How to Find Your Art Style and Artistic Voice

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Ever wonder how to find your own art style, or what I like to call, finding your artistic voice?

This topic has been on my mind and heart because the artists in The Art Life School are currently going through my “Finding Your Artistic Voice” course, and it’s just been truly amazing to watch all of these artists discover more about themselves, open up to what their true desires are as an artist, and recognize and become who they truly are as an artist.

This was something that I really struggled with as a beginning artist and had a lot of questions and confusion around. I really was unclear as to what my art style or my artistic voice was, and back in 2005 to 2008 there really wasn’t a lot of help surrounding this topic. At least I couldn’t really find a lot of help or mentorship in this. Even enrolling in a full-time Art School getting a degree, there wasn’t a lot of guidance on the topic of how to find your art style or your artistic voice.

So, what is your art style or your artistic voice?

I really see it as a combination of a few different things. Your style or your voice is really a combination of why it is that you create, how you like to create it, and what you create.

Let’s dive into these three areas and I’m going to give you some things to think about and questions to ask yourself to help you discover your art style.

One of the obstacles I faced as a beginner and see many artists facing is just not knowing enough about art and what’s out there. Not really having a broad enough understanding of the different kinds of art, art styles, and not experimenting enough with different approaches.

Another obstacle is choosing one path or one thing too soon and just sticking with it for too long, even if it doesn’t feel like it’s an alignment for you.

I know for me, one of the first painting classes I took was an acrylic painting class. I had signed up for a class and invested all this money in acrylics, and felt like I couldn’t try anything else because I already spent $200 on acrylics. I was just super stubborn and refused to try other things because I had already invested $200 on acrylic paints.

Which is kind of funny whenever you think about it, because it’s like, wait, this is something that you are supposedly wanting to do for the rest of your life. So, $200 is really not that big of a deal to say hey, you know, this acrylic thing just ain’t working for me.

At the time I made the assumption that I was just not going to be a painter. I made the assumption that just because I didn’t click with acrylics, it meant that I wasn’t good enough at painting. When really, the truth that came out was that acrylics just weren’t my thing, because when I enrolled in art school and I used oil paints for the first time, I just immediately connected with that medium.

So that was one piece of one discovery of my art style that I inadvertently stumbled upon. But, I would have never discovered oil paints if I had let my stubbornness stop me from experimenting with other mediums after my disconnect with acrylics.

If I hadn’t enrolled in that particular art school that required us to buy oil paints, who knows, maybe I would have never found it, maybe I wouldn’t have ever even become a painter, maybe I would have just stuck with drawing or kept endeavoring on my sculpture path.

The other thing is I was really trying a lot of different art forms. I had grown up drawing and taking different kinds of drawing classes. I experimented with making abstract art, which there was no connection there for me. I was taking sculpture classes, which I actually did have some love for at the time, but then later decided that wasn’t the best path for me.

So sometimes, in the beginning, it’s just a matter of making sure that you are trying enough things.

Please don’t do what I did, thinking I just wasn’t going to be a good painter after trying and not connecting with one medium. I lost two years. Two years of time that I could have applied towards oil painting. But, you know, in the end, everything worked out for the best and I’m glad that I got all the gifts out of the acrylic time as well.

One thing I want to clarify is that when you find your own artistic voice, your own art style, it does not mean that your art is entirely different than everybody else’s in the world, or that you are just so unique, and the art you produce is just so unique just to you.

That really does not happen. None of us are living in a vacuum or in a bubble where that occurs, right? 

What it does mean is that you have really found your purpose as an artist. What’s really in alignment for you in terms of the materials that you choose, the subject matter that most appeal to you, even sometimes down even to the colors that you resonate with the most.

Are you more turned on by painting atmosphere or painting luminous light? Maybe you’re more turned on by structure, form, shape, design, and pattern? It can even get down to those really niche areas and finding what really resonates with you the most, then just stepping into that fully as an artist and claiming it and owning it.

What does it mean to be in alignment with your art style?

