3 Tips to Unravel Your Artistic Style

I often get asked the question, "How did you do that?" It's usually asked by other artists, some aspiring or some looking to learn new techniques. I generally take it as a compliment. I mean, you don't usually ask someone how they did something unless you like it. You don't often hear people ask "So, how'd you get your hair to do that...umm... terrible side pony fro?" 

Am I right?

In any case, answering that question is kind of difficult. I can list for you the tools I use and the general techniques I employ. Although as a self-taught painter, I am fairly certain that telling people to swoosh left with a palette knife is not good or valuable advice. What I will share with you is 4 tips on how to find your personal painting style.

1. Make it your own (...don't be a copy cat)

One of the most amazing things about being an artist in the social media era is having the work of incredibly talented people at your fingertips. Instagram is a very inspiring place for painters - old and new. So many different styles, mediums and colour schemes to admire and while it can help procure your creativity; it can also inhibit your personal artistic style.

You might love another artist’s work. The colour palette they use is vibrant, the piece invokes emotion, maybe they have a lot of followers or likes, but this doesn’t mean you should spend hours trying to figure out how they did it. Sure, in theory you might be able to deduct how they got so much depth or which tool they used to make that gorgeous texture – but the movement and the emotion that goes into the piece is not something that can be replicated and therefore the outcome will never be the same.

One of the keys to finding your style is to ensure that you make every piece your own and to not limit yourself to what others are doing or what you think your followers will like. You’d be surprised at how quickly you’ll find your style if you just get into your own rhythm and let the paint flow naturally. 


2. Practice makes perfect – or at least better

I have been painting for a long time. I could even argue that I started when I was 4 years old. Check out this masterpiece.

Original Abstract Painting, 1989.

I have dabbled in non toxic children's safe paint, oil, watercolour, acrylic and have transitioned from finger painting to landscapes to abstract. There were many many years where I didn’t paint at all - too focused on trying to build my WNBA career. 

But 5 years ago, after a few massive life changes, I started painting again to relieve stress. If you’re an artist you know exactly what I am talking about and if you’re not, well I suggest next time you’re feeling a little anxious to get out a paint brush or at least a crayon and one of those adult colouring books. It’s incredibly tranquil.

Anyway, I started painting up a storm. Just for fun. Just for me. I had no limits (except maybe space). I bought all different sized canvases, tried different tools and techniques and it took my 3 years to finally found the style that I am most proud of and that I most enjoy doing. And frankly, it’s still evolving.

Now, if you’re just starting out I don’t want you to be discouraged thinking that it will take you 3 years to be truly happy with your style, it could take you 3 months. The point is like any skill, practice and dedication are the building blocks of success. Just keep at it.


3. Exit your comfort zone

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Yes, very profound, very cliche, but nonetheless it’s true. I remember I used to be terrified of painting on huge canvases because I didn’t think I could fill all of that white space. It was daunting. Now, I can’t imagine not painting large pieces.

If a certain size, colour or tool has worked for you in the past, that’s awesome, but don’t let that experience limit you on your next piece. This is particularly important if you’re just starting out. Don't try to constantly mimic another artist’s style. Don’t even get caught up trying to replicate your own style every time.

If you’re consistently repeating yourself you will not evolve. Get out of your comfort zone. If you always start in the middle, start on the edge. If you always use blue, try using red. If you always use a brush, switch to a palette knife.

Only through testing the waters and embracing new methods will you be able to figure out what works best for you. Who knows maybe this whole time you’ve been painting with acrylic, but your magic will happen with oil. Give it a shot.


4. Let yourself evolve

As you get into your own rhythm, get out of your comfort zone and continue to practice, you’ll see your style evolve. And likely into something that you never thought imaginable.

Along the way, I can promise you that there will be a few pieces that you’ll love and that you’ll come back to from time to time, and that’s natural. The key is to let yourself evolve. Don’t be weirded out that your first painting doesn’t look anything like the last. Don’t worry about inconsistencies in your style overtime. That’s just part of the process. Just let the paint flow naturally and see what happens.

Who knows maybe in 5 years I'll be exclusively painting unicorns.