Finding Your Art Style: Uncovering Your Unique Creative Process

Small dog with paint on its face with text overlay reading: "Finding Your Art Style: Where do you fit in the World of Art"
Sara

What is an Art Style and Do You Really Need It?

Have you ever heard fellow artists talking about art style and wondered what they were talking about and how you go about finding your own personal artistic style?

Today, we’re going to dive deep into a few different art movements so that you can explore which one resonates with you on a more meaningful level. We’re also going to talk about different things you can do that will make finding your art style a bit easier.

What is Art Style, Anyway?

Art style can mean many different things. It can be based on the different art movements such as realism, abstract, impressionism, to name a few. It can also be referencing the subject like landscapes, portraits, and more.

And, to make it even more confusing, art style can also have to do with the tools an artist chooses to use most often, like a palette knife, fingers, or even ….. other body parts (true story).

You’ve probably noticed, if you’re in any Face Book art groups, or while scrolling through Instagram, that a lot of people post the same type of art, like realistic landscapes, abstracts, or even pop art. That would be their own unique art signature, otherwise known as art style.

Your artistic expression is like your unique fingerprint. It’s what makes you stand out in a crowd. When you develop your artistic signature style, people will start to recognize it as your work and that can create life-long fans of your work.

Finding your artistic style, and growing into it the more you practice, can be a great comfort because you will naturally continue to hone your skills making it easier and faster to churn out new pieces.

Most Popular Art Movements

First, let’s talk about what art movements are. Basically, an art movement is when a bunch of artists are painting the same type of style within the same time period. So, in simple terms, I always look at it as what’s on-trend, kind of like fashion trends (hello there, skinny jeans and man buns!).

There are a ton of different art movements but for the purposes of finding your art style, we’re going to stick to the most popular YouTube art movements. That way, you can follow the links I have included and try them all out!

Abstract Art

For me, I find abstract art the toughest of all. I think it’s because you don’t really have a plan and you just keep working with the paint until it speaks to your artistic soul.

Abstract art is open to interpretation which could be a far stretch from the story that the artist was trying to tell. Abstract art definitely opens communication. This style of artwork is a conversation starter so it’s actually great in a living room or dining room.

Some people may argue this but, I look at pour painting as abstract art. The artist uses shape and color to create a certain look that triggers some kind of emotional response.

Some famous abstract artists in history:

  • Pablo Picasso
  • Georgia O’Keeffe
  • Henri Matisse
  • Salvador Dali
  • Jackson Pollock

YouTube Recommendations

If you’d like to try your hand at Abstract Art, here are a few YouTube tutorials to check out.

*NOTE* She does say that you can’t hang canvas panels which is incorrect. You can easily hang a thin canvas panel by popping it into a frame*

Easy acrylic paint pour using pinks and yellow
  • The Art Sherpa shows you how to create an “Abstract Ocean” painting using only a palette knife
Abstract ocean sunset tutorial using a palette knife
White, turquoise, and brown abstract painting tutorial

Photorealism/Hyperrealism

You guessed it! The Realisms are all about painting in realistic detail. The Photorealism movement concentrated on painting as realistically as a photo but without any heart or soul. Hyperrealism was born from Photorealism but added in the “life”.

A lot of artists naturally gravitate toward these art movements and I’m not sure if it’s because it’s more like our everyday world or it’s because we tend to overwork a painting as we get lost in the “zone”.

Keep in mind, these two art styles take a lot of concentration and they can also take quite a long time to finish depending on how much detail you put into it. Don’t let that scare you off, though. If you’re on the adventure of finding your art style, you should try the realisms at least once.

Some famous artists within the Photorealism/Hyperrealism Art Movement:

  • Ellen Altfest
  • Richard Estes
  • Cheryl Kelley
  • Jason de Graaf
  • Steve Mills

YouTube Recommendations for Painting Realistically

Realistic painting of a strawberry in a wine glass with white wine splashing out of the glass
Painting tutorial of a cloudy sky with a realistic sunset
Try finding your art style with this painting tutorial of a red rose with realistic dewdrops on its petals

Impressionism

Impressionism is my jam! I mean, it’s something I have to work at since I typically overwork my paintings and then they end up being more realistic than I intended, but I absolutely love it!

