Style is something that is encouraged as an artist/illustrator/crafter. You have a certain "look" and that look defines your work. It makes people comfortable with you and your work. They can define it. As an illustrator, clients really prefer this because they know what to expect when they hire you.
On the other hand, having too rigid of a style can also be restrictive. You work in a certain way for many years, it gets to be a formula, you get bored. It's like eating the same thing for lunch every day for 15 years. One day you look at your work and just cant do it anymore. You're bored and it shows in your work too. This happened to me about 10 years ago and I'll be sharing my story later in another post.
So what happens next? My next post in the series will focus on this, baby steps to growing your style in a new direction, and also finding your style if you don't have one yet.
But before I get to all that, I wanted to go back to 1996. When I was a junior in college at the Corcoran College of Art and Design.
The artist Julian Schnabel came to a local movie theater and we were invited to view a screening of his first movie Basquiat with a discussion with him afterwards. If you haven't yet seen this movie, stop everything. Go and watch it and then come back and finish reading. He had never made a movie before and many people were like "who is this artist who is now calling himself a film maker" all I knew of him was his broken plate artwork from the 80's. He came off as a little arrogant, but he was brave and it was thrilling to meet him. Trying a whole new medium and putting that work out there for all to comment on is brave stuff. Heck creating anything from a book, to a card, layout, or a new product and putting it out into the world for all to comment on is brave. Just being an artist or a creator takes bravery. Period.
His film made a huge impression on me. There's a scene where Benico del Toro who plays Benny and Jeffery Wright (who plays Basquiat) are playing basket ball. This scene caused quite a discussion amongst us students. I'm posting the scene here, with some thoughts that followed.
BASQUIAT: How long do you think it takes to get really famous?
BENNY: For a musician or a painter?
BASQUIAT: Whatever. Famous. To where you can do your stuff all day without thinking about anything else.
BENNY: Ummm.. Four years. Six to get rich
First, you have to dress right.Then, you have to hang out all the time---with famous people---the right people,the right chicks, the right parties.
And you gotta do your work all the time when you're not doing that. The same kinda work, the same style--- OVER and OVER again, so people recognize it and don't get confused.
Then, once you're famous, you have to keep doing it the same way, even after it's boring--unless you want people to really get mad at you--which they will anyway.
So after the movie was over and the house lights went up, and we had some discussion time. I remember a lot of various discussions about art and which art is better - small or large (large scale art said Schnabel) but the parts that stuck with me was the above scene and our discussion about it.
You simply can not make everyone happy. You'll have those people that get frustrated when you change your work because it makes them uncomfortable, or maybe they liked your old style better (but don't worry you'll find new people who like your new work too)
Then on the flip side if you keep doing the same work over and over forever you'll have people who call you a sell out and that you are just creating art to a formula. You can't win and please everyone all of the time. So you might as well create the kind of work that you want to create!
In college we were always encouraged to grow our work. If we spent more than a semester doing the same type of work in a series our instructors would get ansty. Constantly telling us to push the work, change it, look for new directions. It was great to build this skill. Even though my work now is on a slower growth/change cycle before I mix up the direction. I know now how to change, if i feel I need to. It's a messy and uncomfortable process, but it's worth it.
I hope in my little series I can help guide you towards either pushing your work forward, finding a new direction, or finding a style that you didn't know you had.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE SECOND POST IN THE SERIES >>>
Labels: finding your style
@Tracey and @Coral - also remember that style is different from surface. you can have the same style across all different surfaces like jounaling, ATCs, canvas, sculpture. I'll be talking more about this in another post!
@iHanna - you are exactly right. the only way to finding your own look is to make a lot of art. I have some guideposts to help you along the way that I'll be posting in another blog post.
Elizabeth - you def have a same style across childrens and adults etc. your work is lovely. As artists who have had hits. I like to think of the hits that we have to do over and over again the same way a singer might feel about a hit song. You know they are sick are singing it but the audience loves it! Somewhere in here there is a post I'm going to do about just that very topic!
I need to find my way-thank you for doing this series.
I am one who can say "I knew her when" with when being before you evolved your style into what it is now.
Remember Chapter One?
Loving your new work, as well as your old.
Needless to say, I'm really looking forward to following this blog series of yours.
About a year ago, I realized that something was bothering me deeply about what I was doing. I felt emotionally split by trying to make things to sell, drained by teaching workshops and traveling and trying to make new work.
I realized that when I graduated from college with an art degree I always thought I would be an ARTIST. But I now discovered that I was not doing art as much as "giving" so much of myself away to others and not concentrating on myself and my art.
I've stopped traveling, teaching workshops. I stopped making shrines, assemblages, and sculptures because I felt like I had done it to the point of feeling like there is nothing left for me to say.
I decided to finally address the nagging feeling that I should have never stopped being a "fine" artist. That I should have not spent so much time being distracted by the crafty world. It was good while it lasted.
I was trained to be an illustrator and I know I need to be a painter.
I FEEL STUPID for wasting so much time.
Better now than later right?
Changing style may not be such a big deal to some. An easier transition even. You don't have to up and stop Everything like I did.
BUT for me, the art I make-is ALL I do and know. I gave up everything to do this and although I have- making a mistake like I feel I have for the past couple of years-can be AWFUL!
The hardest part of being successful is knowing what you really want to do. Once you can define what you really want-you can do it. (Not as easy as it seems! Ha!)
So far, I have been doing better. Been drawing and painting and selling original work again. When I now travel, it is to NY or Los Angeles to see shows and I'm making friends in the art world who are doing and making similar work.
I just hope I didn't waste too much time. I suppose we shall see in a year or so. (Fingers & brushes crossed)
it's all valid! I can't wait to talk about all this in my next posts!
I find my work goes in circles/cycles. Right now I am cycling back to my work I did in undergrad when I was minoring in illustration with a heavy focus on drawing. I am loving drawing more and bringing that into my work. Since I was a little kid I wanted to be an illustrator and now my work is circling back to that. in 10 more years I may circle back to doing large scale oil paintings again like I did in college. who knows! It's all a big ride!
just don't forget
that no time spent making art is ever wasted. the work you created before always informs in the next stage of work. I don't think you'd be creating the exact paintings you are now if you hadn't gone through your stage of making assemblages!!
Thanks so much for writing this series! I am just starting to get the courage to create my own art with the hopes that I might sell it someday. I haven't been formally trained outside of art classes in high school and a few college classes. Sometimes I feel like I have to have a degree to be an "artist" and that feels a little daunting. I am still trying to find my style. I have artists that I admire, but the last thing I want to do is copy them, then it wouldn't be mine!
Mary Anne Edmiston-Dietz