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I think a personal style has developed when you are confident creating (without pressure) after seeing way super incredible works by other artists
Probably because you are more confident from all the experiences you’ve accumulated – learning what sparks your creativity, what color palette you love to use for what specific occasion, what tools you enjoy and what tools you don’t. All these personal lessons play a big part in crafting your individual style. I find that it is important to know what style you have, in order to communicate your ideas and work to people. And hopefully your style changes and evolves to more exciting levels whenever it is time to learn something new
When does one know that a personal style has developed?
I think that it’s kind of a retrospective thing combined with a comfort thing. When I feel comfortable with the work I’m doing I feel like I’m ‘in’ my personal style. I can usually sense a familiarity or a link with work I’ve done in the past. Looking at the work of others, as often as possible, really helps too – knowing what I like and feel connected with helps me to identify more closely with my own style.
And is it important to know what exactly that style is?
I like to let myself have room for development and change and hope that my subconscious knows what I am up to! I have a few different ‘types’ of work that I like to make and I sometimes wonder if this jeopardises my ‘style’ but figure it’s still me making it – and trying new things is good! If I deviate too far from my comfort zone though I usually don’t like the work and don’t take it any further. So I guess having a strong sense of my own style is very important.
I suppose a succinct way to tell if you’ve developed a personal style, is when people recognize your work as YOURS [without looking @ the signature;)] right off the bat.
i think i got “there” sometime in high school, and have been refining mine ever since.
I didn’t know I had a real style until a children’s book editor pointed it out to me. And the only reason he brought it up was he thought a couple of my illustrations with people in them weren’t “me”. I thought a lot about it, in fact it stopped me drawing for about a month… then! I believe I saw what he saw. I think, as well since working more full time on my work, my style has become stronger. I don’t think you should be limited and not having the possibility to grow, and you will always develop and change, maybe ever so slightly, but I think you should be aware of how you create, careful not to ape someone else’s style. I like to hear from people that they knew I drew / painted a piece before they saw my name these days.
Over time you start to see your style really come into play. You will see similarities and themes that always show up in your work, if you’re consistently creating. I think for me, I knew my personal style when I felt comfortable and confident in my artwork. It’s funny because I have a different style depending on the medium I work with. But knowing your style is a benefit because you should use it towards your advantage. When you’re forced to use a different style that isn’t your own, I think you’re denying your natural talent and instincts.
It’s extremely hard to determine exactly when my personal style developed. It could have happened as a child when my line drawings started evolving; I was always sketching with a continuous, unbroken line. I think this has continued in my adult life but matured and with that become more refined.
I have always painted too and I would say my paintings have been my recognizable style over the past 15 years.
I think when clients started hiring me for jobs based on these paintings I realized that I had a “style”. The purpose of having a personal style is that art directors can rely on and hire you for a job knowing what they’re going to get. It’s more a commercial construct than anything else to me.
I don’t think this has to mean that you only have one style by which you work. It’s possible to have a couple of styles but important to keep these consistent and strong.
It’s also important to know that your style will develop and change over the years and that’s one of the most fascinating parts of being an illustrator for me. It keeps you learning and discovering the breadth of possibilities. One’s medium and techniques may change and with that whole new avenues open up.
From my point of view, a personal style is the expression of your vision. It is also the expression of your personal taste, of your personal choices.
Your personal style would be developed over time and certainly visible in your work from time to time and would become bolder. It develops, expands and becomes more unique as you continue making your vision a reality. Every time you create a new piece, you will be one step away towards achieving your personal style. However, one has to work as hard as you can at developing your style. After years of paint, sculpting, building, designing, or whatever you try to achieve, your styles will ‘become’ you.
Whatever style you develop, I think it’s more important for the artist to have strong connection with his/her medium because that’s how you ‘talk’ to your audience. Some galleries would prefer artists with a distinctive style which would suit their gallery concept or their art market and eventually some artist has to change their style in order to be able to fit in. However, an artist can allow themselves to be more flexible but not so much in losing their own personal touch. To claim or put your work in a specific style/period is very rigid. It is not always the style but one should also look into the quality and emotional impact of the work that makes it marketable.