Impressionism relies heavily on brushstrokes and color to give the “suggestion” of an object. For instance, you know when you see art that looks like a tree filled with beautiful leaves but, upon looking closer, you realize that the leaves are basically blobs of color strategically placed to give the impression of fullness to the tree? That’s impressionism, baby!

This style is where you learn to paint loosely and forget about adding a lot of detail. It creates a lot of interest because your eye needs to study the art just a tiny bit longer than it would with photorealism. And, besides, it’s so painterly. After all, isn’t that the whole point? For you to look at a painting and know it’s a painting?

Playing with Impressionism is great for finding your art style. It forces you to loosen up and experiment with brush strokes, shapes, and the amount of paint used.

Famous Impressionism artists include:

  • Claude Monet
  • Edgar Degas
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir
  • Edouard Manet
  • Camille Pissarro

YouTube Recommendations for Impressionistic Painting

Painting tutorial of impressionistic water lilies
Impressionist landscape acrylic painting tutorial link
A painting tutorial featuring a fall tree lined path

How to Find Your Unique Art Style

Although there is no formula for finding your art style, there are some things you can do to see which art forms and practices come most naturally to you and that you enjoy. It’s also important to find a style that speaks to you on an emotional level.

Being emotionally invested in your artwork will show through your paintings and that’s a big deal. People are a pretty intuitive bunch and they can tell the difference between something that is flat and boring and something that is filled with life and feeling. Plus, having a connection to each of your acrylic paintings will make you feel more fulfilled and your work will become more than just a pretty picture.

Ask Yourself a Few Key Questions

Take a step back and look at your art from the perspective of an unbiased viewer. Now, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you often paint the same subject matter?
  • Are there certain color combinations that you frequently use?
  • Are your paintings very detail oriented?
  • Do you tend to work in thin layers or do you like to use loads of thick paint?
  • Which of your pieces make you super happy and what do they have in common?

These are just a few things to consider if you’re looking for where your art journey is headed. I promise, if you look hard enough, you’ll start to see a natural pattern forming that links your individual pieces together in a subtle way.

Experiment

This is so important for all artists whether you’re in the process of finding your art style or not! Experimenting allows us to stretch our artistic muscles and learn new things. It’s also during all of this experimentation where you’ll find your natural groove and what really speaks to your soul.

Be really flexible and willing to try new things even if especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. Mistakes made are lessons learned and can teach us so much about ourselves and our art practice. Try using palette knives, finger painting, paint pouring, abstract, impressionistic painting, realistic art. Literally, try all of the things!

Practice

You know that saying “Practice makes perfect?” I despise that saying because it represents striving for an end goal of perfection. BOR-INGGGG!

Once you’ve done lots of experimenting with different techniques, the next step to finding your art style is to practice, practice, practice. Did I mention practice? This is going to help you to really hone your skills in whichever art form you’ve decided to make uniquely your own.

Practicing is about gaining new skills and repeating them until you feel comfortable doing them without any outside help. Not only that, it should be fun and relaxing. Your practice pieces are for your eyes only and not something you ever have to share with anyone else, unless you want to. After all, it’s just paint, right? If whatever you’re practicing turns out to be a complete train wreck, just paint over it and start again!

For me, I like to use all of the amazing acrylic painting YouTube tutorials for my practice sessions. It allows me to relax and just see what happens with no expectations. It gives me time to play with different paint colors and to learn all of the things my different paintbrushes can do.

Use YouTube as a resource to practice and to start branching out with your own thing. Follow a YouTube tutorial but then add to it, change it up, and let your imagination guide you. You don’t need to change the entire thing and you should start slowly. So, maybe you change the colors suggested or you add in an element of some type. This is the start of finding your artistic style and infusing a bit of yourself into each painting you do.

Research Different Artists

Start looking at what other artists are doing and ask yourself why you admire them. What is it about their work that makes you fall in love with it?

