Yesterday, Carrie of Artist Think emailed me about finding your style through consistent creative practice. I love when you guys email me with questions that really make me think. This one was a "duh"/"aha" moment for me. "Duh" not because it's an easy question but because I should have been blogging about this all year long. Finding my style IS my main goal for the year. "Aha" because while I have written about it a little before (here and here), I think this needs to be an ongoing series.
First I thought I should know a little more about what "style" is. I mean, I think I know but I should be more sure about it. So I googled it. I thought this post explained it well.
In her book Living With Art, Rita Gilbert writes that “style is a characteristic or group of characteristics that we can identify as constant, recurring, or coherent.” She goes on to say, “Artistic style is the sum of constant, recurring or coherent traits identified with a certain individual or group.”
Your style is a combination of the mediums, technique, and subject matter you choose.
As usual I'm not going to pretend I have all (or any) of the answers. I'm just going to share what I'm doing and what I'm learning. My goal this year is to find my style. To be more specific, I'm interested in consistently making paintings that I think are good and in a style that feels like me while enjoying the process.
As I evaluate my paintings the most important questions for me are:
- Which ones do I like?
- Did I enjoy painting it?
It's not about which ones have sold. Or which ones do SO-and-SO like? Or which ones have the most likes? Those feel important at times but they aren't really. I need to stay focused on my goal.
I started where I feel like I've been successful. I'm feeling like I've found my style with my Fursday paintings. I put together this grouping which I think represents my style. Mia is in the top left. I remember being pretty excited when I finished her because I knew this was the direction I wanted to take my work. She was the first one that felt right. Since then, I've changed a little but kept the things that I liked:
- flat areas of color
- a mix of expected + unexpected color
- simple shapes and broad lines
- graphic look
- similar pose and composition
A few other things I've noted:
- I've painted 21 Fursday paintings so far.
- Mia was my 11th painting and I immediately knew that was the direction I wanted to go.
- Of the 10 paintings I've painted since Mia, three of them veered away from this style.
- I started to find my style after I switched from acrylic to gouache.
- Recently I noticed that I usually liked the paintings of black/gray dogs better than brown/tan dogs and that got me playing with even bolder colors.
I think it has really helped to have one subject to consistently focus on. For it to be weekly definitely helps with my short attention span. I think if I'd tried to paint only dogs this year, I'd be sick of them. I haven't been as successful applying this style to other subjects but I also haven't tried to do it much. I'm really interested in bringing this to some abstract pieces and to other media but I haven't figured out how that works for me just yet.
I think I'll leave it at that for today. I think I could do a similar analysis with my landscapes and my abstracts, my watercolors and my oils. And then later on, I'd love to get them all together and find the style of my work as a whole. In the meantime, I'll keep painting. :)