There it is – The blank canvas. And you just got over a bad case of artist envy. Looking at the floor, you’ve got 10 paintings strewn about like a yard sale, and you’ve been staring at them for days, doing your own private critique. “This time, finally I will decide what style I want to go with.” But it seems each time the style changes. But why limit yourself? Why not just keep doing all the styles?
In my opinion, I think it’s super important not to limit oneself to one particular style. I think it cramps the creative process. However, when website or ETSY shop visitors happen by to have a look, it can be confusing or hard to pin down an artist whose work moves along the spectrum from piece to piece, varying between abstract and representational. Your visitors may be thinking, “What is this artist really about,” if the artist’s style ranges widely, and seeming to be all over the map.
Artists that work in this way – ranging from abstract to representational – are out there everywhere – me included. In fact, every artist works this way, but many don’t show all of their work to the public. Those that do are less common and while they still may be greatly recognized and appreciated, even if not entirely understood.
Finding your artistic style also helps with a few other things:
- In the sea of different styles and options, defining your style helps audiences remember your work and ultimately identify your work in a crowd by differentiating you from the many others also working similarly.
- Choosing an artistic style keeps things simple for their audiences. Browsing a cohesive style makes our brains happy.
- It helps you define your market – and quickly! If you love your work, someone else does too.The easiest way to find them is to just do that thing and see who shows up. When you have a lot of different folks coming into your ETSY shop for lots of different reasons, it is hard to know who you are appealing to and where else outside of ETSY that you can find them.
- Landing on a particular style helps you work more efficiently. No guesswork.
- Finally, it generates an impact with your message or work, as your style becomes stornger.
This isn’t to say that artists can only work in one style! It is important to note that labeling or boxing yourself into a particular genre or style can really destroy the creative process. However, new and emerging artists can benefit from working in one style at least short-term (as artists styles almost always change and evolve). The longer you take to stick with a style, the longer it will take for you to be comfortable with presenting and talking about your work.
However, for new and emerging artists defining an artistic style takes time, and a lot of artwork. The best way to help yourself along in discovering your style is to take a proactive approach to your work. Here are three easy ways to hone in on finding your artistic style and stop drowning in options.
CONDUCT A POLL
Run out and ask people what they think? Sure, you could, but then you would be creating for them and not for you. This time, in order to discover what YOU love the most, or at least, love the most right now, SURF!
For this exercise, just take two hours and surf for art you love. The hard part when I do this exercise is avoiding that rabbit hole and not getting wrapped up in artist envy.
So, here are a few steps for taking your own poll:
- Try and limit your searches to the subject matter and medium that you already love working in before trying on a style. This is because you can get sidetracked and end up right back to the drawing board, and then you start asking questions like, “Am I working in the right medium?” or “I think I want to scrap everything I have done and start over because this sparkly thing over here is so cool!” While you could go back to the drawing board and start over – and maybe that will be part of your artist’s journey someday, that isn’t what we are doing today. Just look for stuff in a style you truly love.
- Find 20 pieces in various styles, then stop searching.
- Put those pieces in a desktop folder and put the exercise down for 5 days.
- Go back to the pieces you chose as your favorite styles, and see how you feel. Do the styles still resonate with you? No? You can always do it again.
- If they do, divide your images out into 3 different styles, or more if you have them and then label those folders with rankings. 1 being your favorite. The highest number being your least favorite of the favorites.
- Now take style #1 for a test drive.
After you think you’ve found a style you really enjoy, you need to see how it really feels to paint in that way, and ask yourself some critical exploratory questions as you do.
- How does it feel to make art in this style? Does it feel constricting or too free, with not enough parameters to help drive the work? Is it frustrating, energizing or relaxing?
- Do you get the sense that the style you are working in helps further define your work?
- Does the style you have chosen further communicate your message, vibe or meaning behind the work?
- Does the style feel right to you? Do you think you could work in this style for awhile?
- Does it make you excited for your audience to associate this style with you?
- Do you think if your audience had a conversation with you, they would be surprised to see the person behind the work, or does it seem like the style is aligned with you?
- Does this style make you want to get up in the morning and work or does it feel intimidating, or like drudgery?
WRITE IT DOWN
After you’ve tried working in your considered style, write down how it all went, log your responses to the above questions, other information that may have come up for you, and any style notes you want to remember. If you need to go back to the start and do the process over, you want to keep a record of everything to reference.
Whatever you are up in the air about as it relates to defining your style, you can take these tips and apply them to any aspect of your art that needs some focus. – And you can do it as many times as you like.
While choosing style can feel limiting at first, remember, it isn’t set in stone, and the benefits of connecting with yourself, your audience and your work more deeply, can help you grow and improve as an artist.
Don’t forget – Art is about making art, so rather than deciding in a week or a few days, try on the style for a little while. See how it feels and let your feelings guide you.
Ultimately, you need to go with your gut. So, if the style feels contrived, or if you feel like you are creating it to please or impress someone, ask yourself whether what you’ve produced is really your expression, or your interpretation of what would be someone else’s expression.
Last, if it doesn’t feel like authentic self-expression, it’s a product. If it truly resonates with your perspective and message, it’s art. That above all else is most important.