Updated: Jan 6, 2021
*disclaimer: I am a self taught artist that loves to ramble and has absolutely no authority to tell you what to do. Butttt I have learnt a thing or two over my journey, so, if your interested in seeing how someone has turned their passion into their job then follow along!
This is a question a lot of new artists find themselves asking, a lot of establish artists may also find they ask themselves how to re invent their style or completely flip it on its head, I myself asked this question a lot over the years....
So, I'm going to share with you what I've learnt about finding my own style and squashing some myths in the process.
Here are 5 things I've learnt along my journey;
1. Copy but don't be a copy cat
When you start out, chances are you will be influenced by other peoples work. Like how at art school you study the masters (at least I think this is what happens at art school :S) when you're self taught and learning you are exposed to lots of different styles, you watch YouTube videos to learn, or copy art from a favourite artist as practice. This is completely normal and actually important when learning a new skill, being heavily inspired by another artists work is totally ok. It's when your work looks more or less like a replica, then you start selling it for a lot less thats when things get a bit icky.
Make way for a confession: This actually happened to me early in my career, I was creating abstract fluid work and LOVING it, a family friend asked me to create something and showed me a picture of someone else's work for the colour palette, I happily quoted them and moved forward creating the piece. I loved the end result and it was not similar at all to the image except the colours because I have no idea how that artist created that work, but I sure did try. Turns out the picture was from a well known artist in the area, I completely undercut her and her work and felt extremely guilty about it afterwards. Lesson definitely learned. I'm telling you its definitely not worth the guilt to copy someone else work, why would you want to anyway? Isn't the joy of being an artist having a unique voice of your own? Just don't do it. Trust me.
Copying to learn is ok. Copying to make a quick buck, not ok.
2. Finding Your Own Style really is Finding You
So, in order to find your own style of creativeness, you need to discover more about yourself. Yep, your artistic journey really is a journey of self discovery.....To find your own unique voice in the art world you need to tap into what is unique about you. What do you love to do? What turns you on? Lights you up? Makes you tingle? What experiences have you had in your life that has shaped who you are today? What was your childhood like? What has made a significant impact on your life? What things do you struggle with? What is the thing about yourself that makes you uncomfortable... that perhaps you hide away? Maybe thats just the thing you need to explore more.....
Let me give you an example.
I LOVE travelling. I love to visit new places, I feel amazing out in nature looking at beautiful scenes, hiking to the top of a mountain, listening to the ocean. I love the outdoors so much that when I come back to the studio and recreate these scenes I get the exact same excitement and energy as I do when I'm exploring. I also like to problem solve, give me a problem and I'll be looking at all different ways to solve the hell out it. So, the work I love doing the most is combining a fluid pour (pouring paint directly on canvas) with realism. The fluid pour is unpredictable and creates unique textures and patterns like I see in the landscape everywhere, then the problem solving kicks in when I use my realism skills to bring the painting into a more realistic, identifiable picture. Making the details and textures very unique but the scene being obvious as to what you're looking at. Ta da! That is my style (currently anyway) and I am so inspired by painting this way it brings me a lot of joy, and creates my best work because of this.
3. The KEY to finding your unique voice is to find the things you are passionate about.
Do you devour information about animal rights? about surfing? about toy cars? Do you love to cook? to paint? to sew? to build? to talk? to sing? to play music? to play video games? find things that when you discover them you just know you will live your whole life doing this thing, then if you can combine 2 of those things to create a unique view on the world then shabam! You've found your thing.
For me: Exploring and Painting
4. There are many facets of 'Your Style'
Specifically finding your style could mean a few things. A style could be a subject matter, a colour palette, a technique of putting paint on canvas, a different way of singing or of story telling. The ultimate goal is for someone to see your work and immediately say 'That's one of Nic Everist's pieces' because of a characteristic that demonstrates that. The truth is you have to play and try lots of different things until you find one that your obsessed with, then try to tweek it so you can truly make that technique yours! Throughout your life you are likely to change and move through different things you are passionate about, and thats totally ok. We are artists, we don't have to stick to one subject matter to be successful, even in this high technology world where having a good looking Instagram can seem like the bees knees, its more important in your practice to follow your gut and create what feels right. If you're hoping to run a business then thats when you may have to edit what you're putting out in the world to create consistency, but social media is a whole other kettle of fish I'll explore in a different blog post.
You've found your style when you love the act of creating that thing so much that the end result i.e. if it gets into that competition, that gallery, if it sells... is secondary, because the joy you get from creating that thing is addictive and worthwhile in itself.
"Do it for the process" - magnificently captioned by artist Emily Jeffords
Yep. Time. Probably the most important ingredient to finding your style and a necessary ingredient. I know when you start your artistic career, when you've made that decision to leave your high profile job to follow your passions, I know you want to jump right in and know exactly what your view on the world is, know exactly what your going to produce, the exact audience of people that are going to love it, butttt that's not how it works. Well, on occasion someone might fluke being in the right place at the right time, but if you're holding out for that one in a million, your probably never going to create that dream career you're thinking of.
Finding your niche is a process that takes time.... Not to say you shouldn't be putting yourself out there while you're discovering your niche, you'll learn a lot of things while your in the discovery stage; while you're figuring your vibe. You can do a lot of 'righting on stage', what Andy J Pizza describes as creating work, putting it out to the world and getting feedback. Comedians do this immediately when they are on stage, if a joke doesn't land they go in a different direction, they already have the work ready they just read the audience to see what they are down for. There is a conception in the art world (at least that I have seen/read about) that you can't change your vision to suit your audience because then you're not being authentic. I disagree with this. I think if you can be comfortable with who you are and what you want to portray than collaborating with the audience is smart a.f. They are the people that are hearing your message, are connecting with your work, so when you produce something that hits the right button, I think it sounds crazy to then turn around and say, 'Oh that really hit a nerve for you, you get my message? Great, I will produce work nothing like this in the future....''
See below for some examples of my change in style over the years.
In saying all this, I think a lot of finding your style means finding out about the type of artist you want to be. Do you want to stir the pot and be heavily political with your work? Is your work representing a cause close to your heart? Are you an artist that dream goal is to hang paintings in peoples houses that bring joy and happiness? Or maybe an artist that combines the 2, sending a meaningful message whilst also creating work that brings joy. There are so many different career choices of an artist that is too much to cover in one post, but the key points are;
Copy but Don't be a Copy Cat. Start creating. Just start. Anywhere that peaks your interest, watch videos, practice, play.
Finding Your Own Style really is Finding You. Do some reflective practice and find out what really tickles your fancy and gets your creative juices flowing. Maybe it's nothing yet and you need to try a heap of things to find what this is.
The KEY to finding your unique voice is to find the things you are passionate about. Find your medium. What is it you love to do, sing, dance, paint, paper mache, whatever it is, find the how of what you do.
There are many facets of 'Your Style'. Find a point of difference of your work, don't be cooky cutter, find your uniqueness.
TIME. Give yourself TIME. Allow yourself time to play and discover. Your style is likely to change over time too along with you, as you change and learn new things this is likely to impact your work. Don't get stuck in one style if it stops serving you, move on.
I hope this helps you guys take those steps into turning your passion into your career!
I'd love to know what tips and tricks you have for Finding Your Own Style and what has worked for you!
Above all, stay creative and have fun!