Discover Your Artistic Style in 5 Steps

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Shapes, values and proportions can be exaggerated or simplified.

By Salma Ghalwash

Artistic style is the visual marker of an artist’s branding and recognition. Whether you’re a painter, comic illustrator, filmmaker or creative hobbyist, it is important to develop your own voice. How do you create a cohesive body of art that is uniquely yours? Here are five key pieces of advice for cultivating a signature style.

  1. Collect Inspiration

Collect pieces of artwork and compositions that you gravitate towards. Search for ideas online or anything that fuels your imagination. Draw from different periods of art history. Visit museums and galleries to see curated collections in real life and up close.

When finding art that resonates with you, don’t limit yourself to a specific subject matter, medium or style. Explore aesthetic dimensions across a range of traditional and digital mediums. Ideas are all around you, from nature to buildings and everyday conversations to literature. You can alternate fluidly between fashion, photography, sound, video and even embroidery for inspiration. However, when you do this, differentiate between art that you find aesthetically pleasing and art that you enjoy creating. This is significant, especially since they can differ drastically.

There are basic principles for creating any form of visual art, including line, shape, form, value, color, texture, composition and perspective.

  1. Identify Connections

Once you have gathered several artworks that you like, ask yourself, what visual components do these have in common? Are they mixed media creations? Do they use colors and tones to convey a certain mood? How many values are used? Is the lighting soft and diffused or harsh and direct? Are the shapes irregular or geometric?

Think like a curator who is deciding on a theme for an exhibition. Make a list of all the unifying characteristics of the compositions you have selected. Use these characteristics to set foundational goals for your artistic style.

  1. Copy, Copy, Copy

Never hesitate to imitate. Imitations constitute types of art. For instance, some modern artists use collages, repurpose iconography and deliberately make pastiches. With his distinct satirical flair, street artist Banksy reworked the paintings of Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Claude Monet in his previous exhibitions.

Creative stylization depends on your understanding of these fundamentals.

  1. Observe, Take and Transform

Recreating masterpieces is also a detail-oriented approach to studying art. Pablo Picasso said that “good artists copy, great artists steal.”

But this theft can lead to authentic work. “Stealing” does not indicate plagiarizing or copying. It means sourcing a vast array of techniques and integrating them into your own work. By emulating other artists, you can learn new ways to manipulate canvases, paint and other materials. While you recreate others’ work, you unravel the choices they make in their process of creation. The key to enhancing artistic skill is not technical proficiency, but experimentation and diversifying your craft.

  1. Articulate Your Vision Again and Again

As you incorporate elements from other artists’ work, challenge yourself to venture out of your comfort zone. Attempt concepts multiple times and use each iteration as an indicator of progress. Focus on what you want to create and communicate as well. How would you extend your experiences and notions of yourself through art? 

The creative process is rarely linear but each time you express your vision, your artistic style evolves. It is inevitably going to adapt as an incoming tide of inspiration washes over you.