How to develop your artistic style?

academy alte meister gemaelde 01 - How to develop your artistic style?

The question “How do I find my own artistic style?” is probably the question, fledgling artists ask themselves the most.

Certain people have a natural affinity for certain activities. There are people, who are talented in mathematics and there are gifted musicians, but no one will be good at something if he/she does not practice. No matter how talented you are, talent without hard work is nothing.  The “style” of a novice artist is the first thing people are going to judge and comment.  However, most people do not understand what “style” means in this context, what does it consist of, or where it comes from.

To develop your own style in art, you first have to master the basic artistic disciplines (for example, perspective, form, light, shadow and color theory). Once you have acquired these skills and you know the rules of art, you can deliberately break them to achieve a specific effect. Unfortunately, many artists who have never taken the time to master these disciplines use their personal style as an excuse for their lack of skill. But a trained eye quickly recognizes whether something was intentionally drawn “wrong”, or whether the artist just couldn´t do it better.

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To better show you the difference, let´s take a closer look at two pictures: John Singer Sargent’s “Madame X” and “The Dance” by Henri Matisse. Sargent’s painting shows a strong understanding of light and shadow, anatomy, composition and above all a great drawing ability. “The Dance” by Henri Matisse, on the other hand, seems childlike. The proportions of the figures make no sense, the arms and the legs are either too short or too long, either too big or too small. The subjects have no shape, they are two-dimensional, and it seems like they have been attached to the painting. The lack of understanding of anatomy leads to draw people who look like as they were made of rubber instead of meat, blood, and bones. Matisse explains it by saying that this is his own personal style. However, also Sargent’s painting shows strong stylistic decisions: the unusual pale skin, the long neck and the probably extremely uncomfortable posture of the right hand, as well as the strong ductus. These are all decisions that Sargent has made consciously. He has broken rules and yet created a picture that looks credible. Matisse couldn´t do that.

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The artist own style should only break or “stretch” the rules of art if it serves a purpose. The pale skin in Sargent’s painting was chosen to enhance the contrast with the black dress and the background so that the viewer first looks at the face. With Matisse, there is no reason explaining why fingers look like sausages, and arms are long twice their actual length.

Which stylistic decisions artists make depends on their intentions. You can develop your style, by discovering your preferences and orientations towards other artists.

But before all this can happen, you should have trained sufficiently the basis of art, for how should you deliberately break rules if you don´t know them?

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