission to dive deeply into your art process? To dedicate time to it? To work in a series, hone your skills, and push boundaries? What if you pretended that you had as much “permission” as Picasso to experiment, and indulge in your art process? What would that feel like? Visualize this: when you wake up tomorrow morning, a miracle has happened, and you are dedicated to open play and experimentation in your art process – what does your morning look like? Your day? Your evening? What changes have miraculously taken place?
So that’s my advice: Stop trying to develop your “style” and start making more art. You can do it. You are an artist like any other, and if you are waiting for permission to indulge in your art process, here it is: Dig deeper. Make more. Let a bunch of it really suck.
Helping You Take Your Art Further
Learning to push your artistic techniques is one of the best parts of the process for me, and one I love sharing with students. It’s also a cornerstone of my upcoming class, Layers of Light. It’s a mindful and intuitive approach to paper cutting. I’ll help you build up the foundational skills and make YOUR way through paper cutting. I’m tickled just thinking about all the amazing work you’ll create and the unexpected places you’ll take it. I’ll be putting the class on pre-sale soon, very soon, so stay tuned and let me know in the comments if you are excited to learn more.
In the meantime, answer those questions for yourself, and get ready to get really messy, tired, happy, and feeling accomplished because you’ve learned a lot, produced a lot, and you have one or two pieces you feel really good about this week.