Why I May Never Find My (Art) Style
When you first begin to dip your toes into art, one of the most repeated questions is “What’s your style?”. It feels as if we should have the answers from the start, in our subconscious somewhere - something we have always known because it is ingrained into our very souls…
…but I have never been able to answer that question, and the revelation is: I don’t think I ever will.
What, even, IS style?
Is it in the way I hold a pencil? Is it in the ways I draw arms? Is it in the colours I use?
Here’s the google definition:
So, language-wise, it is generally about having a particular look - an aesthetic which refers to certain visual rules that are symbolic of you. The joy of being an artist, and the appeal of “finding your style”, is that in the process of figuring it all out you’ll somehow work out something about your own self too - but, because it’s all about you, you need to make up your rules which is actually pretty tricksy.
Sure, I am not denying there are artists I look at and think - “yup, that’s so-and-so, I recognise their style”. Some folks find a consistency in their output which allows you to connect the dots in your mind and remember them. So maybe that’s the key to style - consistency. But I don’t think consistency should go hand in hand with repetition.
I also think that, sometimes, your “style” is something that is perceived from the outside of yourself. It is easy to forget that other people look at your art and see something completely different to your own vision of it. These days I use a lot of my favourite colours in things (yellows and teals) and maybe, from the outside, that could be considered a part of my style. Maybe other people DO see consistent elements within my work, and I may just be less aware of it because I have the insider view of my brain (which is far more muddled).
The problem I have always had with art, and creative pursuits in general, is that it is too broad and too interesting to narrow down. Upon doing an art course, I very much felt that the direction we were supposed to take, in order to succeed, was towards choosing a specialism - to find the one thing that makes you excited and to work at it until you are an expert in your field.
Gosh, I would love to be an expert at something.
I completely understand that many folks do have a favourite medium or material - something that resonates with who they are - and yes, I admit I envy them. I have always felt in awe of people who know what they are for. My purpose has always been fuzzy. The difficulty I have found is that I love too many things - I find excitement and interest in more than one medium and material, and so to pick just one thing is a challenge… as Andy and Randy Pig (in Muppets Tonight) often exclaimed: “This job’s too haaaaarrrrddd!!!”.
One week I want to try printmaking - I want to delve into linocut and drypoint, because Oh My…seriously, it is so satisfying! Another week I want to master ceramics - someone find me a potter’s wheel because I need it in my life! Then again, how brilliant is it when you find time to paint and it actually comes out good?! Pencil and fineliner bring me joy, embroidery and crochet make me calm, felting gives me focus, photography helps me to see the world anew…
Can I just say: ARGGGGG! You see my problem? And that’s not even counting the many other creative endeavours which make my heart happy, such as theatre, writing and music.
There are very few creative things I try that I don’t find something of value in. Even if I am not the best at it, the learning of new things and the mental wellbeing that the expansion brings with it is something I hold dear.
I do heartily believe that techniques, materials and mediums can be meshed and merged - so I am not saying that the overall theme is that we MUST pick one type of art in order to find a style. Heck, no! There are many multi-discipline artists who have a style and prove it can be done. I'm just saying that having so much choice is as confusing as it is liberating - it just makes it harder for me to find the common elements of my own aesthetic preferences and therefore can befuddle my perception of what my "style" could be.
So where’s the end point?
I think this is the crux. There is no end point. At least, I really hope there isn’t.
“Finding” your style suggests exploration - going on an adventure, discovering new things - and surely that is at the very heart of artistic practice. To stop exploring, both within and without, is to stop discovering. Why would we want to stop discovering what we are capable of? I think the Finding My Style mantra is the way we remind ourselves to keep searching. It is a lifelong journey.
Unless you manage to avoid society altogether, every one of us is subconsciously influenced by others and, of course, as you practise you will take inspiration from the art you see around you. Imitation is part of learning but the point of being on the Finding Your Style Journey is that you shouldn’t stop there. Look at the people and art you admire and figure out why they vibrate for you. We are all a sum of a million influences and ideas which we jumble up in our own unique way.
I guess my conclusion is that my style and your style is ever evolving. Whatever you created last week was your style. Whatever you create in the future will be your style. Whatever you are creating right now is your style, so try not to worry.
Your output is yours, no one else’s, and every piece will lead you onwards.
Keep making to make happy!
Love Gem x