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How to Find Your Artistic Style

How to find your artistic style

Your world view and how you express it is your style. We edit out so many things subconsciously and make choices on what to and what not to create. What do you choose to create when you can choose? What moves you?


All artists secretly long for an artistic style so different and unique from others they will be unmistakable. When I was in college, having an artistic style was a big source of anxiety. What if my work just looked like everyone else? How would I be different when we were all learning to do the same things? 


When you push yourself to experiment and grow every day, you will build your artistic style organically over time.

Parents know this anticipation as babies grow. What will their personalities be like? They are revealed slowly, day by day. Every interaction, every step, every person they meet and experience babies have reinforces or helps develop their personalities and attributes.

Our creative style is built the same way. Sure, you can learn by copying the style of other artists. At some point though you need to let go and stand on your own feet. You will take the training wheels off and notice you are creating work that is your own. That doesn’t mean you aren’t creating a visual commentary on others you have studied or seen. It is hard to create anything that does not reference something else. Art and creativity in all disciplines is both a response to the past and a bridge to the future.


There is no shortcut to finding your artistic style.

Yes you could make a conscious choice to use certain tools or create an extreme niche. It is human nature though to change and grow. To not grow is to stagnate. This sounds wrong. What about famous artists like Matisse and Van Gogh? Their work is so recognizable and iconic. If you take a closer look and study them, and in particular study more modern artists such as Picasso and Dali, you will find that even though they became famous for a small number of iconic works, their actual creative style evolved and changed over time.

As you continue to draw and paint, you will develop your style organically. The choices you make in line work, color palette, subject matter, symbols, shapes and medium all are part of what makes up your style.


Four Ways to Nurture and Develop Your Artistic Style

  1. Learn the basic techniques of your chosen medium. Go beyond the steps and find out why. By knowing WHY these techniques are used, you can make a informed decision on when to use them and build on them to make your own.
  2. Technique choices affect more than the work itself. It affects people’s perception. Their emotion. Does it look the same up close or at a distance? Are the colors jarring? Are shapes distinct far away and blobs up close? Do you use perspective or do you deliberately distort features or objects?
  3. Study artists and other creatives you admire and explore their techniques. Matisse, Monet. Van Gogh, Titian. Tindell. Many artists were making statements with their work. They were expressing emotions, their world view, frustrations, pushing perceptions. All this because of the choices they made.
  4. Start creating. Just start and create. Pick a skill or technique or subject and create. It is only by creating that you will develop your style. It won’t happen while day dreaming or binge watching shows.


How will you know when you have a unique artistic style? You might not be the first to know! As a young artist, it was my line work in pencil and pen that was first noticed by a teacher as being an artistic style. What is great about starting with pencils and pens is you already have been taught to write as a child. When you write in cursive the hand writing is uniquely yours. The same will be true for your pencil and pen drawings after you have been practicing for a while.

We get a lot of pressure as artists to have a specific style. As an artist’s skill and experience grows, it becomes less about subject matter and more about how they see the world. It saturates everything they make. 


Get out there and create.

If you start to worry about if you have a style or not, go do something that will get you out of your own head. Try a new tool. Limit your color palette. Listen to different music. The more you can focus on creating, the quicker and more concretely you will develop your artistic style.


What is your biggest struggle when it comes to finding your artistic style?


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100 Days In Review

I spent 100 days this spring drawing every day and posting it to instagram. Some were awful, most of them were OK, and a few were awesome. A lot of people I talked to during the project kept telling me they thought the hard part was doing something every day. It wasn’t easy and sometimes I did not do very good work.  The really tough part was posting at all.

I was exposing myself as a creative every day.

a sketch of a letter M that looks like the structure used for the mars lander. One of the feet looks like a capsule and the other leg looks like the panels from the ship.

There are amazing creatives posting on instagram every day, sometimes multiple times a day. And there was me.

I was surprised to find a lot of support for me even when I thought a post was crappy.

Here is a list of good things that happened from the 100 Days project

  • Committing to  posting every day
  • Documenting different problems I ran into trying to use my iPad and drawing tools
  • A catalog of discoveries
  • I experimented with different ways to create
  • Strength in vulnerability
  • I discovered a range of colors, tools, and methods I really enjoyed using
  • New friends and connections from posting and chatting
  • Some of the problems or ideas I had about improving different tools were addressed in later updates or patches

If you’ve been unsure about trying a 100 days project, it’s worth a try.

Here are some ideas:

  • 100 days of finding information on a specific topic or trend and posting about it on a social media platform – be a curator of a topic
  • 100 days of meeting someone new by helping others
  • 100 days of thank you notes (these could be posted online or mailed)
  • 100 days of volunteering at local schools or with youth programs
  • 100 days of creating in a different media than you are used to.

I hope you found this peek into my 100 days helpful. If you have any questions, you can reach out to me via twitter (@leej) or instagram (@leesuzannej) or email.

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Sketch to Finished Graphics in a Day

case study sketch

I had a problem a lot of designers face. I spend so much time designing other people’s web sites and assorted miscellany that things like the design of my own site tend to fall to the wayside. I had a long weekend ahead of me and a fire in my belly after seeing some of the amazing designs of other people. It was time to take action.

It began with a clean up of the overall layout and template of the site, but I was still lacking an awesome hero header for my home page. After some time spent thinking about what I do and what it means, I was ready to start concepting and sketching.

The full case study is available in the new case study section of this site.

You can see the end result on the home page of the site.

Pretty cool huh?

What frustrates you most about designing graphics like this? Do you get stuck in the concepting phase? Do you start at the computer and spend precious minutes or hours staring at the screen?