Hello creative amigo. :-) The question I get asked the most, next to ‘how do you print your prints‘ is: ‘How do you create your own style?’ And for many years I was confused about this question myself. I used to uhm and errh and sort of look the other way, as the question, concept and even execution of it eluded me. Until recently. My friends, I’ve had a bit of an epiphany. Hallelujah!
It all started when Gracie and I were in the car a while back and I let her listen to a song that I had recorded. It had quite some harmonies in it and ‘echoes’ too and she said: “hey, you really do like ‘layering’ don’t you?” She remarked on how I like layering in my art, but even in music, I too, like to ‘layer’. I considered it and yes; I like layering paint, collage and other materials and I like layering harmonies and sounds too, a lot in fact.
I kind of let it go at that point, but a few weeks later I was listening to my iTunes playlist and noticed that some [nay most] of the songs that popped up, lyrically speaking, were vague, mysterious, poetic and ‘layered’ in style (hello Flightless Bird, American Mouth?). Gosh, this layering thing was becoming a real theme. I suddenly noticed, that the concept of ‘layering’ popped up in all kinds of areas in my life. And by ‘popping up’ I mean that whenever something was ‘layered’ be it art, music or lyrics and poetry, I enjoyed it the most. The enjoyment bit is important, I’ll get to it in a sec, hang on.
Fast forward to a few weeks later and I started another painting. I sat down and had a strong desire to do a female portrait/ character. As I’d sketched the portrait/ character down, I noticed how doing “just a portrait” was simply “too boring” for me. It needed more, it needed mystery, I wanted people to think: “errh, what? Why? Mmh, interesting”. I wanted the painting to evoke some kind of awe but also: questions. I wanted the painting to make people think about the painting, but also about life and love and beauty. (Notice the layering theme again?). Collage and paint over, grunge and layers of paint achieve an effect of mystery for me. Also: odd elements in strange places (like a bird’s nest as a hat) do that too. But, another strong desire when creating that always comes to me is this: I don’t want my painting to be too depressing or somehow too sad. Melancholy ok, but sad: no. So, whimsy, innocence, light and child-like elements must accompany the mystery. Hence; I like adding in whimsical creatures like elephants, bunnies, birds etc. The whimsical aspects are also captured by drawing child-like clouds, stars, hearts and houses. Finally uplifting slogans or words sending out positive messages represents how I continue to feel optimistic about life. That all is ok, in the end.
“The Uncaged Soul” – Original Sold – Prints Available Here
And I noticed: once I’ve achieved all that in one painting, ie: the mystery, the physical/ emotional/ mental layering combined with a light-hearted whimsy and positive messages: I feel the most, the most, happy. When a painting of mine combines all those elements: everything falls into place for me, it’s feels ‘perfect’ and exactly how it should be. It lights me up inside, it’s in tune with my soul, with the purest part of me! It communicates some of my essence, my deepest passion and love. So, I’ve come to a point now to believe that this way of creating is in actual fact ‘my style’! Hurrah! I finally found the answer to this ‘holy grail’ of questions and based on this experience and my many years of creating art, pondering the style question and being an artist, I have some tips on how you too can find your own artist style. Get ready for the ride:
1. Ask the right question: My friend, first up: you’re asking yourself the wrong question. Don’t ask yourself: “how can I create my own style?” No: ask yourself: “what do I love creating so much it makes my soul light up?” What am I passionately, utterly, irrevocably IN LOVE with right now? What do I keep wanting to create, over and over and over? What feels good to my body, heart, soul and mind? Start there. When you follow your deepest passion (and do note: passions change), you align yourself with your purpose, with the vibration of the universe. It’s like a puzzle piece falling into place.
2. Explore what you love: If you don’t know what your passion is, that’s ok and understandable! The way to find out is to: look around, browse other artists’ works, take a variety of online art classes, try out all sorts of styles, techniques, materials. And then, let your inner knowing, let your inner passion magnet guide you (yes that’s right I said: ‘inner passion magnet’ there is such a thing). You’ll notice that at some point you may feel super attracted to a particular type of art, let’s say: whimsical art and then you go crazy drawing a 1000 whimsical girls. Or you love the look of abstract art and you’ll immerse yourself in abstract paintings for months. Whatever it is, let your inner knowing and passion magnet guide you to what it is you utterly and irrevocably love.
3. Go crazy creating: Then when you’ve figured out what you love: do a lot of it. Create create create to your heart’s content. Make painting after painting, fill journal after journal, paint on the walls, just paint! And then: play with your new found love, add and subtract, mix and change it up. Evolve with the subject of your passion. Learn to know your subject deeply and then mix it all up, play, try, adjust, change!
4. Expect your passion to change: Continue to follow your heart. If it’s been months of whimsy and all of a sudden your heart says: “flowers, I can’t stop painting flowers”, then go after those flowers and don’t let go. Paint flowers as if your life depends on it. Then, months later, you may suddenly feel really drawn to experimenting with mermaids and you draw and paint them in all their glory, or you love washi tape and you collect hundreds of them and you try out all the ways you can use washi tape or you love gelli prints and you become obsessed with the intricacies of the print effect. The beauty of following your passions, as different as they may be, is that eventually, aspects of each of your passions will re-emerge and you’ll combine them all into one and that ladies and jellyspoons is where your style is created. I dare say: your own personal style is (or will be) a combination of several aspects of your deepest loves and passions which you’ve explored over the years. It’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!
5. Amigo, you gotta give it time: You won’t necessarily know where your deepest passions lie yet. You need time to seek, to play, to develop, grow, mature. Like a very good cheese, or perhaps wine is the more beautiful metaphor here. Don’t be hasty, let your heart take its time. It can be distracted by all sorts of important matters in life, so give yourself, your heart, your passion magnet time. It will all become beautifully clear to you at some point dear one. :-)
“Bird’s Nest” – Original Sold – Prints Available Here
Do I now think that my style is ‘set in stone’? And that I can ONLY make art that is as I described above? Hell no! I will continue to follow my passions and create paintings that make me light up inside. If next week I suddenly feel utterly attracted to drawing leprechauns: I will do so with all my heart and I bet you that elements of my other passions will sneak in too! I am not a big fan of the myth that an artist must ‘stick to one or other style’ at all (SO boring!), but I do think that if you keep doing what your heart, your passion, your soul asks you to do, an essence of your style will always be recognised in your work. It is YOU who created it, after all. :-)