A few weeks ago, I took to the Internets to see what people had to say about developing an art style. Here’s a brief lowdown on what I found.
“Just draw.” And by “just draw”, we mean draw ALL THE TIME.
Psh. Easier said than done, this one. While I agree that, over time, a steady stream of artwork will show recognizable patterns, this advice created way too much pressure on me. I was busy. I had school and family stuff to deal with, I couldn’t be inspired 24/7, and sometimes I just didn’t feel like it. It seemed like I would never be able to draw often enough to please these people.
And of course, all that not-drawing made me feel bad, because I knew I should be drawing.
Havi at The Fluent Self says “shoulds” don’t help. They make you feel bad and when you feel bad, you usually beat up on yourself. And I am really good at mentally beating myself up – like, Fight Club levels of self-hurt.
So, my first step to drawing more regularly was to quit being mean to myself about not drawing more regularly. With all that pressure off, it’s much easier to let creativity flow. My aforementioned deal with my Special Someone, in which we draw something once a week to show each other, is enough to motivate me. It’s not every day, but it feels right for me. I keep a list of things to sketch in case I’m not inspired right this moment.
Study other artists.
I like this advice, personally, because it gives me a good excuse to look at pretty things. In fact, every month, I will profile an artist that inspires me on this blog. (Stay tuned – they’re awesome!)
But. It can also really mess you up. Sometimes I feel that I won’t develop a style because I’ve been too immersed in other people’s art, especially anime. Once I attempted to draw a character using elements I liked from other artists – an eye from this person, hair from that person, hands from another – and what did it look like?
Well, it actually looked okay. (Haha.) But it didn’t feel right. Cobbling a style together like Dr. Frankenstein felt disingenuous, and it seemed to take longer than when I just drew for fun.
Not being influenced by others can be a great (and possibly faster) path to originality. But I can’t pass up the opportunity to look at pretty things.
Let others study your art.
What people say about your art – even just a word – could jumpstart something in your brain. You never know how others’ observations could help you.
I only show my art to three people. That’s what I’m comfortable with. I’ve never asked them to “study” it or look for patterns, but I’m sure they could if they spent a little time at it.
Four interesting articles that may help:
Bewarecalamity on DeviantArt gives a list of simple things to do (like entering contests for motivation) that are intended for people in that community, but they can be applied beyond dA.
The rational part of my brain gravitated towards the equation by Clark Orr in his article. Yes, he gives an actual equation for what makes an art style. But it’s the X-Factor that I’m really looking for when I mean “style” – the me-ness that nobody else will have.
Craig at Retro Dreamer describes how limitations shaped his style on a particular project. Limitation can be amazing for creativity – in a problem-solving sort of way. (It doesn’t work for everyone.)
A collection of quotes from painters over at About.com.
It seems that developing an art style is less about art and more about getting to know and being comfortable with yourself. This is some really scary stuff, but it can result in some really beautiful art stuff.