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Many artists have heard the following phrase “Come back when you have found your niche.” The demoralising words can leave many feeling incapable, inferior and unprofessional, and it can be discouraging to creators who are dabbling between aesthetics, methods and mediums in their work. Owning a recognisable and consistent art style seems to be the shared trait of successful artists and photographers. Whether it is a unique and fine-tuned Photoshop preset, a consistent set of colour swatches, or a trademark portrait style, successful artists seem to have their ‘look’ figured out.
There is no rule of thumb when it comes to honing a style. Every artist has a unique process, is inspired by different things, and likes different looks. Some artists develop a successful and recognisable style that sticks within months, and others hone a style slowly over the years. Finding your look is a unique process so try not to be disheartened and compare yourself to other creators. Whilst there is no set formula to develop your own unique and recognizable style, there are some steps that you can take to help you on your journey of discovery.
Remember, creativity is fuelled by experimentation, so do not limit yourself too early into your artistic career by strictly creating in one style or medium. This can, in fact, stifle your enthusiasm, which is essential to create one of a kind pieces that speak to an interested audience. Most artists would agree that creating every single day helps to keep you practised and consistent when developing style.
All of the experimentation and study will be infused into the knowledge that you take forward as a more developed artist. Set aside half an hour a day to doodle, paint, or photograph something. The more you create, the more things you will discover about what you like and dislike, and those factors will help to birth your eventual perfect style.
All artists need to draw inspiration from somewhere, whether it is scrolling Instagram or taking a walk out in nature. For example, Clara Selina Bach believes that the access to other artists’ work and the ability to draw inspiration from them helps her “take her work seriously and to believe in herself”, celebrating the worldwide connections made possible by social media and technology.
There is nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from someone else’s style, as long as you do not plagiarise their work. It is more than likely that their style was developed by someone else with a similar aesthetic, so study, study artists that you love, pay attention to their colour schemes, use of negative space, lighting and character, and infuse those things into your work.
Discover Your Message
One of the most important things to discover in your artistic process is what you are trying to say. Is your art political or is it escapism from the world’s darkness? Does it want to shock, delight, or tantalise? Is your style dark and moody, or bold, bright, and fresh? Is it juvenile, playful, and childish, or sensual, provocative, and erotic?
Andrea Kowch states that her work aims to “create a subtle tension, for viewers to attribute their personal experience”, which is why her haunting visuals are so successful in presenting a mood to its audience. Brent Estabrook aims “to bring people back to their childhood and evoke a sense of play. We are great at playing and having fun as kids but we tend to forget how to do this later in life… we all tend to run around a bit too serious.” The presence of this aim is why he focuses on bright, playful and unapologetic visuals and knows how to present them.
Whether you are at the start of your artistic journey, or many years in, do not force a style that does not feel natural to you. Only time, practice, and dedication to your craft will produce a visual that you can proudly call your own. Remember, if you sink into a style that does not fully represent you, it is easy to get ‘trapped’ with it, which can further stifle your creative expression as an artist. So keep creating until you are happy with something that is truly you!
Article written by Kate Smith