Finding Your Personal Art Style

By February 17, 2014 17 Comments

Copic markers, pen and ink, unnatural expressions and all. This is my art style in a nutshell.

When I went to China last month, I showed some art to a cousin (whose mother is a watercolour genius) and he asked if I was illustrating for a medical journal.

“The neck looks unnatural,” he said. “And the arms, are they made of rubber?”

We laughed it off, though it got me thinking.

My entire drawing style—that of elongated limbs, disproportionate head-face ratio, and mentally vacant or insufferably effusive creatures—was built solely on not taking other people’s advice. Advice on how to draw a face, how to position the body, how to convey form and shadow. My personal art style was born from many accidents and my own stubbornness.

So how do you find your personal art style? There’s a gazillion possible answers, but for me it started with

1. Plagiarism, lots and lots of plagiarism.

I copied everything on TV and off, from cartoons to books to sparkly things that hooked my five-second attention span, and somewhere in the chaos my style started taking shape.

While I was indeed simply recreating what others made, I learned what I enjoyed drawing the most, and that was drawing movement.

I loved carving folds between eyebrows or the folds in clothing as the hyperactive superhero proceeds to gut his/her victim with a well-placed kick, and though I’ve since moved on to less motion-based subject matter, that initial spark born from copying others jumpstarted my personal style.

2. Never listen to haters.

Haters who criticize your art or way of illustrating and painting or crayon smearing have no idea what they’re talking about. Of course parents and teachers mean well, but they should also know that art is subjective and there’s no one “right way” of doing things.

After Kasimir Malevich painted White on White, “artistic merit” went out the window. Benchmarks no longer exist thanks to the Internet. There’s bad art everywhere but discourse is still being sparked, exhibitions are still being held, and people are still getting enjoyment out of it.

So make the art you want to make because there’s only one you and haters are always gonna hate.

3. Draw inspiration from like-minded people.

There’s a saying by Jim Rohn that goes, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

So what are you waiting for? Get to know other people who are also trying to find their personal art style, and, better yet, get to know those who have found it already.

Join art clubs!

Take group art lessons!

I was in an art program at my high school and my classmates inspired the heck out of me with their diverse talent and eclectic styles.

Trust me, having other artists to bounce ideas off of (and compete against) is one of the tastiest ingredients in the pie of artistic development.

4. Try automatic drawing.

Automatic drawing entails drawing randomly and freely to unearth the subconscious. This means drawing without hesitation nor purpose, simply and mindlessly, in a way that ignores conventions about form or figure, but observes your most ingrained art habits.

While most automatic drawings end up looking abstract, gradually the lines will take shape and find their way into more subject-oriented illustrations.

A lot of my pen and ink drawings were the result of drawing whatever came to mind, and now I know more intuitively that my style is more Pop Surrealist than anything else.

So those were the four main things that enabled me to find my personal art style.

Do you have any tips on finding individuality through art, or tips on creating art that speaks to you? I’d love to hear them!

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