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Developing a Painting style

Developing a Painting style

Part of being an artist is having your own identifiable style, you know that special ‘something’ that means when someone looks at a painting and instantly knows that it’s by you, regardless of what the subject of the painting is. Galleries like to see a particular painting style in your work rather than a mish mash of conflicting styles, so often try to push you into staying with that style even when you feel you have out-grown it. This happens because the gallery has created a market for that particular thing and its what their customers want to see more of it. Now it is possible to paint what you like, but if your goal is to make a living out of your art, then you'll have to strike the right balance with what you want to do against what others want you to do. After all art is a business just like any other, so you have to provide a product that people want to buy. When your fan base or customer base is large enough or wealthy enough, you can paint more or less what you choose to, because you'll have created a demand.

So how do you develop your own style, or is it something that automatically happens? And do you have to stick with that style forever, or can you change it?

For me it just seemed to happen although I thought my work was one extreme to the other, people would tell me they could tell my work instantly so I guess I was lucky that it just seemed to develop unconsciously over time. I feel being largely self taught has enabled me to develop this as there has not been any opportunity for others to influence my style so to speak. A good teacher will help you with this rather than expect you to follow their style as some do.

Maintaining your style doesn’t mean sticking to the same subject matter or colours although for some artists that can be their only point of difference. Style is something else all together. Unusual paint strokes, heavy thick impasto paint or fine fine detail, impressionistic clouds, people with strangely long necks or always using red as an underpainting can be part of your style for example. Look at all your work and see what elements are essentially the same. You can learn a lot about yourself and your style by studying the works of other artists and art in general. I was surprised to find when I traced Picasso’s Guernica for a work project that a lot of his subtle background things lined up throughout his painting, this was something I was pedantic about with my abstract work, yet I wasn’t really fully aware that it was part of my style until then.

The best way for you to develop a style is to simply do a lot of painting. You will suddenly notice that certain themes will occur over and over again, whether its favourite colours or how you line things up like I do, it will start to stand out to you as it begins creeping into your work more and more. It is important however that you do not copy other artist’s work. It doesn’t help you at all with your development (except maybe in the beginning stages of learning to paint.) after all life is too short to not be original!

Posted: Saturday 6 February 2010

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