How To Develop Your Own Unique Artistic Style

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One of the most common problems I hear from my readers is….

“How do I develop my own unique artistic style?”

I remember this question frustrated me in the early days of my painting journey. The question actually crippled my progress as I tried to force some kind of unique artistic style, rather than let it happen organically.

So here are my thoughts on developing your own artistic style. I cover:

First Things First, Do You Need Your Own Artistic Style?

I’ll start by discussing why having an artistic style is important.

When you think of Vincent van Gogh, John Singer Sargent or Claude Monet, what do you think? Personally, I think of…

The bold strokes and vibrant colors of Vincent van Gogh.

Starry Night Over The Rhone, Vincent van Gogh, Oil, 1888
Starry Night Over The Rhone, Vincent van Gogh, Oil, 1888

The delicate brushwork and realistic portraits by John Singer Sargent.

Oil Painting Techniques For Beginners
John Singer Sargent, An Artist In His Studio, 1904

The beautiful harmony of colors by Claude Monet.

Claude Monet, Water Lilies (2), 1916-1919 How To Develop Your Own Artistic Style
Claude Monet, Water Lilies (2), 1916-1919

There is a unique artistic style which you can associate with each of these artists. Would the artists be as important if they did not have some kind of unique style? I doubt it.

There is a significant difference between someone who is skilled with a brush and someone who is skilled and has a unique and memorable style.

The Commercial Importance Of Having A Unique Style

If you want to sell your art, then you need to have some kind of memorable style which people can associate with you. If you don’t have this, then every sale will feel like trying to sell to a cold audience who has never heard of you.

If you have a memorable style, then you will attract a certain group of people who like that style. So instead of trying to sell to a cold audience, you are able to sell to an audience which already favors your kind of work. But people will only associate your art with a unique style if you have practiced it consistently over a long period of time.

Think about how hard it would be to try and sell an impressionist landscape in oils, a realistic portrait in watercolors and a detailed drawing of an interior scene. You would be trying to connect with not one audience, but three, which is remarkably difficult.

Do not underestimate the difficulty of truly connecting with an audience. The broader you go, the more difficult it becomes.

How Do You Develop An Artistic Style?

So how did the great artists like van Gogh, Sargent and Monet develop such memorable artistic styles?

The common theme is that the artists all painted in a consistent style over a long period of time. People will not associate a certain style with your artwork if these factors do not exist.

Why You Should Ignore All of This if You Are Just Starting?

I have just discussed why having an artistic style is important and how you develop it. But if you are just starting out, then I want you to forget all about this, for now.

I will tell you why.

You do not know what your unique artistic style is when you are starting. 

Your artistic style is not an end goal which you have in mind and travel towards. It is something which develops naturally over time from consistent work over a long period of time.

After you have been painting for a few years you will have:

  • Made thousands of strokes with your brushes
  • Mixed thousands of different colors
  • Made thousands of unique decisions

All these individual events will develop your artistic style. You will develop little tendencies with every stroke, you will favor certain colors and you will confront problems in a similar way. This is what makes you unique as an artist. 

So What Should You Do?

Here is what I think you should do…

Focus on painting well rather than on painting in a certain style. If you paint with some kind of consistency over a long period of time, then you will develop a unique artistic style.

If you try to force yourself to paint in a certain style, then you may be crippling your progression as an artist. When you are starting out, you have no idea what kind of style you may be suited to. You need to arrive there organically, rather than forcefully.

Instead of worrying about your style, focus on building a solid foundation for painting based on proven fundamentals. Learn things such as:

  • How to use your materials
  • How to mix your colors
  • How to draw
  • How to see the visual elements
  • How to arrange the visual elements

Thanks for Reading!

Feel free to share with friends. If you want more painting tips, check out my fundamentals course.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy

Read more of my articles. 

16 comments on “How To Develop Your Own Unique Artistic Style”

  1. Thanks! I totally get it NOW but, like you, once tried to think about my style. Fortunately, I quickly realized that style is the inevitable result of being me. Just last night, painting some poppy like flowers, I had so much fun making those thick curves with some of my favorite colors blending together in ways that always surprise. But its BECAUSE I love doing that and I like the way it looks so I keep doing it. So thanks, I now have someone else to quote when my students ask about style.

