How To Develop Your Own Unique Artistic Style

One of the most common problems I hear from my readers is….

“How do I develop my own unique artistic style?”

I remember this question frustrated me in the early days of my painting journey. The question actually crippled my progress as I tried to force some kind of unique artistic style, rather than let it happen organically.

So here are my thoughts on developing your own artistic style.

First Things First, Do You Need Your Own Artistic Style?

I’ll start by discussing why having an artistic style is important.

When you think of Vincent van Gogh, John Singer Sargent or Claude Monet, what do you think? Personally, I think of…

The bold strokes and vibrant colors of Vincent van Gogh.

Starry Night Over The Rhone, Vincent van Gogh, Oil, 1888
Starry Night Over The Rhone, Vincent van Gogh, Oil, 1888

The delicate brushwork and realistic portraits by John Singer Sargent.

Oil Painting Techniques For Beginners
John Singer Sargent, An Artist In His Studio, 1904

The beautiful harmony of colors by Claude Monet.

Claude Monet, Water Lilies (2), 1916-1919 How To Develop Your Own Artistic Style
Claude Monet, Water Lilies (2), 1916-1919

There is a unique artistic style which you can associate with each of these artists. Would the artists be as important if they did not have some kind of unique style? I doubt it.

There is a significant difference between someone who is skilled with a brush and someone who is skilled and has a unique and memorable style.

The Commercial Importance Of Having A Unique Style

If you want to sell your art, then you need to have some kind of memorable style which people can associate with you. If you don’t have this, then every sale will feel like trying to sell to a cold audience who has never heard of you.

If you have a memorable style, then you will attract a certain group of people who like that style. So instead of trying to sell to a cold audience, you are able to sell to an audience which already favors your kind of work. But people will only associate your art with a unique style if you have practiced it consistently over a long period of time.

Think about how hard it would be to try and sell an impressionist landscape in oils, a realistic portrait in watercolors and a detailed drawing of an interior scene. You would be trying to connect with not one audience, but three, which is remarkably difficult.

Do not underestimate the difficulty of truly connecting with an audience. The broader you go, the more difficult it becomes.

How Do You Develop An Artistic Style?

So how did the great artists like van Gogh, Sargent and Monet develop such memorable artistic styles?

The common theme is that the artists all painted in a consistent style over a long period of time. People will not associate a certain style with your artwork if these factors do not exist.

Why You Should IGNORE All Of This If You Are Just Starting

I have just discussed why having an artistic style is important and how you develop it. But if you are just starting out, then I want you to forget all about this, for now.

I will tell you why.

You do not know what your unique artistic style is when you are starting. 

Your artistic style is not an end goal which you have in mind and travel towards. It is something which develops naturally over time from consistent work over a long period of time.

After you have been painting for a few years you will have:

  • Made thousands of strokes with your brushes
  • Mixed thousands of different colors
  • Made thousands of unique decisions

All these individual events will develop your artistic style. You will develop little tendencies with every stroke, you will favor certain colors and you will confront problems in a similar way. This is what makes you unique as an artist. 

So What Should You Do?

Here is what I think you should do…

Focus on painting well rather than on painting in a certain style. If you paint with some kind of consistency over a long period of time, then you will develop a unique artistic style.

If you try to force yourself to paint in a certain style, then you may be crippling your progression as an artist. When you are starting out, you have no idea what kind of style you may be suited to. You need to arrive there organically, rather than forcefully.

Instead of worrying about your style, focus on building a solid foundation for painting based on proven fundamentals. Learn things such as:

  • How to use your materials
  • How to mix your colors
  • How to draw
  • How to see the visual elements
  • How to arrange the visual elements

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