Find your voice, say something! Finding your own style in art.

1 04 2011

cover art (c) Luis Royo

I remember the first time I read about “finding your voice” in art, about “saying something” and I thought “what if I have nothing to say? Back then I understood that I had to say something significant, with maybe a political flare or perhaps with a strong message. Later I understood that we all have something to say, even if it will not change the world. I like to do illustrations that are beautiful and fun, there are things I’d never do, such as extreme violence, gore and porn; so I guess there was a lot I wanted to say and a lot I did not.

Also I came to understand that having a “voice” is an equivalent of having your own style. Regardless of if you will become the next Picasso o Monet, it is about a style that represents you, that you can express yourself through and that it is not copied from, let’s say, Disney.

I saw years ago art by this artist in DA, he was good, but his drawing might have as well sprouted from a Disney movie, and while that is very valid, he would deny that he was copying Disney and would sustain that he had a style that was his. Unfortunately years later his skills have not evolved one bit. He is denying reality and bringing himself to stagnation. And while he might get a job as a Disney animator he will never be recognized as himself but as “that guy that draws Disney stuff” (even when his characters are original).

I mentioned something about young artists finding their own style instead of *only* copying one other artist that they admire in my facebook and that ensued a very interesting

Cover art (c) Dan dos Santos

discussion with other artists! It was fascinating to read through the different opinions and ideas! I never hoped for such an enriching interaction when I posted that question but the interesting thing is that mostly we all agree in the following:

If you are doing art because it makes you happy and all you want from it is to draw to be happy, not becoming a professional artist and not artistic growth, by all means do whatever you want. Be it exploring your style, copying Amy Brown or painting with your penis (beware NSFW!). BUT (yes, big “but”) if you are after artistic development, growth and establishing yourself as an artist in your own right, with the possibility of gaining recognition some day, you should not box yourself in the idea of “I want to draw just like so and so”.

Cover art (c) Kinuko Craft

I used to get really angsty about having a style. Do I have a style? Will I ever have a style? How will I get a style? How will I know I have a style? It is hard to tell by yourself if you have a style until that style is there, blatantly biting you in the face, but before that you will start to have people telling you that they could tell a piece was yours before reading who made it. And how do you get that style? well, drawing, painting, exploring the possibilities. It seems like circular logic, but it is the way to do it.

One of the things that we talked about with my friends was on how copying for learning is a great exercise, you should go and copy from Klimt to Leonardo and anybody you can find interesting. This gives you an idea of the process, of the mechanisms that these people used to create art. This will help you grow as an artist because in your explorations you will find what works for you and what doesn’t, what elements you absolutely love and which ones you can live without. And as you explore and copy and learn, your style settles itself.

The problem arises when you are so infatuated with one single artist that all you want is to draw like this person, not talking about inspiration by other artists but just down right copying them. I used to say “I would love to paint like Stephanie Pui Mun Law!” or “Oh, how I’d like to paint like Ciruelo Cabral!” But the truth is that I never wanted to do it like them. I wanted their talent, their skill, their mastery. I wanted to reach that excellence level, which I still need to work so hard to achieve! I would hate to be “that chick that copies Ciruelo”, I want people to think “oh, yes, that is a piece by Constanza (or Coty, or Faerywitch, whatever you fancy).” And I think I am slowly but surely progressing in that direction.

We also talked about niche. If you want to be a cover artist you have to be able to imitate the styles of cover artists, right? In my opinion, wrong. If you want to be a cover artist you have to be beyond good, you have to be excellent (talking about big publishers here). I have seen cover art done by Ciruelo, Royo, dos Santos, Craft, all of them highly recognizable in their unique style. The only thing that groups them together is that they are incredibly skilled and very hard working people. So if you want to appeal to a certain niche, sure, there are certain things you have to do, but you will be better off having your own personal style than just copying another artist as is.

Cover art (c) Stephanie Pui Mun Law

The discussion in Facebook was wonderful, I would love to know more about what other people think. Please, leave a comment if you have something to say because this topic is fascinating!


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