    Reply
  2. I have mixed feelings with this unique artistic styles as well as deciding on one subject. Yes, I understand that it is needed to sell well and stand out in the jungle of artists but… I am only a hobby painter and paint in a totally different dimension and for a totally different reasons. I get bored painting just landscapes or just still lives. I often wonder how is it to be professional and make a living from selling art? Sometimes, when I am at a gallery and watch a one artist show, I wonder how did they disciplined themselves painting 20 different fish, or 20 different polka dot girls in the prairie? Yeah, I know they are not the same because one is a pike, one is trout and so on, or this girls has black hair and that girl is on a bike but still… But yes, they sell well and for very high prices. And yes, they paint well.
    I, on the other hand, don’t have to worry about sales, but also I don’t have time to paint well because I have to spend most time making money to support myself and my hobby. I guess it’s a fair trade off.

    Reply
  3. Yes, interesting article. Prior to reading it, I hadn`t really thought much about the subject of “style”. Painting a few years now after a half-a-lifetime break, all mediums and subject matter. At the class I attend I now feel lucky that our tutor has patiently allowed us to work without being over-influenced – we have all developed slowly, each of us can identify the others` work when we have a random unsigned show-day of work done outwith class. Each person`s “style” is recognisable regardless of whether or the not the painting has been successful.

    Reply
    • If you are a pro, I’m inclined to agree that developing your own style is mandatory.
      If you are a hobby painter, it doesn’t matter…in fact, a distinctive style may be very difficult to achieve. Personally I have tackled impressionist portraits, abstract landscapes, cityscapes, you name it. However, there are so many wonderful pieces of artwork out there that a good copy is often more rewarding than a poor original.

      Reply
  4. Hi, I agree with most of what you have said. An artistic voice, style is not something you find, but something that arises over time and practice.

    However, one point of contention I have is the notion we must all find our unique voice.

    Finding a unique voice is a lot harder today because we are exposed to so many voices.
    There are so many artists are out there trying new things that it makes it difficult to really create something new and unique.

    You yourself claim you’re an Impressionist painter, well that’s not a unique style, but one you have borrowed from history.

    Most artist I have come across paint like other artists, you can see the influences in their work. A lot of artists today do look like each other because they have similar influences, the Impressionists are a popular one.

    Even famous artists changed their style. Pissaro tried Pointillism only to return to Impressionism. Monet changed his style during his lifetime as outlined by Jill Poyard in one of her videos on brushwork.
    https://youtu.be/kZ-bS0zKoY0?t=5m33s

    I’m sceptical with the idea that we need a unique style.
    There are only so many ways you can paint something and only so much subject matter. Your style is something that works for you.

    Reply
  5. Dan, quando vou aos museus, e vejo aquelas pinturas incríveis, mesmo olhando um quadro de longe, sei quem é o artista que o pintou. O estilo desses pintores são inconfundíveis. No meu conceito, esta é a sua marca, ou seja, a sua assinatura feita não com canetas ou lápis mas sim com as tintas.
    Obrigado pelas suas dicas.

    Reply
  6. Loved your article on Vincent van Gough – I would appreciate more articles like this of other artists and their stories and techniques.

    Mary H

    Reply
  7. Thanku so much even tho you wrote this a while ago this info is soooo good for me right now!! Many Years I have been a tortured tutored hobby artist until now with time to work on consistent style/flair with amazing mix up of mediums … it’s great to realise I need to give self- permission in patience allowing depth of art character to grow & love the journey of expression in colour … thanku for your words of wisdom 🤩

    Reply
  8. My style is… that I can can paint in the style that suits my subject. My style is my ability to paint in any style. Probably this is due to having worked in an advertising studio where it’s not style that’s important but eclectic production….and bloody quick!
    If someone asks me to paint their pet snake, I can had hardy paint it like Gustav Klimt or Grandma Moses?

    I teach and paint and have been a pro artist for over sixty years.

    Reply

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