As an artist, it is very important to know how to find your art style that defines your personal method or technique in art. This style resonates with your identity as an artist and as an individual, allowing your audience to know you and recognise your work. It is your voice; your personal visual language that you will use to communicate your stories to the world.
Your artistic style is defined by how you portray your subject matter — distinguishing you from other artists and weaving your identity as your own.
The Creative Cycle
In this article, we will introduce you to the concept of Creative Cycle — the framework from where we will base the whole creative flow on how to find your style, specifically for artists and creatives. Personally developed by me (@ardak_zenart), I based it on the successful business model of Roger Hamilton, changing and adapting it according to my own work-flow – as it is specifically made for artists and creatives. This would be a visual blueprint for understanding yourself, planning your goals, and eventually reviewing what you have accomplished over time. It includes a complete cycle which you can always refer to, whatever stage you are in your creative journey. It is ever-evolving, helping you re-focus, innovate, and create.
Knowing how to find your art style is a journey to self-discovery. So sit down, get your journal, and write down everything that comes to your mind as we discuss the different points in this article. Practising the art of journaling not only retains useful information, but also helps you become more focused and organized on working towards your goals.
In your bullet journal, you can create a whole section for this guide which you can index and refer to each time you need it, or use the indexed pages for easy navigation. It will serve as a mind-map for you in your everyday creation. Keep it visible and review it when you feel you need to. The process on how to find your art style just actually takes mulling over what is already inside you, and putting order and label to it. But first, you have to ask yourself some questions.
WHY are you creating art?
Art is a force driven by passion, by purpose, and by reason. In your art career, there will be days when you will run low on passion and experience self-doubt, but you must remember why you are doing what you are doing to get through it. That is why when starting out, it is very important to have a clearly defined reason why you are making art. This reason will be your purpose, your North star — guiding you in your everyday cause to create.
You must ask yourself: Why are you creating art? Do you feel the urge that springs from the inside to just create? Does art-making help you heal and process your emotions? Or are you doing it as a hobby, because it makes you feel relaxed and calm inside? Whatever your reason is, it is valid!
As you go along and discover how to find your art style, you get to know more about yourself in the process. You discover which art techniques you like or don’t like, which medium you like working with and don’t feel comfortable using, which art styles speak more to who you are, etc. As you define this, you ultimately define who you are as an artist as well.
People are more likely to associate the artist with his work when there’s a defined artistic style, and this factor contributes to the success of your art career. It is easier to market your work both online and offline, and can open up opportunities that will pave your way to your desired career path.
Finding Your Own Art Style
“The manifesto is this: Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use—do the work you want to see done.”
― Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
In Austin Kleone’s groundbreaking book ‘Steal Like An Artist!’ – he discusses ten very important points that artists should remember when they are grappling with their artistic identity and feel too paralyzed to begin work – “Be nice. The world is a small town” or “Be boring. It’s the only way to get the work done”, just to name a few. Almost every artist feels this way at the beginning of his journey, so if you are experiencing self-doubt on how to find your art style in any way, know that you are not alone. It is an inevitable challenge that all artists have to overcome.
WHAT types of work do you like? (Genre, subject, fantasy, etc.)
There is a seemingly infinite variety of styles to choose from, but we all have our personal preferences when it comes to which types of artworks we like.
What is your preferred medium? Do you like sketches, paintings, or sculptures? And when you look at subject matters — do you like landscapes, portraits, still-life, or abstract works? There is no rule or one way to go about this! The best thing about how to find your art style is learning that you are ultimately free to choose and practice what your heart desires. After all, that is what art is about: Doing what you love.
“I choose subjects in different ways. Sometimes it is just something that comes from the heart. Or often I decide what subject to paint while walking. I see something in a shop window or a park… In general, it is always very unpredictable and depends on my mood. Usually, I keep an idea in my head for weeks, and then I paint it. But, whatever I paint, I try to make a pretty picture and create a contrast in it. It is essential. I always experiment, and in the flow, I can change the original concept. Probably the most important thing for me is that the topic and techniques that I choose resonate with me and my soul. Yes, I think this is the most important thing.”
In this part, you have to find your personal reason. Ask yourself: Why you are drawn to those things, to those places, and to those memories? Are you hanging on to something you are fond of from before? Why do you like fantasy? Is it because you like re-imagining worlds different from our own?
Whatever you decide to paint, let it be your own choice, and be sure to give your personal style full reign over it.
WHAT are you are interested in? (Topics, photography, colour schemes, etc.)
