You Don’t Need an Art Style, You Need an Art Practice
Dear Wonderful, Creative You:
One of the most common questions I get from students is this:
How do I develop my style as an artist?
It’s a logical question, but it’s the wrong question. Trying to develop your artistic “style” is a bit like trying to stare at your belly button while walking. It will trip you up, lead you down all sorts of wrong roads, and make you feel like you are failing utterly at this whole “artist” thing.
Instead, I invite you to focus on curiosity. On process. On answering What If? questions.
I got curious one day about what would happen if I drew a series of rice grains on a 2 x 2 inch square. I really liked it, so I did another. And another. And another. Soon I started piecing them together into groups of 4, and then 16, and soon it grew into one huge piece where I explored density, movement, and detail in drawing. If someone asked me, “Why are you drawing rice grains?” I would have said, “I don’t know yet, because it feels good, and I’m curious what might develop.” It was an amazing experience of following my curiosity.
What if, instead of focusing on style, you focused on incorporating your passions or curiosities into your work? What if you focused on using the same technique or materials as many different ways as possible until you felt you’d arrived at something really interesting, or you’d exhausted the possibilities? Focusing on process answers the question: How do I develop an art style? and also, What should I create today?
For me, process is where the excitement and the meaning dwell in art. It gets at the why? of why we make art. We make art because it’s fun to experiment, and to see what we can bring into being that didn’t exist before. Much of what you create won’t be all that “good -” some will be okay, and a fraction will be truly beautiful; but when you work this way, the process will be magical, and that’s what drives me to make art day after day.
You don’t need to develop an art style,
you need to develop an art practice.
Your art style evolves as you engage with different materials and techniques. It evolves as you fold in new interests and influences into your work. Think about Picasso – he started painting highly realistic oil paintings when he was young, then shifted to his Blue period, Rose period, African Period, then Cubism… He allowed his curiosities and passions to guide him in different directions in oils, illustration, watercolor, and ceramics. He wasn’t concerned about his “style,” he was concerned about following what excited him in his art process. I find the more I focus on process, and following the thread of curiosity, the more exciting the process is, and the more I enjoy the outcomes.
Art process is much like a scientific inquiry. Art process is a series of What if? questions you answer in your work. Your style is born out of the answers to these questions. You likely won’t even be able to see your style for some time. Perhaps you won’t even notice it, much like your own accent, until someone else points out that you have one.
And the more you practice and engage with art, the more you push and pull the techniques you’re learning , the more you make them your own. That is your evolving style, and the longer you work, the more you it becomes.
There are no rules.
Just play, and follow your curiosities.
And one of the best ways I know to get started making art, and keep making art consistently is to work small. Small art is fun, quick, and enticing. That’s why I’ve created The Inchie Challenge. I want to show you how to develop your art practice by making a 2-inch art piece each day for 12 days. All the small pieces you make can build to make something truly amazing. The challenge is over, but you can still challenge yourself with my free class,
The Guide to Creative Self-Care:
I’d love to hear how focusing process and following your curiosities helps you develop your art. Tell us about it in the comments.