Finding Your “Style”

About a year ago I was slightly obsessed with figuring out what my “Style” was. I had read that to be successful it was important to develop a unique style. An artist that is recognizable by their style of painting is, so they say, worth more, since buyers know what they are buying and what they can expect from that artist in the future. At least I think that’s the theory. Wikipedia states it like this: “The identification of individual styles is especially important in the attribution of works to artists, which is a dominant factor in their valuation for the art market, above all for works in the Western tradition since the Renaissance.”

Regardless, I was struggling to figure out what my “Style” of painting was, or should be. Should I paint in an Impressionist style, like Monet? A realist, or photo-realisitic (or hyper-realistic) style? Something in between? And how would I stand out? What would set me apart from the thousands of others painting in the same artistic space?

I knew I didn’t want to be a Post-Impressionist, Abstract Expressionist, Surrealist, Cubist, or Fauvist. Pop Art? Modernism? No. But I didn’t know how I really wanted to paint. I enjoyed experimenting. I may copy a Monet one week and paint in a realist style the next. At least I had narrowed it down a little….

I read a lot of blogs, and articles, looked at different art, and basically worried for a few months that I needed to find my style.

You see I thought that I had to define what style I wanted to paint in so that I could practice only the techniques, and learn what I needed, to paint well within that artistic style. I thought the quickest route to getting better was to narrow how I painted.

The one thing I kept seeing as a consistent theme was that you don’t find your “Style” – it finds you.

I finally let it go after all that reading and searching. I just kept painting to the best of my abilities, that which I enjoyed.

I recently ran across this description on the blog of Brad Teare, a fantastic artist, on his blog “The Art of Thick Paint“. Here is what he says about style:

“It is a fusion of everything visual you love with the technique you are physically capable of producing.”

He goes on to say “Sometimes your gifts–or lack thereof–will trump your passions and radically modify your expression. Sometimes your discipline will triumph and you will be able to infuse a new method of expression into your creative gifts. If you are honest about the process a genuine mode of expression will emerge that will be 100% yours. It will be a treasure nothing can diminish. It will have its virtues yet be flawed–just like you. Above all it will be the expression of a unique mind. “

“If you are honest about the process a genuine mode of expression will emerge that will be 100% yours.”
I like that part. It rings true. Paint what you love, to the best of your abilities, and your style will emerge.

So for all you new painters out there, or artists of any medium, if you’ve been worrying about finding your “Style”, don’t. Pursue what you love, learn, evolve, and your style will find you.

One final thought. While it may be true that having one recognizable style is preferred from a marketing standpoint, I would say paint what you love. And if that means Monet today, Homer tomorrow, and Hockney on Friday – if you are painting what you love, that will come through in your work and is better than trying to fit in one category.

Happy painting!

14 thoughts on “Finding Your “Style””

  1. I very much enjoy this write up and agree with it [not that it matters though]. I had the same thoughts when I first started out as well.. always trying to find a style and such but when I did the 30 day challenge last year, it just kind of hit me that a style comes out of a body of work over time. When you start painting things in certain ways, like grass or trees, etc.. and also have colors that you enjoy, etc.. those will show up in your body of work. Or even just consistent subject matter too. There are some many ways to define style and you summed it up nicely.

    1. Thanks Brandon. You’re right, over time when you look at your work, certain things emerge. Colors, brushwork, detail, etc. The hard thing when starting out is to try not to paint like someone else. It takes time to learn to just paint like yourself. Keep up the good work!

    2. Hi Brandon, I saw some of your work on You Tube; you do some pretty awesome still life!  

      Hi Tom, I really like this post!  My style is still looking for me!  I just starting painting 2 years ago after 35+ years ago when I left off to raise my family, work on a career.  Now retired so I picked up the brush again!

      1. Liz,
        I’m glad you liked the post. Sounds like your path is similar to mine, been painting 2 years now myself after not painting for 35 years! Its fun yes? Good luck, hope you stick with it.

        1. Yes, Tom! I feel like a beginner all over again, learning and exploring with acrylic, water soluble oil paint, graphite and water color pencils.  Did you have a chance to see my art gallery on my blogsite?  My goal is to just enjoy myself and ‘loosen up’.

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