Comparison can be soul-crushing.
The other day, I happened to find myself scrolling online, and ended up completely feeling like all of my paintings were horrible. My first thought was, “I’ll never be able to paint anything beautiful again.”
Then I felt so bad about my artwork I thought, “There’s no sense in even creating.”
So often I look at other people’s artwork and wish I could paint like them. I wish my faces were softer or more realistic. I wish I could be more perfect and detail-oriented. I wish my artwork was more precise.
But I can’t let myself listen to those thoughts. I can’t waste time comparing my artwork to other people’s paintings.
The question I’m asked most often is how I developed my style.
I paint a lot (usually every day). And I try to balance staying in my comfort zone with pushing myself, so I can keep developing my style.
Here’s 5 Ways I Develop My Style:
- I try and stay away from social media while I create. Otherwise it’s too hard to know my own voice. I need to allow the weird and wonky bits of me, the imperfections, mistakes and color experiments to stand out. To be okay with being unique
- When I do see an artist I like, I stop the comparison game that plays over and over in my head. Instead, I look at their work and ask myself, “What am I most inspired by?”
- Then I choose the 2-3 specific elements in their work that inspire me most and I add some version of those elements to my next painting – maybe I loved the way they smudged brilliant red next to a deep green to get contrast, the sweep of blue in the background that seems to disappear behind a yellow circle to make both colors pop, or the subtle smile on a woman’s lips (achieved by extending the lips, ever so slightly, upwards at the edges).
- When I finish that new painting, I choose 2-3 specific elements that I love most and add those to my next painting. Inevitably, as I paint and paint, the inspired elements merge and I uncover new techniques, shapes and color combinations that become my own – maybe the blue and yellow accidentally overlapped to create the most lovely lime green or the pencil smudged on the lips, inspiring me to give them a thicker outline. As I consciously choose which elements to repeat in my artwork, they become part of my signature style.
- As I paint, I stay really conscious of how I’m feeling and when I get frustrated. I take photos of my work in progress, so I can go back and look at how I made a painting work.
Those elements that worked, then become the techniques and colors I come back to again and again, whenever I’m stuck. I call them my fall-back techniques or go-to colors. My favorites.
These favorites then become part of my signature style. You’ll see how I use them in my paintings in the video below.
In this video preview you’ll see how I use my favorites to make my characters pop in my paintings – creating with oil paintsticks, acrylics, inks, pencil, pen and papers. This project is created on aquabord (one of my favorite painting surfaces because it really makes colors stand out, especially with mixed media art).