D.U.R.A aka i.itch.illustrations
My personal style changes over the years, and to speak for me – looking back to 10 or more years my style and the influence of the ancient fashion/design/graphic design/music… became evident.
Being in the centre of a designing process, I often try different things – with disappointing results: they just don´t feel right, but suddenly things start linking together – like a puzzle – and then I know THIS is my way!
I was always very self-critical, because I couldn´t recognise THE certain personal style, like other artists have. It took a good piece of experience to learn that you have to work for this certain style AND of course this style should change, should grow with you!
Years ago I was totally fond of the vector-based illustrations and for years I nearly never touched a pencil – then I saw so many georgeous hand drawn illustrations I was sooo eager to draw again – like I did before, ever since I can remember. Same person, totally different styles.
I think personal style should not be pushed and is natural to the way you work.
Personal style is something I think develops with practise and time. For me style is something that links to my interests, my work is very much based on the things I collect. I don’t think it is important to have one set style . I like to work in a range of different styles to keep my work varied.
I think I realised that I had a personal style when people after seeing what work I did would say “oh I saw your work last weekend in a gallery in Taupo!”
If you are doing a degree in the visual arts then it is probably a critical thing to know what style you work in, the historical background of that style,
who else works within it, the elements of the style etc…
But for me I know what I do and I know specific elements of my style that make it me, and who would usually like it. I know where it fits in the world. But I haven’t really delved into where it has all come from.
There’s a lot of talk about personal style in the illustration world, and particularly in art school. I think this leads to the misconception that it’s something an artist needs to strive for. I believe quite the opposite: personal style is something quite elusive, something that perhaps you can’t see in your own work but others can, that as soon as you start trying for it, slips away.
I don’t think you know when a personal style has developed: I think other people see it first. For years I felt I had lots of different things going on in my work. I work in many different media, in black and white and colour, and I felt like it looked like the work of many different people. But my friends and tutors told me otherwise: they saw a strong unifying thread that made it all ‘very Katie’. Now I see it myself too. It’s the thing that, when you look at a piece of artwork, lets you recognise instantly who did it. From the viewer’s perspective it’s a sensitivity of line, a colour palette, a method of drawing faces, or a use of texture that is unique to that person. For the artist it is not necessarily a decision, but just how something comes out when they draw it. I have a way of drawing vegetables that would be considered my style, but from my perspective I just couldn’t draw broccoli any other way!
Personal style is influenced by many things, including but not limited to the artists who have inspired you, but also the peculiar and unique way in which your brain communicates with your hand. I don’t think its important to know what your style is, because I think this can lead to trying too hard, or rejecting your work on the basis that doesn’t fit in with ‘your style’, when in fact it might do and you just can’t see it yourself. I also think that if personal style is conscious it can sometimes become a box and a comfort zone that prevents artists from experimenting and moving forward, and that’s never good! I think you have to stay open to your style evolving over time and trust that connection between your brain and hand to still produce something that’s recognisably yours. I believe it always does.
The route to my personal style was through lots and lots of drawing. My own style developed once I accepted and embraced the way that I naturally draw, without editing my self, or being self conscious, and things really fell into place once I discovered my favourite brand of drawing pen which enables an extremely fine line. I do think that it is helpful to be able to articulate what your style is both for yourself and other people, but it is important to allow your style to develop and change, with your interests, inspirations and abilities.
Isn’t this the question every budding artist wants to know? Style to me is a combination of interests, influences, and you yourself dealing with your strengths and weaknesses as an artist. It’s like a soup with many ingredients that evolves into something complex and delicious. However, just like a soup you have to let it simmer – if you just threw stuff in a pot and ate it after 5 minutes, it probably wouldn’t taste very good. So developing your style might take a while. I think one can always identify certain traits in their art that fit under a style umbrella so to speak. As for knowing, I think it’s important to know what potential your work has, but I’m a fan of not labeling things to death. For instance, my work obviously attracts a lot of children projects, but I have plenty of adult and alternative clients. If I strictly told myself “I am a colorful children’s illustrator and all I do is colorful children’s illustration”, I probably would have missed out on a lot of opportunities. Plus, if you’re constantly trying to define yourself, you might be hesitant to experiment and try to new things in the future.