Personal interests, or the things that we are inevitably drawn to, are clues which will help you on how to find your art style. Anything that captures your fascination – whether it is a certain subject matter, a style of photography, or a preference of colour scheme: there is always a reason behind that interest; it is our job as artists to figure out those reasons. Again, write them down in your journal.
Maybe you are drawn to bluish tones and cool palettes because they give you a sense of peace and wonder; or you love using deep red hues in your compositions because you are subconsciously conveying messages of passion, and red increases the passionate feelings and beliefs in us. You might be using a lot of yellow hues but is unaware that in the meaning of colours, the yellow colour palette is associated with light, knowledge (remember the famous light bulb?), and flourishing of life. Researching these colour preferences and discovering their history and symbolism will help you a lot in brewing those ideas! You can read up more about the colour red here, and the colour yellow here. Pay close attention to which things your eyes are automatically drawn to. They revolve around your artistic style.
WHO are your artistic influences? (Artists, sources)
Take a look at some of the artists you like, or movements in art history that have inspired you.
What are their works about? Where do they find inspiration from? What is their preferred subject matter and/or medium? Do they have a particular story to tell?
Research on the lives and works of these artists you admire, and you might even find more inspiration in their personal matters – if you dig deep enough! Emulate these artists. Study their concepts and techniques. Begin from their ideas, and do your own representation of them. This is one way of learning how to find your art style.
In his book, Kleon states how originality is not about doing what’s never been done, but rather it is about the unique way in which each individual gives expression to his or her artistic influences. An artist has to remember this: Nothing is truly unique in this world. Everything is a combination of all the influences around us. The trick is how to find your art style; learning your own approach.
How Long Does It Take To Find Your Own Style?
Finding and developing your artistic style does not have a dead-end, but rather it is a process that continually evolves with each day that you practice. As you become more aware of your style and experience life as it is, you will gain more topics to talk about in your art, as well as get the chance to explore other types of techniques. This is why constant research, journaling, and taking notes of your art ideas should be a common practice for all artists when learning how to find your art style, and more so after that. It is where artistic growth comes into play.
Trust and enjoy the process
As you create every day, you will dabble on many different techniques that work for you, and discover how to find inspiration for art. What medium do you work best with? What gives you inspiration? Which sketchbook ideas spark your creativity? No two artists are the same! Knowing the answer to these questions will not only help you discover your artistic identity, but allow you to broaden your horizons as well. A good practice of artists who have built the habit of constant sketching is bringing a visual diary wherever they go. Ideally, you will bring this out each time a random creative thought enters your mind. It can be while you’re inside the train, when listening to music in the park, or even before you go to bed. It must be handy, sturdy, and since you’ll be needing a lot of this — choose a brand that’s affordable and sustainable! Your visual diary can be a point of reference when brainstorming on how to find inspiration for art-making. Each of our thoughts is unique and special, so do not let them be forgotten! Immortalize your ideas with a simple scribble on your visual diary, which you can learn more about here.
WHERE can I find my space to create, and WHEN?
Personal space when creating art is very sacred, too. It is important that you feel comfortable and get the creative juices flowing, especially when you are just beginning to learn how to find your art style. You have three choices: Do your work indoors, spend your time outdoors, or do a combination of both! All three choices have their own pros and cons but whichever way you choose, they can all give you exceptional results. Experiment with all three and see which one works best for you.
Some people prefer the peace they find in a quiet studio, which allows them to focus more on their work. They are alone with their thoughts and the fullness of their creativity. Inside the studio, their time is not limited and they can do whatever it is that they want without worrying about other people. When painting indoors, artists usually use painting references of images they want to create. While working indoors can be quiet and peaceful, it can also become a bit monotonous at times.
Working on a colour wheel in her studio with a combination of my ZenART’s oil paint collections
A lot of artists love painting en-plein-air too, and for a very good reason! With the outdoors, you can truly feel the world around you and experience the beauty of nature first-hand. When learning how to find your art style, painting outdoors can be very inspiring, especially when painting landscapes, still life, and animals.
“I paint landscapes in order to convey my awe of the natural world, and I focus on places of significance to me. I grew up in a number of states in the U.S., and also abroad in the UK. Consequently, the place became an element to which I attach memories and feelings. When I’m out in the landscape I am responding directly to my subject as quickly as I’m able. It’s more of a spiritual experience than painting in the studio because I’m immersed in my subject and am utilizing multiple senses simultaneously. There’s so much information in front of me, and I feel a sense of urgency to document my environment before the light shifts significantly. It’s a wonderful experience.”