I am a huge fan of Leonid Afremov. He mainly worked with palette knives and his art is typically colorful and impressionistic. I fell in love with his use of color and simple shapes to create beautifully complex pieces. Take a look at Leonid Afremov’s art gallery to see for yourself.

Once you’ve found some artists that you truly love and you’ve figured out why you feel so passionately about their work, allow their work to influence your own. What I’m saying is, DO NOT copy them but infuse your favorite techniques, colors, etc. into your own work.

For example, I tend to use a palette knife quite frequently in my own art practice and I love using bright colors. These are the things that make me fangirl over Afremov’s art so, to honor him, I’ve adopted them into my own art style.

Learn About the Art Movements

Take a look at examples of the different art movements and see which ones you like and don’t like. Even make a list, if you like. This list can be the start of your experimentation and practice.

Lastly, look at your own work and see if it fits into any of the art movements. If so, congrats! You stumbled upon your unique creative process totally by accident! Finding your art style isn’t so hard sometimes, right? Sometimes it finds you instead.

What About Whimsical/Decorative Art?

Now, let me start this by saying that I don’t know if whimsical art is an actual movement in the historical sense of the word. What I do know is that it is extremely popular. It’s not quite folk art, and it’s not altogether fantasy art, nor is it even fully decorative art but, maybe, a mix of the three? That’s about as close to a definition as I can get.

Whimsical art is just plain ol’ fun. It’s playful, cartoon-like, colorful, and it’s where you can allow your imagination to soar. It literally makes you feel like a kid again!

You’ll see a lot of whimsical art around the holidays. It’ll be on handmade signs, decorations, holiday cards, wrapping paper, just to name a few.

The subject matter can include gnomes, jack o’lanterns, elves, fairies, Santa, and so much more. It’s what you’ll see a lot of if you go to a craft market during the holiday season.

Trying whimsical art is a great first step toward finding your art style. I mean, what could be better than surrounding yourself with bright colors and cute subjects to paint?!

Whimsical/Decorative YouTube Recommendations

Whimsical painting tutorial of a fall gnome
  • Angela Anderson has a cute little Christmas tree you can try if you’d like to practice painting snow and trees. Take a look at her tutorial “Easy Lighted Christmas Tree
Experimenting with whimsical painting tutorials, like this lighted Christmas tree, is a great way to start finding your art style
Fun jack o lantern whimsical painting tutorial

Is Knowing Your Art Style Important?

At the end of the day, it’s a personal decision. If you plan on doing exhibits, selling your work in a gallery, or anything remotely pertaining to art as a business, I would say that finding your art style should be one of the first things you do.

On the other hand, if you are brand new to painting and plan on keeping it as a hobby with the occasional sale to friends and family, don’t stress about it. Take your time and just have fun with it. Your unique art style will come to you naturally as you practice and try new things.

What if You Don’t Have an Art Style?

Listen, I don’t have an art style and I may never have one. I have always been sort of a free spirit who prefers to swim against the current. If you’re someone who likes to follow the beat of your own drum, that’s perfectly okay!

Finding your art style is great fun because it means a lot of practice and experimentation but it’s not an essential part of your art journey.

In fact, if you do some digging, you’ll find that a lot of artists that are famous for doing a certain style of art actually do other styles as well.

That said, some artists thrive on knowing what makes them unique and recognizable. They hone their skills to a fine point! And, that’s totally great too.

Final Thoughts on Refining Your Unique Artistic Process

Now you know that finding your art style isn’t super important but it can be very useful knowledge. It can help people to identify your work and can make you feel as if you are putting your stamp on the world.

If you do decide that you’d like to explore the different art movements, and find one that resonates with you, it’s a fun journey to take and you’ll learn so much along the way! Experimenting and practicing are good for your artistic muscle whether or not your intention is to find out where you fit within the many styles of art.

Either way, you are only defined by your art if you choose to be and, if not, being a free spirit is pretty darn groovy too!

Is Finding Your Art Style Important To You? Comment Below!

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