When you feel comfortable with what you are doing you have probably found a style that suits you BUT one should always push past the comfort zone in order to develop and grow their own style.
I can only speak from experience on this one, but my personal style came late. I always knew I loved art, but didn’t have a personal style until I was 23 years old. It came from what was going on in my life at that time. My sisters had all had kids, and everything around me was cute and sweet. It really influenced my art and what I enjoyed working on. As their kids grew up, I found that my personal style did not. I was still working on things that were cute and juvenile. I finally realized when my surrounding changed, and my art didn’t that I had found my personal style. I loved what I was creating and how it made me and others feel. I had finally found my niche. It was truly a disappointment for it to come so late, but better late than never. I also think that sometimes it is important, especially if you are going to make a career out of it, to know exactly what that personal style is. For instance, in bios and questions people ask you. You need to be able to talk about your art. What it means to you. How it came about. How you like it to make people feel when they have it up on their wall and see it each day. On the other hand, I still believe that all artist should have the right to do what-ever they want. Even if it doesn’t fall into the general style they usually fall under. Don’t let that personal style trap you into doing the same old things all the time. Apply it in different ways to things. I made my illustration of a octopus transfer over to a softie doll octopus.
Nonna Illustration & Design
I teach illustration at Washington University in St. Louis in the College of Art. The question about personal style is one my students ask me about constantly….how will I know when I have one….how can I get one…..I am looking at other illustrators for inspiration is that okay? Here is my general answer.
Every illustrator looks to other illustrator’s work for inspiration, we each have our own illustration heroes. When an illustrator starts out, the influence of their heroes is sometimes evident in their artwork. But we all have to start somewhere and emulating someone else’s work to some degree is inevitable.
But as your develop your artwork by practice, practice, practice… I cannot emphasis this enough… those influences begins to drop by the wayside and your own sense of design and drawing become more apparent. I tell my students to look at the development of your artwork as a journey, one that develops over the course of your lifetime, you will change your style over and over but if you are being true to how you make art there will connecting threads through everything you do… for me the use of color, multiple pattern, a sense of whimsy, decorative detail and shape based drawing is always there no matter how I make my artwork or what media I make it in. I have gone through lots of changes in the media I use, watercolor and ink, acrylics,three dimensional collage using fabrics, embroidery and found objects and cut paper. And no matter how I make my art, the above threads are always there.
I also tell them that the artwork they make should come naturally to them, if you are drawing or making art in a way you feel that you are always struggling to make it work, that could be a sign that you are on the wrong path. Your artwork should feel like it flows from you and brings you joy.
For me that meant giving up on the idea I could draw with a sense of perspective (could never understand it) or that I could create artwork that was highly rendered or used techniques of light and dark like pencil shading, crosshatch or scratchboard. Some of my heroes needed to just be heroes, I had to admire their work but to try to emulate them was useless. To this day I am always trying to make my images be very graphic and simple. But this never works because when I look at my artwork it does not look right to me and so I go in and add details and busyness.
So what I say to students is to not worry about personal style, it will develop if you just concentrate on making art, taking risks, trying new media or ways to make your art, be willing to have small and big failures in what you make, and then be able to jump back on track and continue creating.
A personal style has developed when it talks about you, without you being there. When people recognize your work, your illustrations, even if your signature is not there. Thus, style is to achieve your own language to say things, to express your ideas. Style is what you want the other to take from whatever you create.
María Paula Dufour
I admire artists who seem to have found their personal style. Partly because I often like what they do and want more, more, more and partly because I am neurotic and like everything to be consistent. I admire those the most who have a personal style, but are still able to experiment and have fun within it.