A painting by the sea by Whitney Knapp Bowditch (@whitneyknappbowditch), Block Island, Washington
The third, and we must say — most practical way to create! Go for inspiration outdoors and allow yourself to be present at the moment. Take quick sketches, and be mesmerized by the beauty of nature. Put down notes on your experience and how it made you feel. You can then develop these sketches inside your own studio, creating large scale paintings that will include your personal style renditions.
HOW do I practice this?
Practising your art needs to be a habit worked on every day, and built over time! Do not hesitate to explore your art. Try out different mediums to find out which one works best for you, and also to broaden your ability, technique-wise. There are many mediums available to choose from: You can create sketches using pencil, pen, pastels or inks, and paint with watercolours, gouache, acrylics, and oils.
They say that an artist’s brush must be an extension of his arm. Your painting tools are of utmost importance, as it can make or break your work. Pay attention to them. Try out different types of brushes and palette knives, and see which ones naturally flow with your artistic rhythm. You need to ensure that the length of your brushes are just right and give you enough space to play around, and its bristles are great for both colouring and detailing purposes. An excellent example of an all-around brush is ZenART’s Cat’s Tongue watercolour brush from the Black Tulip Collection, which is a favourite tool by a lot of artists! As you learn how to find your art style, educate yourself through reading about the different properties and uses of watercolour brushes in this article. Play with your technique. Challenge yourself. Don’t be afraid, for accidents and failures are where genius ideas are born.
Keeping At It
Hard work beats talent any day. When you experience lack of motivation and drive, go back to your purpose, to your true North — that we discussed in the first point of this article. Your purpose will help you navigate the direction towards where you’re headed during the times you feel lost.
Find your tribe
Throughout your journey on how to find your art style, you will need like-minded people who will encourage you and motivate you to keep working towards your goal. A good online community is a safe place to find knowledge, share your art, and make friends with other artists you can connect with. In return, you can also give them inspiration and encouragement when they most need it. Engaging with them everyday will help your mind stay active with ideas, even on your down days. At ZenART, we have an online community on Facebook where we share daily painting inspirations, techniques, art ideas, memes, and engage with our artist friends! Our community members safely connect with each other and talk about everything art-related! We also have a Follow Friday initiative, where we encourage our members to introduce other artists whose works we can all follow. This is to make sure that we reach out to more artists and include them in our mission.
Find your personal message, the underlying magic, the secret sauce
In history, a lot of successful women artists stood their ground and used their art to fight for their cause. Frida Kahlo created beautiful art to escape the harsh realities of her life, and Mary Cassatt jumped on the movement of Impressionism, even if she was the first woman artist to do so, because she believed in it.
Two different versions of Frida Kahlo, Rachel Christopoulos (@rachelsshoppe.co), Milwaukee, Wisconsin
We all have our own stories to tell. At the end of the day, the things you develop as you learn how to find your art style is not just about the aesthetic or visual value of your work, but more importantly — it’s about the underlying message that you want to tell the world. Look deep inside you and ask yourself, “What do I want to share today?” and allow that to manifest in your works. This is the ultimate secret, the thing that will make your art unique and set you apart from the rest.
So, did you fill up your paper with answers and ideas? I hope that this article helped you begin your journey on how to find your art style. Allow yourself some time to process your thoughts, and once you have an idea of what to do, do not let it escape from you — get to work right away! 🙂 I am so excited to see how your art will develop! Please let me know how the Creative Flow process helped you in this journey, and share your mind-map with us on Instagram at #zenartsupplies.
In our next article, I will tackle the topic of selling your artworks like a pro. I will guide you on how to plan your artworks, do your online and offline marketing, price your works accordingly, and everything else you might want to know about this process. So stay tuned, and see you in my next article!
— MEET THE AUTHOR —
Ardak Kassenova is mother, artist and ZenART Supplies co-founder. “My heart and soul were always with Art, and since my childhood as long as I remember myself, I was dreaming to be an artist. I was painting after work, when I had time, and teaching myself through the books, videos, visiting art galleries and museums. I’ve been very curious about different techniques and styles, and therefore accumulated knowledge and experience on a variety of mediums”.
After 20 years of a successful corporate career and with becoming a mother to two wonderful girls, she decided that it’s time to make drastic changes and link her life with Art. She started to paint again and decided to create her own art supplies brand that would help artists to fulfil their creative dreams and achieve their best results since the beginning using high-quality art materials without wasting their precious time and money. Say hello to @ardak_zenart on Instagram!