For me, as an artist, it’s what excites me the most. It’s what challenges me the most or interests me the most. It’s what brings me the most joy or the most sense of fulfillment.

For one artist maybe it’s really telling a narrative, and for another artist like myself, I don’t really care about narrative art. So, it’s things like that, that you want to get clear on in your art.

Now, the next obstacle I know that I experienced in finding my own artistic voice was imposter syndrome. Not feeling like I was a real artist if I went against what one of my teachers thought or broke the rules somehow.

Once you have experimented and tried different mediums, explored art history and contemporary art, and explored different subject matters, different approaches to art-making, and you’ve really got some clarity around all of those things…maybe at that point, you found a teacher that could really help teach you the skills you need. It’s so easy to get attached to what that teacher has to say, almost like a parent in a way where we might get into a place of imposter syndrome.

Some teachers will even kind of perpetuate this kind of pattern, maybe unknowingly, but I know for me, I really did struggle with this because I had a particular teacher who I really admired. I just loved and admired his work. But the whole way that he painted was not totally in alignment for me.

This teacher in particular had really strong opinions about what makes a good painting, and how to go about making that good painting. So some of those opinions and some of his approaches were just not a good fit for me, even though I loved his artwork. I really had to separate the qualities of him in his art that really do resonate with me, which ones don’t, and take the ones that resonate with me and leave the rest behind and allow myself to step into who I am fully as an artist.

I really hope that all of you will be able to do the same thing as well for yourself, regardless of who you’re studying with. If you’re studying with me, I try really hard not to have too strong of opinions for this reason, because I know that people can get stuck in that kind of impostor syndrome and wanting to get the approval of their teachers.

So again, this comes down to how you create as well.

Some good questions to ask yourself might be:

How do you like to create?

Do you like to work from photographs?

Do you like to work from life?

Do you like to work purely from imagination?

Do you like to take a long time on a painting?

Do you like to paint small? Do you like to paint big? 

Do you love painting portraits, figures?

Do you love interiors, abstract, landscapes?

After asking yourself these questions, get even more granular with it. Analyzation of it all is key and so critical, and will really allow you to step into who you really are as an artist.

So take that time to dig deep.

That’s another obstacle I’ve seen is artists just not taking time for that introspection, or in that exploration and experimentation that you really need to do as an artist to find a strong art style and find your true artistic voice, your true artistic identity.

It’s so crucial to your success and joy as an artist.

Let me know in the comments what you’ve discovered about yourself and your art after digging into the questions I left you with.

My 5 Day Still Life Painting Challenge is also coming up June 27th – July 1st!

If you’d like to brush up on your art skills and gain some inspiration and motivation make sure to sign up HERE.

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4 thoughts on “How to Find Your Art Style and Artistic Voice

  1. I can completely relate!
    I struggled with watercolor for a decade before finally just giving up. I tried it, initially thinking, “How hard can this be?” when you have supplies for kids!
    When I first tried oil paints, the moment I squeezed out the paints, it was as if the heavens opened up and angels were singing!
    My first painting was from a photo an artist friend took of my magnolia tree, that her mom gave me as a birthday gift. With her guidance (she was studying for her BFA), I got through it. It turned out amazingly well! Flowers are my subject, as I’m a gardener.
    The big question that remains is, why? This is how I’m able to go long periods without painting. I have no idea WHY I paint! My friend who introduced me to oils offered it to me one day. I accepted her invitation when I was out of work, and had nothing better to do!
    How do we figure out the “why”?

  2. Hello Kelli, in my case, it is the “what” that i want to figure out. I seem to love all subjects. But i also think that in order to develop your skill, you don’t study portrait and floral painting at the same time, for example. I am really confused about my “what.” But i do love floral paintings a lot and i am waiting for enrollment to open in July so I can register in your art classes. Thank you for all your vlogs and videos. Very cool.

    1. Wonderful Daisy! I am SO looking forward to working with you and having you in the Art Life School! Enrollment opens June 27th

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