I realize that as I am writing this, I am kind of assuming that personal style is a ‘choice’. For me, personally, I have never been able to stick to one way of drawing, simply because I am often not completely satisfied with my own work (this is an understatement) and I find it terribly limiting to not move outside of that box. On the other hand, this causes me to feel like my art goes through so many tantrums, it lacks consistency and will never reach ‘adulthood’.
Writing all of this down, I now understand that perhaps I have been thinking about style in terms that are too much about choice, and not enough about expression. As I said, I feel my work has no consistency, yet I often get e-mails from people who say they love my style, that although my work is often different, you can still recognize my ‘style’. I find this flabbergasting when I think of my own work, but indeed, what I admire about other people’s work is the way they use line, form, shape, color. The whimsy ‘signature move’ their pencil makes. Perhaps style is about successfully expressing your own character through your work. This is not about technique. It’s about the way you see things and translate them into visual art.
Is it truly possible then, to know when you have found your personal style? Perhaps not, for when I look at myself, expression through art is often an unconscious thing. But, on the other hand, if personal style is about expression of your own character, perhaps it becomes obvious through the smoothness of your artistic process. In a way, I think perhaps studying art history has put a tremendous burden on me, knowing how difficult it is to be truly original. It makes it hard to look at my own work without seeing a million references to the great artists I read about.
Is it important to know what your personal style is? Well, I can’t speak from experience, since I do not feel like I am there yet, but I have been able to experiment more and more when I realized bright colors and bold lines are ‘my thing’. This has led me to try out other methods of drawing and coloring illustrations, that I might not have tried if I didn’t try to reflect on my own work. On the other hand, it might feel very limiting to some people when they realize that they follow a certain pattern. Especially when the pattern is a popular one, it might feel like you have to live up to certain expectations.
Anna Denise van der Reijden (AKA AnnaDenise)
I feel you have arrived at a personal style when people recognize your art, drawings, illustratons with knowing it is yours. This is important to show that you have found your “voice” as an artist.
I wasn’t sure I had a personal style until people started commenting on it, saying that they could recognize my style anywhere. I think for artists, we’re sometimes too close to our own work to know what our style is. Receiving feedback about your style or asking for some feedback can help you figure out what your style is if you’re having trouble seeing it yourself.
I don’t think it’s essential to know exactly what your style is. Artists need to feel the flexibility to grow and change. And I think if you stay true to your muse, your style will always shine through.
Leah Piken Kolidas
One knows when personal style is developed when one no longer feels the need to copy.
Style is all about originality and feeling like the style fits the person.
Personal style? I don’t know if I actually have a personal style, per se. But I believe as an illustrator it is important to have versatility in order to ensure a broader variety of projects. Projects means being able to pay yourself. Which is jolly nice.
People can (and do) succeed with one method of working. But I personally enjoy the challenge of making work to suit the brief, even if it means trying something new.
Kellie (Miss Pearl Grey)
I’ve been asking myself what my style is for years. I still cannot put it into words, and I do not even know if I have one. I mean, I think I do, but it’s difficult to recognize and verbalize, because style is about doing things that are natural to you. I have a linear style that uses crisp graphic lines, and a more gentle and soft style that I use when I draw with pencils. Through the medium, I have found creative balance. I do know however, what mediums I like to use and why, what subject matters I’m drawn to and why, and the process of combining these is my style. As I change, my style will change. This is the excitement involved in being an artist! I don’t know what my future holds for my style, but I’m committed to exploring and discovering it.
I think, it should be natural… as soon as a creative person wants to stop developing their own style, as soon as the creative person feels saticfied. As I saw in my life, real creative people don’t stop developing. Ever. Sometimes there are people who like to experiment with extremly different styles, and sometimes there are people who change their style within their own limits. The most important thing is that style is a direct reflection of the personality of the artist… so this personality will choose the style itself. Of course, there is also a place for some rational decisions, like choosing a certain style because of its commercial success, for example. And I’m sure there are a lot of examples in the history of visual arts. But usually it doesn’t influence the progress of visual culture. In my opinion, only a very personal, honest and talented view on things could bring something totally new in the visual world. It’s not important to know about the style, but it’s important to feel your own development… your own satisfaction with your works, your style, your world.
