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  • Writer's pictureMadeleine Allcock

How to find your style

For an artist or illustrator, "how to find your style" is the million-dollar question. Some appear to discover it effortlessly, while others struggle. While there's no shortcuts or secrets, I can share what helped me, in the hopes it might help you, too. Please note that this is just what I found useful and is not a definitive guide – only you can decide on your path.

1. Practice more

This answer is both true and unhelpful, and was the advice that frustrated me as a young artist. The journey to discovering your style can be long, so make sure that you are headed in the right direction. For years, I practiced the "wrong" thing for me. While I was busy either drawing manga, fan art, and experimenting with 3D art, I missed key elements and ideas that can help to find a style in a more efficient way. Foundational skills such as life drawing, colour theory and art history will all help you improve, but something that’s often overlooked is doodling. Drawing in a loose, carefree way will give you major insights into your style.

2) Have fun with art

Find the joy in everyday life, then make more of it. Find out what you enjoy creating and what you don’t. If you attend a life drawing class, do you prefer capturing gesture, movement and expression with loose strokes, or do you find working out proportions or rendering detail more satisfying? I used to be embarrassed to carry a sketchbook, because I felt my quick sketches wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny. As it turns out, they resonated with people more with their expressive lines and emotion.

3) Experiment

Try out many different styles and ideas before choosing one to focus on. At the beginning, quantity is better than quality. Then, focus on illustration you can recreate (so you can draw a character from different angles), that you enjoy creating, and ideally doesn’t take hours to make. Continue to experiment on a micro scale – change a brush setting, colours, or the way you create lines, growing your style while remaining consistent.

4) What is your message / problem you can solve?

If you have a message or way to solve a problem for others, it gets easier to get out of your own way and let the art speak for itself. If your goal is to get popular on social media become successful overnight, it will hold you back. You will end up drawing whatever is trendy or selling well. Right now, the problem I want to solve is to make complex information easier for a reader to digest, or more interesting. Illustration can help the reader get the gist of an article and provoke their curiosity into find out more. Working with this goal produces a better outcome than trying to make art that just looks cool.

4) Speed it up

I get together every week with friends to play an online version of Pictionary, which is great fun and a challenge to create a recognisable image in less than a minute. You quickly learn what is unnecessary detail!

5) Reiterate

Lastly, the thing that helped me most is quite specific. Draw something (for example, a person running), in pen, so you are not tempted to make it perfect. Then redraw it from that image. Then redraw it again. Try redrawing the image from memory; at a smaller size with less detail; trace your own work, making lines smoother as you go; draw it the following day from memory.

6) Style is just a set of tools and an attitude

If you pick the same colour palette, medium, and the way you make a line, half the battle is done. Draw faces the same way each time, and you're almost there! Decide on some core values and make sure to include them in each piece. For example, I always want my work to be warm, kind and cute. If I can make someone laugh it's a bonus, but this must never come at the expense of someone else. For you it might be different – you might love caricatures, or be passionate about social issues.

7) Learn from others

Make a list of five general things that you love about other artwork, and see if you can add them your own art. But don't copy! Fans of illustration can spot a copycat from a mile off. Any success you get from it would be hollow and undeserved.

I hope this helps you, remember that finding an original style is a long process and you will get there in the end! If you have any questions about style let me know, I'd be happy to help out.


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