I know, I know. Finding your art style can be the hardest thing e-v-a-h! I get it!
I’ve been creating art for many moons now (yup, I’ve hit the half-century mark), and let me tell you — I’ve changed art styles more times than I can count:
As artists, we often develop a complex that we NEED to pick a certain art style. As if we’re not to be taken seriously unless we have a certain “look” about all our art.
First of all, I’d like to demystify the fact that we MUST have a ceratin art style. Yes, if you want to create an illustration brand, then you will need to focus on one art style. But don’t be mistaken, there is nothing in the rule book that says you have to pick just one style as an artist. I share more about that here.
In fact, you can run a very successful art business using multiple different styles!
PRO TIP: that is exactly how I operate my own art business — I illustrate in different styles for different clients!
And I don’t know about you, but I get suuuuper bored if I create in the same style all the time. Like, just take a peak at my portfolio to see how varied I like to get! And if you really want to get nostalgic, I’ve got some vintage artwork on Art.com from over 20 years of archives that are still selling!
So if you’re worried that you need to find your personal art style ASAP, you don’t. However, if you’re curious about developing a style as your illustration brand (while reserving your other styles for yourself or clients), there are a few steps you can take to develop a style you really love:
Research, Research, Research
Another way to put it: stalk, stalk, stalk!
Essentially, you’ll want to do some digging and find existing art out in the world that inspires you! Scroll on Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, or head to your local art museum to find artists/photographers/creatives that light that creative spark in you.
Once you find a few artists who really speak to you, ask yourself:
- What is it about their visuals that I like?
- What colors am I drawn to?
- What themes do I like to see?
- What stories do I like to see emulated in the art styles?
Start looking at your favorite artists with a critical eye and take note of their styles, mediums, and themes.
Make a List
Now’s your time to put all the visuals together! This is where you can create your own “art style inspiration” (aka, mood board).
Start writing down all of the words and phrases that best describe the moods and styles of the artwork you like.
Are you drawn to happy and playful? Or dark and sultry? Are you a pastel-kinda-gal or do you love the earth-tone vibes? Is there a certain theme you love, such as travel, plants, or animals?
Write out your list and attach images to each descriptive word or phrase that most inspires you. You can do this by just printing them out or creating a digital mood board.
This is your chance to create a big brand dump — get all your thoughts and ideas out of your head and onto paper (or the computer!).
Check It Twice
Now for the cleanup phase:
In the previous step, the most important part was to write down and include ANYTHING that inspired you.
But now we need to create some structure to your brain dump so we can curate your personal art style.
I suggest focusing on nailing down the mood and movement of the lines in the art you like before focusing on your themes. That’s right! The travel, food, or fluffy dog art you’re getting inspired to create, put all that on the backburner until you’ve nailed down your style. Think of those themes as “collections”. You can create all of the collections you’d like, but first you need to pick your style (more on collections right here).
To pick your style, consider:
- Do you gravitate towards looser, abstract, or simple lines?
- Do you like the detail of photorealistic art?
- Do you like the look of light washes of paint or colored pencil?
- Do you prefer the heaviness of thick paints and plasters?
Create a new list of all the style characteristics that best describe the mood and movement of your art style brain dump.
This final phase of finding your art style is the most fun: experimentation!
Now that you have a style in mind (light, soft whimsical lines or heavy painted brush strokes?), the next step is to start playing with different art mediums to create the look you want.
Maybe it’s acrylics, gouache, watercolor, or colored pencils? Maybe you’re working in collage with fibers, washi tape, foils, or ceramics?
Whatever your medium, you now have a direction for which style you’d like to pursue. You can pick any theme to start with, but keep in mind that your goal is to experiment with your style until you get it to the point you’re most happy with.
I always think the concept phase of any project – let’s call “Finding Your Art Style” a project – takes as much time as creating the actual art. So don’t underestimate the time involved in selecting your art style! There’s no need to rush it.
And remember: by no means do you want to copy another artist’s work. You may be completely enamored with their creations, but the point of this exercise is to find your own style. Make sure to allow space for your own creative voice to shine through.
And guess what? Letting your own voice shine through is exactly what will set you apart. No one wants to see a copycat, so be your own special art diva and create something uniquely you!