I believe an artist’s individual approach or style evolves and is inherent when they feel they are making work that reflects their passions. I made artistic discoveries half way through graduate school when I realized my paintings could combine a variety of my interests and strengths. For instance, I enjoyed making my paints by hand, painting realistically and/or abstractly and incorporate drawing, text, and writing all within one piece.
I think it can be important to know your “style” if it provides inspiration or impetus for creating a body of work or gives the artist a feeling of ownership. Yet, if an artist feels they haven’t found their style, it can be quite frustrating. At which point I say continue to explore, play, and experiment and you will find what you are meant to do.
Heather Smith Jones
When an artist works primarily in a certain genre (mine being figurative, often with a narrative slant) as opposed to say working in an abstraction style then he/she has a “style”. Personally, I like to see artists whose works I admire, branch out and experiment in a different vein. Most often I find it’s their message and personal interpretations of a subject which drew me to their images in the first instance. A not so obvious thread of connection is there and the works will resonate in any medium.
I often find myself reaching for the same color palette and though I may apply the paint in a different manner or technique, my works have a familiarity to them. Figures have similar features as if they could be related to one another, although the occasional oddball will appear.
As artists are continually inspired and experimenting, many do not follow an “exact” style. But, like a signature, one’s imprint will show through.
Personal style, to me, has to do with comfort level and ease. It is when you stop trying to be like the artists that inspire you and you start giving validity to your own work. I work very intuitively so my style is different for each medium I am interacting with. I love the high contrast and flow of black ink on paper; I would consider my style as “doodle” or “whimsical” although my stipple takes on a more serious illustrative edge. My ink work is clean lined and inspired by organic shapes, spirals and henna. I can go from open and airy to incredibly detailed. My paintings are more abstract, unless I get into specific themes; color is driven by emotion.
I think it is important to know what your style is because it is a part of what defines you, like knowing what kind of food you like or what kind of clothing you feel comfortable in. Each piece of art contains all of your experience, all of your thought, all of your longing.
Ana Maria Seaton, Renmeleon
++ See also: ISSUE #1: Overcoming stumbling blocks to creativity
I’ve known about Susie’s illustrations since 2003, which was when I was first introduced to the handmade community. Since then I’ve seen countless shops closed down which made me very sad, but Susie is going strong and growing like there’s no tomorrow. Needless to say, she’s one of my heroes and is also a big reason why I love illustration (although I never quite put a finger on it back then!)
Name: Susie Ghahremani
Location: my sofa, my house, Normal Heights, San Diego, CA, USA, world, universe
boygirlparty.etsy.com (other shop)
Illustration media: gouache usually. and sometimes ink, and sometimes Y
Tell us a little more about yourself!
I’m a painter of tiny paintings and keeper of tiny pet finches. I’m from chicago originally, and miss the flatness of the midwest. i also miss being bored and feeling like summers & vacations are too long, instead of too short as i do now.
Could you tell us what is your daily schedule like?
It truly depends on my level of motivation. sometimes I hop out of bed, put on a pot of coffee and do nothing but paint from 7am – 1am. some days, not so much. I’ve been trying to go with the flow more lately, instead of forcing myself to work, sweatshop-style, as i have in the past. Some days I wake up and go exercise for a couple hours, just so i can remember what it feels like to move. And then I paint, or respond to the insurmountable email pile, or excitedly design new products for my shop, or maybe read a chapter in a book, or watch a documentary about pale male…. the benefit to being self-employed is that you get to make your own schedule! but the downfall is that at some point, inevitably, you have to become that sweatshop i referred to earlier.
How did you get your start in illustration?
