What is a signature art style and why should you have one?
Having a signature art style is many developing artists’ dream. It’s something that allows people to look at your work and recognize it as yours before they see your name attached to it.
We often refer to someone’s art style as a set of aesthetics or traits that differentiate one artist work from another’s. For example, Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso both created in the impressionist style, but their art style is very different from each other.
A signature art style can create consistency in your work and may help you when you’re not feeling motivated or inspired by giving you a starting point.
Benefits of having a unique art style:
- Makes your work look cohesive and strengthens your brand. Create a project portfolio (or Instagram feed) that looks professional and is memorable to people.
- Can help you obtain commissions. If people like your art style and see that it’s consistent, they may ask you to create something unique for them in that style. You could do this for free or charge them for the commission.
- Start a business. If you’ve ever dreamed of having your own creative business and selling your work or using your work to create products (think selling stickers on Etsy or designing wrapping paper), then having an art style can strengthen your brand and keep people coming back for more.
- Grows your raving fans. People know what they like, and if they like your art style not only will they keep coming back for more, but they will also share your work with all their friends. This will help you grow whether you’re creating as a business or just for fun.
How to develop your own art style step-by-step
Your art style often emerges through practice. So the first thing to do when trying to develop your art style is to …practice! Every day if you can. This might seem like a no brainer. Or maybe you’re thinking “I’ve been practising consistently for years and still don’t have my own art style”.
Don’t worry, there are ways you can speed the process up! It just takes a little research.
To find your own art style you need to do some exploring and see what kind of styles resonate with you. I feel the best place to do this is on Pinterest. Create a new board and start pinning anything that you feel attracted to, anything that makes you go ‘I wish I’d made that’. This might be artwork or it might be fabrics, or home decor, whatever resonates with you even if you’re not sure why, just pin it to that board.
P.s. if you don’t want to do this on Pinterest you can just use Google Images and save the pictures to a folder on your PC.
Next, we’re going to look at the board you’ve created and start analysing it to look for similarities. Ask yourself these questions:
- What colours are present in these images? Is there a dominate colour palette tying them together that I feel particularly attracted to?
- In the art work, is there a particular type of linework used? Is it brushy/loose or is it clean?
- Is the overall style realistic, more abstract or somewhere between the two?
- Is there a medium that these images have in common? (pencil, paint, digital etc.)
- Are there any patterns or textures that these images have in common?
Write all these answers down, be as detailed as you can. You’re going to use these later.
Take a look at the screenshot of my Pinterest board below. When analysing it you might deduce that I like a cool colour palette dominated by blues and greens, sometimes with a pop of colour such as orange. I’m drawn to artwork where the subject is nature or landscapes. I like the gouache medium – particularly when it’s in a semi-realistic style. I like clean linework and I like the use of light as a focal point.
If you’re struggling to find images or don’t know what to search for, try searching for specific mediums such as ‘gouache paintings’, ‘urban sketching’, ‘watercolour art’, ‘alcohol ink’. If you see something you like, pin it, but then scroll down on that pin – Pinterest will show you “more like this” and you may find more pins underneath that also resonate with you.
To give you some idea of the different styles or how to analyse your work, check out the images below:
You can also use Instagram as a source of images that appeal to you. Although it’s not always easy as not everyone will use the same hashtags. But if you do come across an artist whose style you love, give them a follow or take screenshots of their work.
You can then use these images to create your own artwork. When trying to find a style you love sometimes the easiest thing to do is copy other peoples work who create in a style you like so you can get a feel for it. Pay attention to the colours they use or the way they do their linework.
Copying someone’s work is sometimes the best way to learn, it’s only wrong when you try to claim that artwork as your own.
Alternatively, if you find a few artists you like but for different reasons, you can use this to help you develop your art style. Say you like artist ‘A’s pastel colour palette, artist ‘B’s loose linework, and artist ‘C’s way of drawing animal eyes. You could then draw a cat using loose linework, with eyes like artist ‘C’ would draw and colour it using pastel shades in your favourite medium.
The resulting image would be in an art style all your own!
Using art challenges to find your own art style
Now’s the time to take everything you’ve learned about the styles you love and put it all into practice.
As we know the best way to develop your art style is to practice, regularly. But this is easier said than done. And even if you’ve done all the work above and know exactly what colours you like, how you like the linework to look and what medium you want to use, you can still end up staring at an empty page with no idea what to draw.
That’s where art challenges come in. An art challenge is something you create yourself or get from the web and is usually a set of prompts or rules for creating artwork. They often have some sort of theme such as ‘Autumn’ or ‘Fantasy’. Art challenges can motivate you and by putting parameters on you they help stop the fear of a blank page.
Choose a challenge and start creating pieces each day that fit with the list of things you’ve previously identified that you like. You can find all the art challenges I’ve created here. Pinterest is another great source of art challenges.
If you struggle with finding time to create don’t try to commit yourself to create one large piece of work a day. Finding small pockets of time, even just 30 minutes, to create something small is better than doing nothing or going weeks between creating as you won’t give yourself time to get rusty.
Therefore I recommend keeping the challenge simple for yourself. Either adapt a 30-day art challenge in a way that will let you create smaller pieces or create your own mini art challenge (5 prompts is a good number for a mini-challenge). examples:
- Draw 5 leaves
- Draw 5 animals
- Draw something from your day for 5 days.
By creating every day for 5 days you’ll make connections, you’ll learn how you like to draw specific things such as bird feathers and learn what things you like to draw. Don’t be drawn in by what’s popular or what you think you should be drawing like (eg. realistic vs abstract) experiment so you can find your own signature style. It doesn’t matter what other people like, it matters what you like!
Doing small challenges which you complete in just 30 minutes a day, also gives you permission to ditch something if you don’t love it – you only spent 30 minutes on it after all.
Even if you don’t love what you produce in that moment it doesn’t mean it was a waste of time or bad practice. You may love it in the future or it may have taught you something. Making ‘bad art’ yesterday can lead to today’s good art so give yourself permission to keep moving forward.
Making time at the beginning of each day to create something will make it a priority for you, before you get bogged down with emails and chores etc.
Don’t forget to experiment!
When trying to determine an art style that suits you, it’s always best to try a variety of styles to see what you most enjoy. This can be developed into a mini art challenge. For example:
Draw 5 squirrels each in a different style.
Draw the same building 5 times using different mediums.
Draw 5 landscapes each with different colour palettes.
You can be as vague or as detailed as you like when creating your art challenges, it is your challenge. Looking at the Pinterest board I created to find my style (see above) a good challenge for me might be “Draw 5 woodland animals using gouache and a cool colour palette” I might use the semi-realistic style for each as that’s what I’m naturally drawn to, or I may challenge myself further and try drawing each animal in a different way – some as simple illustrations and others with more detailed linework.
Steps to finding your own art style:
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and you now have a good idea of how to create your own signature style. To summarize follow these steps:
- Create a board on pinterest or a folder on you PC/mobile and fill it with images of things you are drawn to. Save anything that catches your eye.
- Analyze the images you have saved, look for similarities and write down anything you notice. Try to be as detailed as you can.
- Start creating work each day that has all these things
- Use art challenges to motivate you to create each day. These challenges can be as long as you like and can fit a specific theme or get you to draw in a specific way with a specific medium. You can use art challenges to learn what you like and don’t like.
- Keep experimenting! And practice, practice, practice!
💙 I want to hear from you! 💙
Let me know in the comment section where you are on your creative journey and what artistic style you gravitate towards. Is there anywhere you’re feeling stuck? Anything you’ve been dying to try but never given yourself permission to? ⬇️
Like it? Pin it!