How to find your art style
Artists obsess over artistic style. We worry we don’t have a style, or we worry that our style isn’t marketable, or sometimes we don’t even like our own style. Style is a nagging itch that we can’t seem to scratch. I see the conversations on social media constantly. Some say it’s great to have a recognizable style, others say it’s great to not have a style and be adaptable. Artists as a collective seem to agree about one thing though: style comes naturally.
My response to that was why? I’m not disagreeing, but it made me crazy thinking that we all agreed on this conclusion without a logical explanation. How do we blossom into our own unique and identifiable styles? What’s the psychology behind it?
Then I found the book that gave me the answers. The Romantic Manifesto by Ayn Rand. Here’s an excerpt of this amazing book:
“Predominantly (though not exclusively), a man whose normal mental state is a state of full focus, will create and respond to a style of radiant clarity and ruthless precision—a style that projects sharp outlines, cleanliness, purpose, an intransigent commitment to full awareness and clear-cut identity—a level of awareness appropriate to a universe where A is A, where everything is open to man’s consciousness and demands its constant functioning.
A man who is moved by the fog of his feelings and spends most of his time out of focus will create and respond to a style of blurred, “mysterious” murk, where outlines dissolve and entities flow into one another, where words connote anything and denote nothing, where colors float without objects, and objects float without weight—a level of awareness appropriate to a universe where A can be any non-A one chooses, where nothing can be known with certainty and nothing much is demanded of one’s consciousness.”
Our mental state determines our style—it seems so deceptively simple. Why hadn’t I thought of that? It makes perfect sense.
Use me as an example. I’ve always gravitated towards realism. Ever since I started drawing in earnest I have been fixated on rendering to the 100th degree. I draw every last detail and texture on a face while also making it as anatomically accurate as possible.
Realism is precise, purposeful, focused, clear-cut, and functional. It is exactly as it is, governed by the concrete rules of reality, with no room to debate its existence or meaning. That’s a definition of me if I’ve ever seen one. I’m an INTJ, an analytical problem-solver. I prefer logic over emotions. I have a compulsion to understand everything and how it functions. Part of the reason I stuck with art for so long is that I needed to understand how it works… from color theory, to perspective, to lighting, etc. Art is a huge playground of logical & replicable rules, problem-solving, and it’s a never-ending expanse of knowledge. It’s every INTJ’s dream. (Which seems backwards…someone like me surely shouldn’t be in art, right? Art is supposed to be about feelings and abstraction and meaning. At least, that’s what pop culture wants you to believe. But that’s a whole different topic I could go on about.)
I subconsciously chose the style of realism because it’s a projection of my own consciousness. I shouldn’t even say “chose" because I didn’t have a choice. Realism is who I am.
So yes, the hive mind was right: style does come naturally. But it’s not something you can change. It’s tied to your metaphysical self. You would need to fundamentally change yourself and your brain functions to change your artistic style (which I’m not even sure is possible?). That may sound defeating, especially if you’re not a fan of your own style. I’ve been guilty of hating my own style in the past. I’ve tried different styles to be more like someone else I admired—but it’s mentally exhausting to put your brain in a place it doesn’t feel at home. I could never hold the facade for long. I always slipped back into my natural preference which is realism.
If you’re worried you don’t have a style: You do. Your current body of work may not reflect it, but where does your brain feel most at home? That’s where your style is.
If you’re worried your style isn’t marketable or enjoyable: You are totally marketable and enjoyable. Believe in yourself because your style is at its very core, well, YOU. You are worthy. The sooner you know that, the sooner everyone else will see it too.
If you don’t like your style: Remember that comparison is the thief of joy. Remember that you are unique. You’ve been shaped by your actions, your choices, your code of values, and your mind. No one else has experienced life in the way that you have, which means only you can produce the art that you make. Your style is irreplaceable, and it would be a huge disservice to the world (and yourself) if we had to go a moment without it.