‘How do I Develop an Art Style’ is the Wrong Question

‘How do I develop an art style’ is a question that many beginner artists ask, and more experienced artists will brush them off without explaining why it’s the wrong question to ask.

After all, why wouldn’t it be a good question to ask? Artistic styles are a large part of what makes art visually striking, or unique.

Here are a few reasons why it’s the wrong question, plus a few better questions that you can ask yourself.

Why is it the wrong question?

The main reason why it’s the wrong question to ask, is because an art style is something that will develop naturally, as long as you keep practicing art.

Trying to force an art style can come at the cost of learning the fundamentals of art, which could make your art suffer in the long run.

The fundamentals of art are the core theories that ground art in reality, which gives art a concrete and realistic look. These fundamentals aren’t limited to just realistic art though. The fundamentals of art are things like composition, lighting/shading, color theory, perspective, and form.

'How do I Develop an Art Style' is the Wrong Question - cozyrebekah.com

While all of these fundamentals may not be necessary for all kinds of art, it’d be difficult to find even one piece of art that doesn’t have any of those fundamentals in play.

There’s a quote by a famous artist, Pablo Picasso, that applies to this situation:

Learn the rules like a pro, so that you can break them like an artist.

Pablo Picasso

When you learn the fundamentals, and then let your style develop naturally, your art will feel more comfortable than if you try to force a style into your art.

Your art style will develop naturally.

Whether or not you realize it, you have an art style already, one that will grow and develop as you mature into your art.

Art styles are constructed from all kinds of different variables, and it has to do a lot with personal tastes and interests. But to drastically simplify art styles, then there are three main things that will jump out at you when analyzing art styles.

These three things are:

  1. Subjects
  2. Colors
  3. Broken Rules
'How do I Develop an Art Style' is the Wrong Question - cozyrebekah.com

As you learn the fundamentals of art, you’ll begin to figure out what you don’t like about them, and begin to disregard those ‘rules’ of art. Doing so is part of what will allow your art style to develop naturally.

However, if you really want to shift your art style, here are some better questions to ask:

A better question to ask is ‘What influences my art style?’

Besides the broken rules, I listed a couple of other things that largely influences the appearance of art styles, which are the subjects and colors.

Aside from color theory, choices in colors are often done by taste. There may be colors that you simply don’t like to use, or colors that you love.

Personally, I dislike saturated colors, and prefer more muted or pastel tones. This affects the style of my art, as I tend to avoid illustration things that would have very bright colors.

Subjects will also play a part in your art style, especially if you tend to illustrate things falling under a certain theme or genre, such as horror, fantasy, creatures, or mechs.

How to analyze and choose what influences your art style.

If you want to try and shift your art style into something that feels more comfortable for you, then try to analyze what you like and don’t like outside of your art.

For example, maybe you’re inclined to liking soft and cute clothing or decorations. If your art style doesn’t reflect that, then you can try introducing it into your art, by the subjects or colors.

'How do I Develop an Art Style' is the Wrong Question - cozyrebekah.com

You can also try and make a list of the things you like to do in art, and the things you don’t like to do.

Here’s a small example of what I like to do in art, versus what I don’t like to do:

PortraitureSaturated colors
Feminine facesDark pieces
Soft shadingHash shadows

By shifting my illustrations into my ‘likes’, I can more consistently produce art that I enjoy making.

Try making a list of things that you like, both in art, and outside of it, and see how well those lists align with the art you’re currently making.

A better question to ask is ‘What influences the art styles of my mentors?’

Often times, when a beginner artist asks ‘how do I develop an art style’ they’re aiming that question at their inspirations or mentors, in the hopes of learning how they can emulate the styles of their mentors.

Instead of doing that, try to take the time to analyze what could be influencing the art styles of your mentors.

How to analyze the art styles of your mentors.

Like with analyzing your art style, you’ll need a look at your mentor’s interests or style, outside of their art. Some of the things to look at are:

  • How they dress (do they wear formal suits? video game merch? 1920s flapper gowns?)
  • Hobbies outside of art (do they knit? have a herb garden? skateboard?)
  • What kinds of media they consume, such as the TV shows or movies they watch, the books they read, the games they play, etc.

Now, don’t become a stalker to figure this stuff out. If they share their art on social media, then they may also post occasionally about the shows their watching, or share a selfie of what they’re wearing that day.

Often times, the interests that your mentors have will have a strong connection to their art. Artists who frequently draw fantasy creatures probably love playing fantasy games in their free time. Artists who include lots of plants in their paintings probably have a garden that they’re cultivating.

If you can’t find much about the interests of your favorite artist, then move on to another one of your artistic inspirations. What matters most here is the sum of the parts, as you want to find the patterns that appear throughout the interests of many of your favorite artists.

A better question to ask is ‘How can I learn style from my inspirations?’

Lastly, you’ll want to ask yourself how you can learn style from the things that interest and inspire you.

For example, when reading, I tend to like fluffy books with happy endings. While I do enjoy my fair share of darker books, when I’m reading just for fun, I’ll probably choose a book with softer and more uplifting tone than a book that’s dark and gritty.

That’s just my preference, but one that I could translate into artistic style. Since I tend to like light and happy stories, I tend to enjoy drawing things that are cute, soft, and delicate. I enjoy drawing feminine faces, soft angles, and gentle shading.

How to learn style from your inspirations.

Make a list of the things that inspire you, such as your favorite movies, books, TV shows, photographs, and games. Then write down a few words that describe the aesthetics of your inspirations.

If you notice a pattern starting to form, then you may want to adopt those aesthetics into your artistic style. After all, if you enjoy the things that inspire you, then introducing those aesthetics into your artwork may help you enjoy your art more.

Art styles can’t be forced, but with some analysis and thought, they can be shifted or influenced.

If you found this post helpful, please leave a like or share it with someone else who’d find it helpful.

I’ll be posting about art every Friday, so check back next week for some new content. Or check out my Instagram to see some of my artwork.

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