I played music in a few bands, and used to book a few shows around Providence, RI (my former home) and so I would illustrate posters, t-shirts, pinback buttons… I built a website to share my work back around 2001 or so, and word of mouth brought me some commercial work.
Could you tell us more about your thought process when you start a piece?
Depends on the piece, if it’s just for fun, i usually start by mixing colors. a certain color can remind you of a time, a place, a memory, and give you a foundation for an imagined world.
For commercial work, i always seem to start with reading: reading the article, reading the book, or reading the art director’s brief, and moving from there to many rounds of sketching, and from there, to a careful, calculated final piece in which i already know where every line and every color is going to be.
Such different processes!
Do you keep a journal/sketchbook, and would you mind if we had a sneak peek?
I try to throw a mini-sketchbook in all my bags so i always have one on hand. i don’t think of them as anything worth seeing, usually i just draw whatever’s around, like salt and pepper shakers on the table at a restaurant – and i often lose and misplace them. sometimes i find the book format restricting and end up tearing pages out (see attached photo). sometimes i just draw on computer paper. and when i write, i do so in my owl journal that chronicle books published (and i illustrated)
What or who inspires you?
Nature is always inspiring to me: whether it’s a walk in the woods, or watching close-up as a ladybug purposefully climbs around a leaf. i always feel a surge of inspiration after spending time outdoors, especially if it’s a place i’ve never been before where i can tune in surprised at everything i see. i recommend going out on a rowboat on a quiet lake for a few hours and see if you don’t agree!
also: polaroids and analog photography! the colors are always so unexpected. i could look at & enjoy photography (like lomography & cross-processed photos) for hours, days, years. also: vintage children’s books, letters from penpals, old timey cartoons (like ‘flip the frog’),…
What keeps you motivated?
An exciting idea i can’t wait to execute, or fresh art supplies! new supplies always make me want to use them, and if i’m having a hard time getting started on a project i have to do, sometimes the greatest remedy is to get a new paintbrush or a fresh block of wood to paint on so i become excited again about the act of painting.
lately i’ve been struggling a lot with motivation, and it’s helped me as well to just play with my work: doodle a little or a lot for no reason at all, motivation to get started on something i ‘have’ to do comes naturally once i’m on a roll!
What’s your favourite tool?
Opposable thumbs, or a 10/0 liner paintbrush, or the internet – the internet is the reason why i get to be a painter instead of, like, a video store clerk. (no diss to video store clerks intended)
Are you a full-time artist?
What advice would you like to give people who are interested in being an artist full-time?
Know who you are & what your work feels like before you jump in! i see many young artists trying to follow in other established artists styles and what not, and it’s just very sad to see for all involved. also, be very good at managing your time! being self-employed requires extreme commitment and self-motivation and managing your time is the key to all that i think.
Where do you see yourself within the next few years?
Honestly, i’m not sure! i’d like to be more free: traveling some (my last vacation was for a week in 2007) and painting just to paint, not for a deadline or show in mind… i’m getting married this october, so i guess within the next few years, i will be living the probably-not-any-different-than-my-life-now married life!
You’ve been doing this for a long time now – are there any issues in the crafting/art community that you feel strongly about?
Artists hurt each other and their community by failing to be creative, original and personal. art is all about offering a piece of yourself to the world, not what you think could make you successful…right?
What message do you want to send out to people about your work?
A website that wrote about my work a while ago (i forget which one) said this about my work & what they think i must think & i agree:
“‘sup, ma: i love the environment!”
Tell us something random about yourself!
I’m 5’2” and ate only pb&j for all meals during my childhood.
Susie is now running a special promotion in both her shops to celebrate her birthday! Orders placed now through Friday, May 29th will be entered in a raffle to win a $25 gift certificate, and the winner will be notified by Sunday, May 31st which is her birthday!
She’ll also be in Marichelle of Heart Handmade’s Shop Live 30-Minute Sale on Thursday 28th at 7pm EST. I’ll be popping in to see what I can snap up, so I hope to see you there!