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6 Secrets To Finding an Art Style as a Multifaceted Creative
It starts with understanding why style belongs in your art practice.
When you're interested in a lot of different art forms like I am, finding your style can feel like an impossible goal.
And that's because it kind of is.
"Finding your style" sounds like following a path toward one ultimate, holy grail art style. And once you find it, you'll use it for all eternity.
But one art style can never capture every facet of who you are and what you want to express. You're so much more interesting and complex than that!
And so is everyone else who creates – even those who showcase a distinct art style. It's just that some creators stick with a particular style for a particular reason.
Maybe they just happen to like expressive oil painting more than other techniques. Maybe they're focused on creating art products that sell.
But that doesn't mean you have to choose just one medium in one style and abandon the rest.
Even if you're interested in everything from watercolor to collage to abstract acrylics, it's entirely possible to pick a style that serves you well and helps you achieve your artistic goals.
The key is to think of it as "a" style, not "your" (one and only) style.
Whether you're aiming to create a consistent body of work to sell or gain satisfaction in your personal art practice, here are some tips to try.
To help illustrate each one, I'm also sharing how I put them into practice to find a sketchbook style that works for me.
1. Figure out why you want an art style in the first place
A little bit of soul-searching will help you set off in the right direction.
Are you chasing after an art style because you're in denial of your far-reaching curiosity and creativity? Perhaps you're feeling envious of the specialists out there and wishing you could reign in your energy and focus on just one thing?
Spoiler alert: That won't work!
Embrace your multifaceted creativity and you'll have a much easier time giving yourself permission to use one style for each project – not one style, period.
Your goal might be related to developing a cohesive portfolio or getting good at a particular skill. Or it might be about minimizing decision fatigue and giving yourself a shortcut to everyday creativity.
Either way, identifying your goal upfront will help you choose an art style that helps you achieve it.
What I did:
I was interested in developing an art style because I wanted to start consistently art journaling in a sketchbook. I knew choosing a style for this practice would give the process and results a more intentional look and feel.
I'm excited to keep developing this style as I fill up more sketchbook pages. But I'm not telling myself this is the only way I should draw and paint from here on out.
2. Choose optimal conditions
The art style you pick for your project should be conducive to how you like to work.
If it's not, you'll be paddling upstream. You'll either be constantly frustrated as you work, or – worse – you'll put off making your art altogether.
That's why it's so important to make sure your chosen art style meshes with your creative process and lifestyle.
What I did:
I wanted to work with an art journaling style that would:
Make it quick and easy to get started in my sketchbook
Require minimal cleanup
Be portable in and around the house
Allow me to work loosely, quickly, and expressively without getting stuck in the details
Those criteria informed a lot of my style decisions.
For instance, acrylic paints are nice, but they're messy and require more setup and cleanup. I needed something a little more low-maintenance.
I've also enjoyed working from photo references in the past, but that involves printing out a picture of the subject and keeping it close by while working. Subjects that I'd need a photo of wouldn't be the best for quick sketching on the go.
So, I decided my style wouldn't include either of those elements.
3. Limit your materials
Narrowing your options down to one set of art materials will really help you achieve a recognizable style.
That can include everything from the drawing or painting tools you use to the substrate and size you work with.
What I did:
Having played around with lots of different media in the past, I knew what would lend itself well to an art journaling practice.
I opted for a medium-sized sketchbook, a waterproof ink pen, and watercolor paints.
I tested out a few pens and chose my favorite one. Now I keep it clipped onto my sketchbook for grab-and-go convenience.
Next, I consolidated all of my watercolor paints into a tin of half-pans. Organizing them was not only very satisfying but also super helpful. Now I only have to grab one palette when I want to paint.
4. Limit your subject matter
You might not realize how big of a role subject matter plays in cultivating a style.
If you're painting everything from realistic portraits to cartoon horses to abstract landscapes, the style similarities may be hard to spot.
Try narrowing yourself down to one type of subject. Make sure it's something you'll be able to stick with for a while. It should be interesting and varied enough to hold your attention.
What I did:
Keeping my initial goals in mind, I decided to capture the things around me – corners of rooms, decorative items, and scenes from the garden.
My sketchbook is a reflection of the stuff that makes up my day-to-day life right now. This helps create a story and a sense of cohesion.
It also makes it easier to approach the blank page. I don't have to think too hard about what to draw. Instead, I can pick something I see and just get going.
5. Motivate yourself with goals and rewards
The more you practice, the stronger your style and skills will be. But sticking to an art style can be tricky when your renaissance spirit wants to go off in a dozen creative directions.
Encourage yourself to focus by setting some achievable milestones and motivating rewards.
As an example, you could tell yourself that if you work on your project twice a week for three months, you can sign up for an art class in town.
What I did:
I absolutely love getting brand new art supplies. But if I get distracted, I won't use up the ones I have.
So, I told myself that if I filled up the sketchbook I started with (which I pulled out of a drawer), I could buy a nice new one.
Knowing I only have 20, 10, or 5 pages to go has kept me filling them up more quickly than I probably would otherwise.
6. Embrace your interest in other art styles
Remember that this is just "a" style you're working in. It doesn't have to be "your" end-all-be-all style that totally defines you.
As you're developing a style for one type of work, it may help to keep up another, more exploratory project on the side.
Enjoying completely different creative outlets and their own styles can help you remember that one type of work can't define you.
What I did:
I keep plenty of other sketchbooks and scratch pads on hand for whenever I want to try something different that doesn't fit in my art journal.
It's nice to be able to keep up some consistency with my main project, knowing I can get messy and experiment separately without veering off track.
Beyond the pages of my sketchbook, I'm also working on sewing and writing projects – and making style discoveries along the way with those, too.
At the end of the day, creative play and discovery are what it's all about. Now that's my style!